The Future of the IoT: From Smart Cities to Cyborgs


Today, the total number of devices that are related to the internet of things has reached a record 20 billion units worldwide. The number of sensors and special portable devices will double next year. This is the largest technological expansion in the history of humankind and will lead to the creation of cities controlled by artificial intelligence and cyborgs, with bodies connected to the internet.

Houses, apartments, cities…our everyday life will be infiltrated by IoT.

According to “The Open & Agile Smart” association, smart technology is being introduced in 100 cities and 23 countries. Various projects are implemented using IoT. In Chicago, smart technology is used to help to fight a city rat problem (Windy Grid project); in New York City, they fight fires, in Glasgow they check the quality of the air (Future City Glasgow). In other cities, smart houses and apartments are being tested, whose owners will not only have all the conveniences that come with the latest technology, but also get timely diagnostics and updates when necessary. In Switzerland, this prototype of housing is already being tested; in addition to the usual means of automated housing conditions, a smart diagnostic unit is used. "This is a new approach to realizing the concept of the internet of things", says Philips Research Lead Alexander Sinitsyn. "We have added diagnostic and therapeutic functionality to the prototype of a smart home, and have even created a technical opportunity to diagnose simple human conditions that can be treated with light therapy." Sinitsyn notes that such a concept is the closest to the ideal from the point of view of a smart infrastructure development. After all, along with intelligent housing, smart cities will appear.

Smart cities are already being tested in both Europe and Asia. For example, the well-known internet trading giant Alibaba has announced they are building a smart city in the Chinese city of Macau. The focus of the development is power management. Moreover, we are talking about not only distributing power, but also about the introduction of systems that will be autonomously managed and restored in case of damage. In addition, smart cities mean the need for light. Sensor systems are being introduced to save electricity by automatically turning off lights in parts of the city when it is not needed.

One recent development is a hardware and software platform that tracks activity at public establishments. When a cafe or a store closes its doors and the last visitors leave, the smart system turns off street light. While automatically switching off neighborhood lights reduces costs, also switching on lights when it is needed can reduce the crime rate in some neighborhoods.

The first European smart city is Santander, Spain. 12,500 sensors track garbage cans, air quality, the brightness of street lights, and traffic conditions.

Cybernetic organism
The use of artificial organs is now a familiar process that has been used since the early 90s. In 2000, artificial organs started to receive wireless interfaces, and in 2007, even an internet connection. Now, the development of IoT in healthcare takes place in two categories: treatment and improvement of the human body functions (“practical cyborgization”).

Smart artificial organs will not only function as a substitute for real organs, but will also be able to scan the body, detect, and transmit diagnostic data. This is the future of IoT. Such sensors are already being used and perform essential functions for diagnosing the health of internal organs. A group of young scientists at the Poznan Polytechnic University (Poland) are working on a project in which cyber organs have a second diagnostic function. For example, an artificial heart can monitor overall health, and the lungs and the liver can inform doctors of abnormalities.

There are both pros and cons to smart artificial organs. Scientists see the possibility of organs being hacked into or stopped altogether. There is an increasing amount of DoS attack risks when using public services; organs can be affected by those attacks as well. Hacker attacks on medical institutions are not rare. There have been cases where cybercriminals have taken control of medical equipment. In a clinic in Germany, one artificial lung ventilation was stopped remotely. Fortunately, the patient survived. The second case occurred with a medical robot. The hackers changed the algorithm of a complex medical operation. Therefore, artificial organs don’t have standard interfaces yet and their sensors are not integrated into global network services.

Practical cyborgization appears to be more reliable than smart artificial organs. Cyborgization does not have any effect on critical organs and systems, it only improves the abilities of its host.

In Europe, there is a human hand prototype that helps people to cope with challenging manipulations. Recently, an additional finger was created from a student’s work; it is controlled by the tension of groups of leg muscles through a cloud service.

Artist Anthony Antonellis stands out among the examples of successful introduction of clever things into the body. He implanted a RFID chip in his hand so that he could store and transfer images to smartphones. It saves his pictures on the chip, so that later anyone can see them using the NFC module on a smartphone. A similar development was made by the company, “Dangerous Things”. Its experts have created a NFC chip that is injected under the skin like tattoo ink and allows you to unlock various devices.

The most unconventional use of IoT was found at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They’ve created an electronic female contraceptive that can be turned on and off when needed. The development of this contraceptive was sponsored by the Bill Gates Foundation.

Smart transport
Since 2014, the internet of things has become a basis for creating the bridge to the future. Volkswagen engineers say that IoT will become a basis for creating effective autopilot systems because it simplifies the coordination of traffic. Sensors that are installed on vehicles can regularly exchange data to prevent automobile accidents. Most recently, the first large-scale project of autopilot systems for cargo transport with the use of IoT has started in England. These trucks travel throughout England in automatic mode, and the cars report to each other about the traffic situation.

Automotive companies are even starting to implement IoT systems in cars that are not supposed to have an autopilot system. "Smart" sensors are used, for example, to collect data on road surfaces, to avoid heavy traffic and even to detain violators. The use of IoT sensors in conjunction with the Glonass satellite system in CIS countries makes it possible to realize the function of remote engine shutdown by special services. By 2020, all cars produced in the CIS can be remotely controlled by means of a special platform. This opens up new opportunities for monitoring the observance of traffic rules. Imagine roads where cars will not be able to accelerate more than allowed by automated control systems.

What's next?
The key to the popularity of IoT is in the rate of deployment of smart systems. Experts believe that every day there will be more and more options for using smart systems. The more positive examples of development and implementation we observe, the more people will try to access services based on new technology.

Some believe that IoT is entering our life at a rapid pace, and will only continue to become more prevalent over the next few years. Soon, personal assistants, industrial robots, entire manufacturers and service workers, medical robots, computer coaches etc. will be a part of everyday life.

With IoT being so impactful in our society in the next few years, legislators and developers need to quickly address the reliability and security of such networks.

About the author: As Chief Technology Officer, Pavlov is responsible for technical strategy, technology services, engineering teams at Artezio and own products development. Pavlov has more than 13 years experience in different IT disciplines. He has been at Artezio for over seven years, where he led the largest Artezio’s development center in Minsk, Belarus before becoming CTO in 2014.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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