Measured within an inch of your life

The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a mixture of good and bad press just now.  Tech companies are charging head first into the future while others claim it's (another) beginning of the end of civilisation.

But it seems that the future of affordable medical care may depend on IoT and wearable technologies.  

Taking a long, hard look at yourself.

Many of us step into our bathrooms of a morning and scowl at the number displayed by the scale and bemoan the march of time as we look at ourselves in the mirror. (You don't? Really?) In the future, however, the bathroom may just save your life.

Your scales will not only show you when you've over-indulged.  It'll transmit what it calculates to your smartwatch and beyond.  When you stand in front of your mirror, technology will assess everything from stress levels to sun exposure and your loo will be a veritable laboratory of assessment and analysis.  Even your toothbrush will be able to identify hydration levels, for example.

Moreover, your kitchen's already being used as an assessment centre - from calculating the fat content of your fridge (and there's already cutlery out there that calculates nutritional value so you can't cheat the system by having healthy food in the fridge and drowning it in butter at the cooker) to cookware that ensures you're not dishing up food poisoning instead of chicken.

If being measured and scrutinised every time you go to your bathroom or eat at your kitchen table bothers you, think of it this way - your loo could detect bowel cancer at the earliest possible stage allowing you to schedule an appointment with a specialist, bypassing the need for (a) the cancer to develop to the point that you notice it and (b) visiting your GP who then has to assess you and arrange an appointment with a specialist whose department is dealing with later stage cancers that they wouldn't have had to if only there was a technology out there that detected it sooner...

You're fine, but everyone knows it.

The downside of course is that this information is unlikely to remain secure.  IoT technology is and will be as vulnerable to cyber attack as any other technology.  If you buy an IoT device off the shelf, it's likely that its firmware (the base software that makes the technology work) is going to be out of date in terms of the latest security patches. Internet security is going to have to become as prominent in your minds as locking your front door. (Frankly, it already should be.)  We're going to have to learn how to keep our IoT devices patched and secure in a way that doesn't mean you have to stay home one day a week just to manage the updates.  We need to up the ante and demand high level data protection and security from the companies we choose to do business with.  

The scary reality is that we're going to have to learn to live differently.  With our technology watching, assessing and "talking" about us our privacy is going to be challenged like never before - even insurance policies may only be available upon agreement to share the data these devices collect.

So how do you feel about trading privacy for early diagnoses and preventative medical care?  Are we ready to handle the implications? 

Posted by Kirsty McIntosh on Sunday, January 24, 2016



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