The internet evolved from the early years of depending on files and physical cabinets for data storage, retrieval, and transmission. It has revolutionized human interactions and communications through its facilities which brought about digital systems like electronic mails, social media, etc. that generate Electrically Stored Information (ESI).
To talk about ESI, the Internet of Things (IoT) cannot be ignored. They are a group of physical things connected and embedded with sensors and other technologies to connect and share data with others over the internet. These devices are over 31billion but the amazing fact is that a good number of them can be connected directly or at times inside of the human bodies for collection and sharing of data. This defines the Internet of Body (IoB). Initially, the concept might look weird but fascinating afterward when we fully understand the concepts. In this article, we will see what IoB body is, the advantage, where it is used, and examples.
What is Internet of Body?
When IoT is connected with/to the human body, it gives us Internet of Body. IoB is a child node of the IoT or simply put, an extension of the IoT but as the name implies, IoB has more interactions with human bodies and devices. The Internet of Bodies are web-connected and worn, implanted surgically or ingested to a human body enabling sharing of data over the internet or with the connected device. As a result, both the body and the device can be monitored and controlled remotely. The IoB devices are increasingly benefiting and impacting lives daily. Data collected from the human body transferred over the internet can help monitor human health and thereby improving productivity in various aspects of lives. These devices are classified into three generations.
This includes wearable devices such as Apple Watch and Fitbit which can monitor human health. According to IOC, the overall wearable market is predicted to grow from 113.2 million to 222.3 million shipments in 2021 and is expected to reach 400 million in 2024.
These devices are implanted into human bodies through surgical operations or ingestion to control and monitor different aspects of human health. Examples include smart digital pills, cochlear implants, and pacemakers.
This is the third generation of Internet of Bodies and they are embedded technologies where human bodies and external devices are melded to have a real-time connection to a remote machine. An example of this is the Brain Computer Interface (BCI) otherwise known as brain mapping where brain signals are acquired, analyzed and brain activity is mapped by the system to help patients with some disability.
IoB and the Health Sector
The health sector is highly advantaged with the huge amount of possibilities that comes with IoB because the human body now serves as a data generating source which makes it easier for both the medical practitioner and the patients to control and manage health-related issues without any limitations due to massive and quality data generated. Over the past few years, drug prescription or necessary medical attention has been a bit challenging in some African health care sectors because of inadequate information and the cause of one's illness or infirmity which lead to the death of many. The curve of this curve is gradually being flattened as the newborn child of IoT, Internet of Body surfaces. The possibilities are becoming unstoppable with the progress in wireless connectivity in the world. Although scientists tagged IoB as a future technology, researchers believe that that future has begun as IoB is already been in use and yielding results, especially in the health domain making rapid improvements in monitoring health data.
These are a few of many devices and innovations that emerge from IoB:
Smart Pills: smart pills are IoB devices that are built with electronic sensors. Once swallowed, it collects data from the organs of the body and monitors the inner working of the body. It is also effective in the treatment of cancer.
Insulin Pumps: These devices are connected to an application to send data through a wireless medium for therapeutic purposes and diagnosing diabetics.
Defibrillators/Pacemakers: a small wifi-connected device usually placed in the human chest to aid patients with heart challenges and control abnormal heart rhythms with electrical impulses.
Smart Contact lens: used by opticians for patients with vision impairments. Diabetic patients also use these devices to checkmate their glucose levels.
Challenges faced by the IoB technology
One of the most obvious challenges is security. As in the case of the former United States' vice president, Dick Cheney, who went ahead to get a pacemaker that has no wifi connection for security purposes. Understandably, a device connected to a shared network through the wifi can be tracked and possibly be hacked. These devices are wifi enabled and once the data gotten from one's body is shared over the internet there is the possibility of it being leaked which can pose a life threat to the individual wearing or carrying the device. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration retracted about 500 million pacemakers requesting firmware updates over security issues.
Apart from security, another noticeable issue faced by IoB technology is privacy. The devices that make up the IoB store, retrieve and track users' data which reveals their whereabouts, body functions, and thoughts. Therefore, determining who has authorized access to this personal and health-related information should be considered by the medical personnel.