The Internet of Things (IoT): Where do you touch it?

Just before the end of last year, I was at one of the big box stores with my husband. He is a bicyclist, tech hobbyist, and unabashed advocate of use of the Internet for every possible thing. I am more conservative when it comes to technology . . . especially where my privacy might also be involved. I had decided that I wanted a pedometer. I would like to improve my general activity level and I thought awareness of how much I move during the day might help me. He suggested I get a fitness device instead. That way, I could track my sleep as well as my steps and other activity. His own device tracks steps and sleep and connects with the same online database he uses for his bicycling.

As I was setting the device up, I found myself having some concern about my information. In the settings, I was able to indicate that only I would be able to see the data, but I know that all of this information is getting stored in some huge database that is or will be mined to sell me things. After all, it is connected to an app on my smartphone. The device communicates by bluetooth with the phone.

Several weeks after starting to use this new toy, I decided I wanted to lose a few pounds. In the past, I have successfully used a telephone app to track what I eat and my workouts, and guess what! It connects with my new fitness device, so my device can give me activity credit. That way I have an idea of how many calories I can eat and still lose weight. Hmmm, more personal data on the Internet and now connected together.

On March 31, I received one of the FierceHealth newsletters to which I subscribe. I was struck by an article about the Internet of Things (IoT) and the need for a framework for how such things should be regulated, should manage data, should handle security, should interface with our lives. I realized that I had stepped into what is rapidly becoming a very large pond.

So what is this Internet of Things? According to Wikipedia,

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

The term “Internet of Things” was first documented by a British visionary, Kevin Ashton, in 1999.[1] Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications (M2M) and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications.[2] The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a Smart Grid.[3]

Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters,[4] automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue.[5] These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices.[6] Current market examples includesmart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize Wi-Fi for remote monitoring.

Besides the plethora of new application areas for Internet connected automation to expand into, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations that is aggregated very quickly, thereby increasing the need to better index, store and process such data.[7][8]

 

Healthcare devices that are part of the IoT such as pacemakers have been around for a while. Those of you who work in corrections have probably had clients who have worn ankle bracelets to determine their whereabouts. The possibilities are endless as Cisco, Microsoft and Google have determined.

While I am not creative enough to come up with ways the IoT will impact behavioral health services, I am sure it will. At the very least, according to Nic Cuccia and OpenMinds, it is likely to change health care customer service. This realm will have much more impact on your life than that computer sitting on your desk ever did.

How will you allow the Internet of Things into your life? into your practice? into your services? Please share your comments below.

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