The Internet of Bodies
You may have come across the term the “Internet of Things”, a phrase that has came to encompass everything that is already connected to the internet such as PCs and mobile devices but also the extension of internet connectivity beyond these tradition computing platforms to other, rather mundane, everyday objects.
But have you come across the Internet of Bodies (IoB)?
First of all, like the Internet of Things, it is defined through the application of internet activity onto a traditionally non-computing platform although this platform just so happens to be the human body.
The Internet in Bodies
As daunting as it sounds, there have already been external self-monitoring technologies such as fitness trackers and or even smart watches that have become increasingly popular thanks to the likes of Apple and Samsung.
Though many of us are aware of the radio-frequency identification chip that emerged in 2016 and contains details of a person’s bank details, medical history and other personal data and identifications whilst implanted in the body.
Since then Biohax, a leading bioengineering company has already implanted chips in more than 4,000 people.
The biggest implementation of Internet and data is in modern healthcare and medicine. A recent report by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – the world’s largest technical professional organisation for the advancement of technology – indicated that “digital pills are entering mainstream medicine, and body-attached, implantable, and embedded IoB devices are also beginning to interact with sensors in the environment”.
One digital pill that is being developed is the Bluetooth-equipped electronic pill that is designed to monitor the inner workings of the body.
Examples of other Internet-enabled networks that are attached to or inside our bodies include smart contact lenses that are currently being developed to monitor glucose levels and could potentially eliminate the need for daily blood sugar pinprick for people who are diabetic.
Such innovations will certainly revolutionise the way personal health is monitored and personal data is kept, connecting the body to the internet forever.
However, as the Internet is expected to become less visible and yet increasingly more embedded into our everyday lives, many questions have been raised concerning the issue and breaches of privacy, which the IEEE also addresses in their report:
“These devices yield richer data that enable more interesting and useful applications, but also raise concerns about security, privacy, physical harm, and abuse,” the report says.
Other critics, include Lee Naik, CEO of TransUnion, who says that “the biggest concern for a while now has been around the transparency and protection of personal data being collected by devices and their service providers on consumers that wear or have ingested Internet of Bodies type devices,” Naik says.
TransUnion is a consumer credit reporting agency. TransUnion collects and aggregates information on over one billion individual consumers in over thirty countries including “200 million files profiling nearly every credit-active consumer in the United States”.
“Further regulation will be required to protect consumer interests in relation to the Internet of Bodies, specifically to deal with the security of consumer personal data which needs to be effectively protected in balance with consumers receiving further benefits from innovation in this space,” Naik says.