What is, you ask, the Internet of Behavior, also known as the IoB? Good question. This term is suddenly becoming more common after the pandemic and is a concept with important implications for the future. IoB refers to technologies connected to the Internet that collect, integrate and analyze data related to the behavior of people within a space.
Will the Internet of Behavior improve wherever you go?
How people interact with space has become extremely relevant in the wake of the pandemic. When a deadly virus can spread through minimal contact, managing public health and maintaining social distancing by whatever means necessary is vital. That’s where IoB comes in.
Better understand the IoB space
Many workplaces that welcome employees to the site for the first time in more than a year now have IoB technologies installed. So, for example, there could be RFID tags that track hand washing or sensors that detect the use of masks, along with automatic alerts if someone doesn’t follow protocols. These are some of the most common applications for IoB technologies right now, but they are not the only ones.
Combining data from multiple technologies (cameras, scanners, sensors) and multiple sources (private sector, public sector, social media) helps distill the dynamism of human-filled spaces into a format ready for analysis.
Understand how and why people occupy spaces. it helps make those spaces safer, cleaner, more convenient and more attractive – better in every way.
IoB lets us know what we couldn’t know before, which means we can improve and innovate in spaces in ways that used to be impossible.
How we live
There are many reasons to be excited about the IoB and to be alarmed by a world that tracks our every move. But, unfortunately, both sides of the coin require debate because it seems almost certain that IoB technologies will one day be everywhere.
Rapid expansion seems likely, given the number of different things the IoB can do.
Keep in mind that there are already billions of connected devices collecting data on where people go and what they do at a very granular level. Those devices are found in offices, stores, and restaurants, not to mention our cars, phones, and wearable devices, which collect vast amounts of data on the details of modern life.
There will be more than 42 billion connected devices in use by 2025, generating more than 1 billion GB of data per day.
Previously, we used this data only for specialized purposes, such as tracking our health, and we made minimal effort to integrate disconnected data sources. IoB, at its core, is about using more of this data to understand more about how we live.
Solve complicated problems with IoB
The implications are huge, but the applications are very specific. For example, a business could use IoB to track when people join and leave Zoom meetings over time, and then use that data to set a better schedule.
Another use would be to implement facial recognition technology during the meeting to track the participant’s facial cues and identify employees who may feel overworked or under-engaged, allowing for early intervention rather than the inevitable burnout.
IoB applications are not limited to the workplace, either.
Traffic data could be used to prevent slowdowns and accidents and to design future roads for maximum safety and efficiency. Crowd data could be used to prevent protests or large celebrations from erupting into riots, just as it could help more people get through airport security in less time. Schools could even use IoB data to help prevent or stop shootings and school fights.
Anywhere people interact could literally take advantage of the IoB to identify and eliminate pain points for everyone involved.
Where IoB could fail
It is not at all an exaggeration to say that the IoB can solve some of the most common, consequential and complex problems that plague humanity. But sadly, these results are far from guaranteed.
IoB may be promising, but it is also problematic for many reasons.
Because Internet-connected devices are currently subject to relatively few regulations, it is often up to the data collector to decide how to use it. Harnessing the power of the IoB will require sharing that data early, frequently, and thoroughly. But sharing it will also require a strong commitment to ethics and a clear understanding of how things could go wrong.
Good against evil
Here’s a hypothesis that illustrates the fine line IoB should walk: Let’s say a surveillance company has data that shows all the places someone went in the last month. The company can agree to share that data with a partner as long as the person’s identity is withheld or provide it to a judge who issues a court order. However, they could also decide to sell that data to the highest bidder or give it to government officials who use it to stifle dissent.
For every piece of IoB data, there are ways to use it in an ethical or exploitative way.
Another possible drawback is that people’s movements are not good indicators of their motives. For example, if a fitness tracker records someone heading to the bedroom at 3 a.m. every night, is he staying up that long because he’s working late, partying, or struggling with insomnia?
Usually enough IoB data can answer that question. However, when it can’t, it leaves companies with a lot of data and very little real insight.
How we make IoB work
Businesses involved with IoB, whether with the development or implementation of the technology, must take legal and ethical issues seriously. The question remains, will companies do the ethical thing? And then think about the costs. Who bears the costs of maintaining Internet security? Your? Government? The company?
They need to be transparent about what data they are collecting and why.
More importantly, however, businesses and individuals need to use IoB as a force for good – something that enhances people’s experience rather than punishing, rejecting or stalking them.
In a nightclub, for example, IoB could help monitor crowd sentiment and then adjust the atmosphere accordingly by playing different music. Armed with this information, the nightclub could accommodate more or fewer people, change specialty drinks, or adjust the lighting.
Over time, this data could help a club owner adjust a space that makes everyone feel like a VIP when they walk in. But potentially more important, the club owner will grow his business by catering to the special needs and wishes of his clients.
Unlimited IoB Possibilities
Another area where the IoB could have a tremendous impact without raising ethical concerns is within the home, where people control what technology sees and tracks. For example, the right combination of technologies could detect when someone is late for work and then automatically turn on the bedroom lights, turn on the coffee maker, and warm up the car.
As long as we get creative and stay conscientious, there is little that the IoB cannot transform for the better.
Image credit: jacek dylag; unpack thank you!