Just one way COVID is helping the IoT…
In a lot of ways – including, of course, the one million deaths worldwide – the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has held the world backwards. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and the pandemic is no exception. While the need to avoid physical contact has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, it’s also wrenched us fast-forward into a world of digital advances, Facetime and Zoom, and virtual meetings. While most economic sectors have crashed and burned, the digital sector – including the “internet of things” – has blossomed.
And the pandemic has helped us humans develop powerful, processor-enabled “things” even in fields that might not be initially obvious. Here’s an example. Researchers from the University of Cambridge used 3D printing techniques to make electronic fibres that detect the airflow out of the masks that everyone now is wearing.1 As a potential advance in the IoT, this is huge. The micro-fibres which detect airflow and humidity, allows“things” to detect – and operate intelligently based on – our biology.
This is really the next step of the IoT. Right now, the “things” in the internet of things are mostly external objects. However, the next step will be to integrate processors into biology, allowing for things like early detection of would-be-fatal diseases.
This is happening already. Bio-sensors have become commonplace, such as fingerprint and face recognition for unlocking your cell phone. Researchers are already developing effective nano-scale bio-sensors to detect and prevent long-term diseases.2 People are exploring ways – pushed by the necessity of detecting asymptomatic cases of COVID – to quickly and efficiently measure the internal states of our very bodies.
So, while the pandemic may have ground the air travel and cruise ship industries to a screeching halt, it’s pushed the medical and digital sectors leaps and bounds forward. This means that, maybe, a world of virtual reality – something like “The Matrix”, but less dire – isn’t so far off as we’d thought when that movie was made. With intelligent “things”, able to measure and react based on our biology, a day may soon come when our neighbours joke, “You just turned a hundred. Welcome to middle age!”