After wearables, embeddables

Metaratings
23 Apr 2014
00:00
Article

No sooner have I come to grips with the fact that I no longer have any privacy and that my every phone call, email, tweet and whatever can be tracked by security agencies (and anybody that knew about Heartbleed), it now seems my every movement and breath is in demand as well. Not even my wife is concerned with those unless, of course, they both stop.

However, it seems medical insurers are. Like their vehicle counterparts, they are looking to reward people that are willing to be tracked via one of those fandangled wearable devices I spoke of in a previous blog. If you are a good driver in your connected car you will be ‘rewarded’ with lower premiums but if you do your daily exercises and have sensible sleep patterns measured by your wearable, they will reward you with lower health insurance premiums. (Presumably, if you’re a slob you will pay more, at least while you are still kicking.)

Of course, this latest scheme is open to abuse. There’s nothing stopping you from paying your local fitness freak to wear your device on their daily training runs, right? It might not be that easy because the pundits are now talking about taking wearables one step further – to the inside. Yes ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the era of ‘embeddables’!

If you think having any device embedded in your person is bizarre then you best not visit biohack.me. There you will find lots of people talking about embedded micro-chips, magnets, compasses, sensors, speakers (yes, speakers) and even micro-computers – positioned somewhere in their bodies for fun/science/research/lunacy.

Now, before you grimace or reel in horror, they may be onto something here. These ‘pioneers’ (for want of a better word) are probably setting the scene for what is inevitable. So let’s look at some of the potential benefits.

For a start, I might be more than willing to have a chip inserted in the back of my neck (like the one stuck in my passport) that identifies me to immigration officials in the many countries I visit and gets me special clearance. Or an embedded micro-computer that has my full medical history on it and that monitors my body functions so that if I ever need to go to the doctor or have any sort of medical emergency they can just scan me and apply the relevant treatment.

How about getting on and off public transport with my embedded NFC or RFID token that I can recharge by resting my hand on a specially marked panel on a ticketing machine? The same for my embedded wallet chip, perhaps?

I could have an embedded compass chip to help me find true north or even a GPS chip, connected of course, to my embedded speakers that can give me directions to wherever I need to be. Or the ultimate smartphone chip, micro-thin keypad and display embedded just under the skin on the back of my hand so the glow of numbers can be seen through my epidermis.

The mind boggles. I can’t wait to have my life improved so radically with the help of any number of brilliant embeddables that probably haven’t even been thought of yet. But there’s one big problem.

Just like the plethora of apps, multiple payment methods, security and privacy issues, networks available, regulations to follow that all exist for my smartphone alone, who will be my trusted partner/partners for all my embeddables? And will security snoops, not content with tracking my communications, demand to have access to my innermost happenings as well?

Oh dear, just like NFC enabled smartphones, that seemed like such a good idea at the time – everyone will want access. Who will even want to manage all these ‘embeddables’ – network operators? Not likely.

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