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Thinking aloud about IoT and healthcare

March 13, 2017

Until recently, I understood IoT to stand for the Internet of Things – you know, when everything from your fridge to your car is connected to the Internet. Now, I'm looking at IoT as standing for the Internet of Thoughts and how it might be useful in healthcare.

Consider if you are driving and experience a pain. You try to remember exactly where it was, what it felt like and what the symptoms were. Unfortunately, by the time you're sat in front of your GP a couple of days later it's hard to recall accurately what the pain was like or even exactly where it was.

Perhaps you injure yourself accidentally and over a number of weeks although the initial pain lessens, you still feel discomfort. In the middle of the night the pain returns suddenly and is unbearable. You are rushed into A&E, barely able to speak coherently. When asked by a triage nurse for details of what you're experiencing, you mumble a very poor description. If only the healthcare professional could access your thoughts.

 

Not so science fiction

This may sound a far-fetched idea but experiments have shown it is possible that machines can reconstruct spoken phrases from neural data – it's called Brain-to-Text(1) I'm not the first to take this one step further. In a blog published on her website in 2014(2), 'Antonia' wrote: ' …the internet as we know it could be seen as an internet of thoughts, because it is the products of our brains and thoughts that are connected. …Thoughts will connect with thoughts directly.'

In 2015, Tracey Follows, now Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at The Future Laboratory, wrote at some length about the Internet of Thoughts(3), saying that: 'in the Emerging Technology Lab at Samsung, they are researching ways to allow people to use their thoughts to launch an application, select a contact, select a song from a playlist or power up a phone.'

She also included a quote from Google CEO, Larry Page: "Eventually you'll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer."

 

Long player

Finally, musician, Peter Gabriel, writing in Edge(4) said: 'It now seems inevitable that the decreasing cost and the increasing resolution of brain scanning systems, accompanied by the relentless increase in power of computers, will take us soon to the point where our own thinking might be visible, downloadable and open to the world in new ways.'

And to think, I remember him as lead singer with rock band Genesis.

 

1 Brain-to-text: decoding spoken phrases from phone representations in the brain. Christian Herff et al. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnins.2015.00217/full

 

2. Connected Brains: The Internet of Thoughts. Antonia. https://tonianni.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/connected-brains-the-internet-of-thoughts/

 

3. Rethinking the Internet of Things. Tracey Follows. http://mediatel.co.uk/newsline/2015/08/12/rethinking-the-internet-of-things/

 

4. Open Water–The Internet Of Visible Thought. Peter Gabriel. https://www.edge.org/response-detail/26632

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