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Having attended medical school, I understand that the Internet of Things (IoT) offers health-management solutions beyond the medical devices used to address problems faced by an aging society.

My wife and I have a daughter who turned four last year. When she was born, I got the notion that it would be useful to attach various sensors to her crib to assist in her upbringing.

At that time, IoT-related devices were not as obtainable as they are now, so I scrounged around Tokyo’s Akihabara district for sensors that I linked to a personal computer to devise a makeshift IoT crib.

When the baby cried, one device was set to assume she wanted attention, so it would automatically activate a toy with a noisemaker.

If she seemed cold, it would turn up the heater; when she wet her diaper, a dry replacement would be rushed to the scene. Now it has already become easy to find products and services that can deal with these sorts of problems.

I’m not by any means advising everyone to attach sensors to their children’s cribs. But for many of us, both young and old, the time is not that far off when the IoT will be utilized more actively to manage our health.

Fitbit wristbands track wearers’ heart rate, physical activity, and sleep patterns. CREDIT: FITBIT

Fitbit wristbands track wearers’ heart rate, physical activity, and sleep patterns. CREDIT: FITBIT

Wearables for fitness
Already wearable terminals have been introduced, for such functions as measuring one’s pulse rate or caloric intake. San Francisco-based Fitbit, Inc., a marketer of fitness-related wearable goods that was founded in 2007, was listed on the NY Stock Exchange last June.

Physical fitness is just one aspect of wearable technology. While they have yet to be commercialized, there are devices that facilitate measurement of brain waves.

For example, when adults sleep, they go through cycles of about 90 minutes in which deep sleep alternates with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

To feel fully rested, one should awaken while in the REM state. If brain waves were monitored, it would be possible to ensure a person awakes at the ideal time.

The commercialization of sensors could introduce a multitude of possibilities. Japan, the world leader in bidet-style toilets, may also popularize toilets that could perform health checks, such as by measuring and recording levels of uric acid or urinary sugar.

Merged with nanotechnology, sensors could be introduced into the bloodstream to monitor a patient’s physical condition, or even into paint on the walls of a room to detect ambient conditions.

This is not a mad scientist’s pipe dream, but something that’s approaching reality.

Animal applications
It is now simple to set up a door at home so that a cat equipped with a microchip can let itself back into the house after prowling around the neighborhood.

If such a chip were used for humans, house keys would become unnecessary.

It has even come to the point that scientists are able to unravel some of the mysteries of the animal kingdom, by using sensors to track creatures such as whales to study their movements.

When shipping valuable or fragile items, vibrations or temperatures could be recorded, with the potential to attach chips to individual items. Data would be sent to both the sender and recipient. Since claims will likely be filed when goods are mishandled, delicate items would be handled with greater care.

The IoT represents the amassing of new technologies and new ideas.

In the near future, what innovation in products and services can we anticipate? How will they be disseminated throughout society? It’s fun just letting one’s imagination run wild.

Full-length original article:
http://diamond.jp/articles/-/81317

William H. Saito is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, TV commentator, speaker, and author of bestselling novel The Team. He has founded several businesses and serves as a special advisor to the Cabinet Office of Japan and other G-8 governments.
Sensors could be introduced . . . into paint on the walls of a room to detect ambient conditions.