Humans and the Internet: Let's Get to Know the Internet of Bodies (IoB)
Wed, April 14, 2021

Humans and the Internet: Let's Get to Know the Internet of Bodies (IoB)

Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, creating a profound impact on the way we think about data privacy, wrote Nicole Lindsey of CPO Magazine / Photo by: Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock

 

Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, creating a profound impact on the way we think about data privacy, wrote Nicole Lindsey of CPO Magazine, a news platform dedicated to publishing data protection, privacy, and cybersecurity. Further, tech innovations in the healthcare and medical sector have leveraged AI’s power to create the Internet of Bodies (IoB). 

Are you familiar with the term Internet of Bodies? At first, you might think that it has nothing to do with the term’s nature, said Bernard Marr of business news Forbes. But IoB is about using your body as the “latest data platform.” This sounds creepy but when you are aware of the endless capabilities it can do, IoB suddenly becomes exciting. 

 

What Is IoB? 

IoB is an extension of IoT, linking your body to a network through “devices that are ingested, implanted, and connected” to your body. Data can be exchanged once the device is connected to the internet, which can be remotely controlled and monitored. The devices linked to your body simultaneously generate massive amounts of data about our physiology and behaviors, even our DNA. There are three generations of IoB: 

   • Body External – These refer to wearables such as Apple Watch or Fitbit that can monitor one’s health. 

   • Body Internal – It includes cochlear implants, pacemakers, and digital pills that go inside a person’s body to monitor or control certain aspects of their health. 

   • Body  Embedded – The term refers to embedded technology where a device and the body are “melded together” enabling a real-time connection to a remote machine.   

Advances in materials, wireless connectivity, and tech innovation allow implantable medical devices (IMD) to scale and be viable in various use cases. However, these devices help improve our health and not used as a means to infringe on personal privacy. 

For instance, you wear a Fitbit because you want to improve your overall health and wellness and not because you want a third party to be tracking your every move. This is also applicable in other IoB initiatives such as Google’s Project Baseline, which seeks to map human health or even creating a nationwide biometrics database in India. 

Examples of IoB Devices 

One prominent example is a defibrillator or pacemaker, a device placed in the abdomen or chest to aid patients with heart conditions “control abnormal heart rhythms with electric impulses.” Former United States Vice President Dick Cheney replaced his Wi-Fi-connected defibrillator with one that isn’t Wi-Fi-enabled in 2013. He feared he could be assassinated by electric shock if an unknown entity hacked the device.   

Another example of an IoB device is a “smart pill” containing edible electronic sensors and computer chips. Once swallowed, the pills gather data from our organs, transmitting the data to a remote device connected to the internet. The first digital chemotherapy pill is now being used to combine chemotherapy drugs with a sensor that collects, documents, and shares information with health professionals. This way, health professionals can look at data regarding drug dosage and time, a patient’s heart rate, and more. 

There are also smart contact lenses that are being developed, integrating sensors and chips to help monitor health diagnostics. This will come from information from the eye and eye fluid. One smart contact lens aims to track glucose levels that will enable diabetics to monitor their glucose levels without having to go through repeated pinpricks the whole day. This particular IoB device is under development. 

Then, we have a next-level IoB device called the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI). The device merges your brain with a connected device to be controlled and monitored in real-time. By utilizing brain signals instead of conventional neuromuscular pathways, the device can help restore function to people with disabilities. 

However, not all IoB devices are used for health and wellness. For example, bioengineering company Biohax embedded chips in over 4,000 people “primarily for convenience.” Further, 50 employees of Three Square Market agreed to have an RFID microchip implanted in their bodies. The microchip allows them to access the building without using a key. The chip also enables the employees to pay for goods with a wave of their hand at the vending machine, deducting the amount from their account immediately without using cash or logging into their computers. 

One prominent example is a defibrillator or pacemaker, a device placed in the abdomen or chest to aid patients with heart conditions “control abnormal heart rhythms with electric impulses” / Photo by: Birgit Reitz-Hofmann via Shutterstock

 

Privacy and Security Issues with IoB

Security and privacy are some of the main issues with IoB devices. To illustrate, nearly 500,000 pacemakers were recalled in 2017 by the US Food and Drug Administration due to security issues requiring a firmware update. There is also the likelihood of life and death consequences when using IoB tech. 

Besides, it can also cause cybersecurity issues to arise, urging IoB users to safeguard their devices from hackers. There are also questions surrounding privacy. Who can access our data? Why is it being collected in the first place? This makes us question if whether our data will remain private or not. 

IoB helps improve our health and wellbeing, even if the concept behind it sounds dystopian. IoB users and device developers, however, need to take into account security and privacy. Hence, a regulatory framework needs to be made surrounding the use of IoB devices for the betterment of humankind.