It’s 2077. A 95-year-old man, Martin, begins his day with a wholesome breakfast followed by a healthy walk prescribed by his caregiver. He is feeling fine. He has long been looked after by specialists who monitor his health and know everything about his illnesses and ailments. He still has dozens of years ahead of him before he turns 122, the current average life expectancy of humans living on Earth.
This vision, which may sound like it was taken from a science fiction movie, is already being worked on today in GlobalLogic laboratories — and soon will become the reality. All thanks to internables.
We are surrounded by Internet of Things (IoT) devices at all times, and we interact with them every step of the way. Reports confirm that this relatively new technology has gained recognition the world over. Today, there are already 26 billion active devices, and by 2025 this number will be three times higher.
Smartwatches and smartbands fit this mobility trend perfectly, with the widely promoted “healthy lifestyle” reinforcing the extensive user base for these devices. We all want to improve our health and stay in good shape, and the inconspicuous yet robust smartbands and smartwatches assist us greatly in doing so. Hardly anybody who has tried an IoT device for their workout goes back to training without it. With the popularity of dedicated apps; sensors that monitor mileage, heart rate, and burned calories; and virtual trainers that create personalized workout plans, it is hardly surprising that 70% of the IoT devices currently trending are focused on health and physical activity.
This IoT treasure trove of health tech — which helps consumers feel safer and save time and money — will soon be extended with internables. So what is this technology all about? In a nutshell, internables (also known as implantables) are sensors implanted inside the human body to naturally enhance the capabilities of health equipment.
Most of us associate these solutions with books, comics, games, and movies. Nanomachines and cyberimplants are the staples of the virtual worlds created by game developers (e.g., Deus Ex series or the upcoming Polish hit Cyberpunk 2077). We can also see some practical applications of user-implanted devices in several episodes of the TV series, Black Mirror. However, we no longer need to delve into the realm of pop culture and science fiction to identify what internables can do. As it turns out, this technology has already been applied in the world we live in today.
The medical sector has always been among the first to implement the latest technology solutions on a wide scale, prioritizing those capable of extending patient care while reducing costs. This has been exactly the case with IoT devices. Forecasts indicate that by 2020, 40% of all active IoT devices worldwide will be used in this sector. Consequently, they shouldn’t be seen as merely a big sensation in a series of groundbreaking biotechnology-based medical projects.
Engineers and scientists have joined forces to better monitor patients’ health and advance the telehealth sector. They have also harnessed existing technologies to fight well-known illnesses and ailments. The range of activities underway is extensive, with various milestones already reached — from insomnia-alleviating sleep bands that use the human body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bones, to designs for miniature robots (“nanomachines”) that will move inside the human body to deliver medicine to a targeted point in the system. For example, nanomachines that look like a cross between a whale and an airplane will be used to — among other things — effectively combat cancer.
Internables offer particularly high hopes for neurosurgery. The bold designs presented in recent months include devices that enable paralyzed patients to control their limb movements, and microdevices that stimulate individual neurons to help treat Alzheimer’s.
Internables are regarded as the key driver to advancing telehealth because they will enable a smoother exchange of information between specialists and users, resulting in an unprecedented scale of care. In the future, individual vital parameters of the human body may be regularly relayed to — and recorded on — users’ digital health cards for faster disease diagnosis and more detailed disease monitoring. These cards could facilitate better communication — not only with medical caregivers, but also with trainers — so that an adequate diet and fine-tuned workout can be prescribed based on the user’s current health status.
Internables can also be implemented in other sectors, like automotive. The swift development of smart cities and smart cars makes traditional cockpits and driver–vehicle communication methods obsolete. For example, GlobalLogic is currently working on a project called GLOko that explores services related to image processing, such as real-time head and eye tracking solutions. Internables could easily be integrated into these solutions to enhance driver-to-vehicle communication.
The vision of the future where we live happily ever after assisted by technology is very appealing. Who wouldn’t like to be able to record their chosen memories and come back to them at any time? How many people would be able to overcome a disability or illness? However, internables present just as many challenges as they do opportunities.
The idea of privacy acquires a whole new meaning with internables. We are not talking about stolen cars or hacked PCs, but about potentially life-threatening risks. Cybercriminals will definitely not pass up the opportunity to hack and blackmail internable users — such as hacking cardiac pacemaker setting apps. Consequently, it is crucial to establish adequate procedures and protections to prevent any fatal consequences, and to work out mechanisms that will dispel any concerns over compromised privacy and unauthorized surveillance. This will require some effort, but it will certainly pay off, as we all want to enjoy long lives in good health and peace.
Technology has opened up incredible opportunities and new ways for civilization to develop many times. Internables are undoubtedly another chance for us to live longer, better and safer. Their success, however, depends on the actions taken by companies all over the world.
Only by anticipating the possible negative outcomes of misusing technology at an early stage can we properly protect our users from the potential unpleasant consequences.
At GlobalLogic we face such challenges on a daily basis. We accept this as we strive to harness the potential of internables, which in a few years, perhaps, will change the world as we know it.