Serial numbers no longer need to be visible on the surface of devices such as smartphones or wearable technology such as smartwatches in Canada, thanks to new electronic labelling regulations.

The new rules are "opening Canada's markets to the latest wireless wearable devices such as Google Glass and Apple Watch," Industry Canada announced in a news release today.

Previously, Canadian regulations required information such as serial or model identification numbers, registration numbers for terminal equipment devices and certification number for radio equipment to be printed directly on the device or attached with a sticker.

That meant some devices marketed in other parts of the world couldn't enter Canadian markets, the news release said.

Under new regulations effective immediately, high-tech devices with a non-removable screen can carry that information on an "e-label" instead.

Typically, that means it would be accessed through the device's software, either through its display or apps managing the device.

Devices that can carry e-labels include tablets, smartphones, smartwatches and wearable glucose monitors.

Steve Woods, engineering director of Google Canada, said in a statement that "the new generation of wearables places a premium on space and makes increasing demands of technology and design. E-labelling will produce cleaner products and make more information available for consumers." 

Industry Canada noted that the e-labels will be able to include information not included on physical labels, such as warranty information, and can be updated remotely if needed to address inaccuracies.

According to the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada, e-labels reduce costs and waste associated with physical labelling and etching and reduce the time it takes for new devices to go to market.

However, some concerns have been raised about e-labelling. For example:

The new regulations try to address these concerns by requiring:

  • A copy of the e-label information to be printed on the packaging that the device comes in when someone buys it.
  • Manufacturers to make sure e-labels can't be modified or removed during the course of normal activities that a typical user might perform, such as installing apps or accessing menus.

User manuals, packaging inserts and product websites will also be required to give users instructions about how to find the e-label.

Under the new regulations, users must be able to access the e-label without having to go through more than three steps in the device menu and without using any special access codes or accessories.

According to Industry Canada, e-labelling is already accepted in the United States, Australia, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Costa Rica.

Google Glass coming to Canada

Google declined to comment on whether labelling regulations previously prevented Google Glass from being sold in Canada, saying only that "every electronic device faces regulatory requirements, including labelling."

However, Google Canada spokesman Aaron Brindle confirmed, "Glass has regulatory approval from Industry Canada and we're super excited to bring Glass north of the border."

He added that the company could not say when the device will be available in Canada.

In 2010, Canada began allowing e-labels for imported medical devices sold to health-care professionals, but not the general public. Those e-labels were allowed in the form of a CD or DVD accompanying the device.