The fast expansion of ‘Internet of Bodies’ and the future of merging man and machines - GulfToday

The fast expansion of ‘Internet of Bodies’ and the future of merging man and machines

Dr Mohamed Abdulzaher


Academic and Artificial Intelligence Journalism pioneer

Elon Musk 1

Elon Musk. File

Do you think tech could hack your brain, reflect all your memories, and measure your behaviours and future plans? The world is facing an emergence and fast expansion of the “internet of bodies” (IoB) – the network of human bodies and data through connected sensors – which will allow people to communicate with some machines and artificial intelligence tools, and might help to read and know many of our behaviours and actions.

Recent technological advancements have ushered in a new era of the “internet of bodies” with an unprecedented number of connected devices and sensors being affixed to or even implanted and ingested into the human body. This has turned the human body into a technology platform.  The IoB generates tremendous amounts of biometric and human behavioural data. This is, in turn, fuelling the transformation of health research and industry, as well as other aspects of social life, such as the adoption of IoB in work settings, or the provision of new options for entertainment – all with remarkable data-driven innovations and social benefits. (WEF report).

Elon Musk who co-founded and leads Tesla, last Friday unveiled a pig called Gertrude with a coin-sized computer chip in her brain to demonstrate his ambitious plans to create a working brain-to-machine interface. “It’s kind of like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” the billionaire entrepreneur said on a webcast. Musk argues such chips could eventually be used to help cure conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries.

The new evolving experience is trying to get the human brain to communicate with machines is an ambitious goal. The new device the company is developing consists of a tiny probe containing more than 3,000 electrodes attached to flexible threads thinner than a human hair, which can monitor the activity of 1,000 brain neurons.

Future Investments: As futuristic as the Internet of Bodies may seem, many people are already connected to it through wearable devices. The smartwatch segment alone has grown into a $13 billion market by 2018, and is projected to increase another 32% to $18 billion by 2021. Smart toothbrushes and even hairbrushes can also let people track patterns in their personal care and behaviour. For health professionals, the Internet of Bodies opens the gate to a new era of effective monitoring and treatment. (Xiao Liu, WEF Report ).

The Internet of Things (IoT) market size was $250.72 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $1,463.19 billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 24.9% during the forecast period, according to Fortune Business Insights. The variety and vast amount of data collected through IoB technologies is propelling transformations in health research and industry, especially with the development of the direct-to-consumer digital health market. IoB technologies have also been adopted to enhance work safety in high-risk scenarios. (Shaping the Future of the Internet of Bodies, World Economic Forum).

Four of the more notable social benefits are: 1- Enabling remote patient tracking and reducing cross infection. The continuous monitoring of body vital signs through sensors allows healthcare providers to better track the condition of patients within and beyond medical facilities, from data regarding blood pressure, oxygen levels, glucose levels and heart rate to the person’s sleep, steps and other health-related factors.

2. Improving patient engagement and promoting a healthy lifestyle. IoB technologies facilitate the expansion of healthcare to actively engage patients beyond traditional medicine architecture. A good example is a virtual rehab programme that Kaiser Permanente started in Southern California in 2019, in which health professionals remotely monitored the exercise and medication-taking habits of enrolled patients recovering from cardiac events.

3. Advancing preventive care and precision medicine.

The data provided by IoB technology enables physicians to spot diseases early and offer preventive measures.

4. Enhancing workplace safety.

Beyond health applications, IoB technologies are also being adopted in hazardous workplaces such as construction sites, mines and factories to track worker location, oversee environmental risks, reduce exposure to musculoskeletal injuries or other harms, and mitigate risks by issuing information remotely.

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