The Internet is moving from being made up of humans to being made up of things. This is not yet a daily reality but is moving towards that possibility. With the introduction of mobile devices, improvements in data storage and processing, and the decreasing cost of biometric sensors, the ability to gather data and track our own movements is becoming more accessible (Wolf 2010). The Internet of Things (IoT) is the connection of physical objects to the Internet (Mattern & Florkemeier 2010) and can be used for “self-tracking” or “the quanitifed self” (Lutpon 2013, p. 25), as explained in the video below:
BI Intelligence recently released ‘The Connected-Home Report’ (though to access the full report you must be a paid subscriber) which highlighted that the cost of biometric sensors has dropped by 50% since 2004 (Greenough 2014). Companies are investing more money in the area and there is a larger base of consumers keen to purchase these devices (Greenough 2014). Personally, I already track my sleep patterns, eating habits and exercise activity using such devices. I also engage in social networks which facilitate discussion in these areas and compare myself to others to reflect and evaluate my own goals. One such network is Strava which tracks my running progress through a GPS, uploads it to the Internet and creates metrics to evaluate performance. This data is publicly available to others using the same platform and it is possible to discuss, compare and compete with users.
As mentioned earlier, improvements in data storage have enabled the Internet of Things to exist. But the IoT raises a host of ethical questions as the reach is farther than the self (Lupton 2013). Companies and governments have the potential to use this biometric data for public health research but also for more sinister uses such as health insurance and marketing (Wolf 2010). It is pertinent to ask how this personal data will be stored and interpreted and more importantly, by who.
Greenough, J 2014, Here are the four key elements that will make ‘The Internet Of Things’ an absolutely massive market, Business Insider Australia, 15 October, viewed 23 October, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/four-elements-driving-iot-2014-10>.
Lupton, D 2013, ‘Understanding the human machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 25-30.
Mattern, F & Florkemeier, C 2010, ‘From the Internet of Computers to the Internet of Things’, Informatik-Spektrum, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 107-121.
Wolf, G 2010, The quantified self, online video, 3 June, TED, viewed 23 October 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/gary_wolf_the_quantified_self?utm_medium=on.ted.com-none&language=en&awesm=on.ted.com_s0C6c&utm_content=roadrunner-rrshorturl&utm_campaign=&share=142449430e&utm_source=t.co>.