Wearable cloud jacket could bring about less expensive and more powerful mobile computing

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Original news release was issued by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, written by Tiffany Westry.

There is no denying that cloud computing is an excellent means of personal online data storage and processing. However, privacy of the data leaves many people scratching their heads. With all the smart devices loosely linked with cloud computing, that’s plenty of data flying off into an unknown server. Yet another issue is if one chooses to become “fully smart”. Given the variety of individual devices, such as smartphones, smart glasses or smart watches, the whole package may get rather expensive. That’s where the concept of the researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham steps in — a wearable personal cloud — ready to wrap you up into a lightweight jacket, embedded with microcomputers.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Let’s break it down. The developed prototype is built with 10 Raspberry Pi computers (known for their small size and low cost), three power banks and a remote touchscreen display. The idea behind it is to create an ultimate smart device. Mobile apps are becoming more complex, more powerful mobile and wearable devices are thus required to keep up the pace. This results in increased prices. However, the wearable cloud is designed to do the power lifting instead of all the individual devices. Bearing that in mind, the smart devices would have no need for an expensive processor, ultimately becoming cheaper. This means they would be also “dumber”, only tasked with the role of input controllers, communicating with the cloud jacket via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. In addition, the jacket provides the wearer with a private network, so most or all of the personal data stays on their person. On top of that, the cloud jacket also sports roughly 10 gigabytes of RAM and 320 GB of storage space, making it far more superior than any commercial smartphone.

“Our overall approach is to create a generic atmosphere or platform that users can customize to fit their needs,” said Rasib Khan, Ph.D. “The wearable cloud can act as an application platform, so instead of modifying or having to upgrade hardware, this wearable model provides a platform, and developers can build anything on top of it.”

The wearable cloud is not only limited to clothing. The concept could also be applied on other items worn on a daily basis, such as backpacks, purses or briefcases. Interestingly enough, the developers are contemplating even more uses. For example, hospital patients could wear a comfortable jacket instead of being wired into a bunch of monitors. This way doctors could collect some valuable info even while the patients are on a walk. The portable cloud could even aid first responders willing to share info about a disaster or soldier communicating on a battlefield.

“With seven to 10 people wearing such a cloud together, they create what we call a hyper-cloud, a much more powerful engine,” said Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer and information sciences in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences “The jacket can also act as a micro or picocell tower. All of its capabilities can be shared on a private network with other devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. If a first responder is out in the field and doesn’t have complete information to act on a mission, but someone else does, it can be shared and updated through the cloud in real time.”

With an array of applications, spanning safer and less expensive sharing of data, hospitalization or streaming information about a disaster, Hasan and Khan are determined to turn this concept into a reality. Because sharing is caring.

Michal Madaras

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