Will the next age be the Human Internet of Things?

HIoT—once the PLCs, machines and enterprises are connected, your brain is next.

By Dave Perkon, technical editor

I've been to several great industry user group events in the past several months, and one thing is obvious: the PLCs, machines, processes and enterprises are getting connected. Smart Industry, or the fourth industrial revolution, is approaching quickly. Connections to the controllers and edge devices are leading to actionable data and improved efficiency by increasing an asset’s useful life, reducing downtime and optimizing performance.

By looking at how things are getting connected and adding real scientific advances, I see a future where the next age will be the Human Internet of Things (HIoT). We will literally be connected to the machines and the Internet.

You’ll need to connect to the PLCs, controllers, and machines to be successful in the future, but how do you get connected? Vivienne Ming, co-founder of Socos and a theoretical neuroscientist, technologist and entrepreneur, gave some great examples of how we will evolve into the HIoT at her GE Minds + Machines keynote presentation earlier this year in San Francisco. She isn't calling it the HIoT, but I am, and, after hearing her talk, I’m convinced neuroscientists will be the control designers, IT engineers and product developers of the HIoT.

As the HIoT develops, perhaps the next step of human evolution is the bionic age—the true connecting and merging of man and machine.

Computer models Ming helped to create at Gild show that preschool is a stronger predictor of your life success than college is. Your deep qualities such as non-cognitive ability, grit, motivation and emotional intelligence are already there. There is a vast set of these qualities that are predictive of your success in the workplace, how long you’ll live, how much money you will make and how happy you will be, she says.

These qualities can actually be identified in four-year-olds; researchers can predict how well they will do in life. But the future can be changed through intervention. Researchers intervened by sending a daily suggestion, via text message, to the preschooler's parents. It greatly improved the children's intellectual learning and future success. It’s predictable, and it works.

Also read: What the ability to design or program a simple start/stop circuit says about you

As part of machine-learning research that Ming was involved with, her group created a deep cognitive computer model that could learn biology simply by listening to undergrads talking to each other about the subject. The cool thing is that the model can then predict, within 2%, what the final grades of 20,000 students would be just by listening to them talk about the subject.

Ming talked about how her diabetic son could be monitored and warned before a low-blood-sugar event occurred. They actually hacked his blood glucose monitor to prove they could do it in real time, and the data allowed them to predict his blood sugar in the future, keeping it in a healthy range 100% of the time.

I believe the future will show that about six sensors will monitor the human body and provide data for just about any diagnosis. Bodymedia may be well on the way to making this happen, and so is the wearable smart watch you may have on your wrist. So the body will definitely be connected and monitored, and closed-loop control of say blood sugar or the heart will be possible. It’s already true.

Ming also talked about cochlear implants. We have a nerve connection—the implant wires directly into auditory nerves that exchange information between the brain and ear. Adding to that, soon your smartphone will be able to estimate your current emotional state. Emozia Research already has an SDK, shell app and data collection API for that.

Check around. The research shows we can predict and intervene to improve knowledge, real-time monitor and control the body, connect to the nerve networks of the brain and estimate the emotional state of the body. The HIoT is coming, and a spike in the brain or, as I prefer, a secure wireless link will connect it to you, the edge device.

As the HIoT develops, perhaps the next step of human evolution is the bionic age—the true connecting and merging of man and machine. Ming is convinced cognitive neuroprosthetics will happen; get spiked and suddenly you are 25% smarter or 25% more successful. She thinks it is probably 20 to 30 years off, but would you get that app and the hardware that goes with it? It will be an interesting social dilemma for the next generation. Should we allow the cognitive enhancements the HIoT provides, and will it give people an unfair advantage? Ming claims it’s not science fiction, and it will change the definition of humans.

In the meantime, daily, interactive use of artificial intelligence is just around the corner—you are already being connected via sight and sound, and the device in your pocket, in your ear, on your lap and on your kitchen counter. IBM’s Watson, Amazon’s Echo, Google Now, Siri and others will connect you to the machines and information you want, and they will learn your preferences. With this happening in the HIoT, there is no doubt that, if you haven’t jumped in to the IoT and Smart Industry, now is the time. Just ask Cortana, Alexa or Siri. They will help you understand the billions, soon to be trillions, of pieces of information and assist getting you connected in the future.

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