Move over wearables!
From fitness trackers, to postural correcting devices, to diabetes monitors; wearables are assisting us in all aspects of life. They are quite literally everywhere and with the technology and capabilities of these devices improving all the time, they don’t show any signs of fading out as a mega trend. Even so, the pace of change means that the next trend or successor is never too far off the horizon…In the case of wearables, we’re forecasting that the next trend will be the ‘Internables’ or ‘Implantables’, i.e. wearable technology that is internalised or implanted in the body.
The wearable trend has marked a significant shift in consumer attitude towards health and wellbeing. We are increasingly valuing that sense of control, in conjunction with a growing self-awareness and investment in our own health. This increased focus on improving wellness has marked a shift from reactive treatment to proactive prevention, and internable technology – technology that interacts with our body from the inside - could well be the next level in achieving this with greater accuracy and effect.
A number of people are already experimenting with this technology. One of the more extreme examples is Neil Harbisson, who is famed for being the first man to have an antenna implanted in his skull. Harbisson has a rare form of colour-blindness which means he sees the world in grey but his antenna – or ‘Eyeborg’ as he names it - allows him to hear light frequencies, so that despite not being able to see colour, he can hear it. How does that work? Well, the antenna is connected to a chip which translates these light frequencies in to a music note, so when Harbisson visits a museum for example, he can listen to a Picasso painting. It also works the other way round; he describes a telephone ring as sounding green. His life has essentially become a kind of musical!
Whilst Harbisson’s internable serves a specific purpose, it’s not something that’s likely to go into mass-production. However, other more accessible forms of what is termed ‘biohacking’ are also starting to emerge. People have already started to experiment with implanting NFC (Near-Field Communication) microchips for simple daily tasks such as unlocking the car, opening doors with a wave of the hand or unlocking phone screens. Earlier this year, one man collaborated with a Scandinavian airline and successfully made his way through airport security to board his flight using the chip in his hand. In years to come we could have an NFC chip implanted in our hand so that we would never have to worry about losing our keys, or office swipe card, for example, or forgetting our online banking password. With this technology, it's even possible that our hand could one day become the new paypass! Forget apps for our phones, what about apps for our bodies? The possibilities are endless...
In the medical industry, there are a number of companies looking to develop and launch a bionic pancreas for those suffering with diabetes. This device will be able to automate the blood sugar monitoring process, taking internal readings and releasing insulin or glucagon to proactively control blood sugar levels. In addition to being fully automated, the technology also has full connectivity, so the data can be monitored and stored on various devices – a great feature for parents, carers and doctors alike. By potentially offering a unique automated, proactive capability, this internable technology could be life-changing for those suffering from all kinds of life-threatening illnesses.
A few years ago the concept of internables might have sounded like something from the script of a sci-fi film, however as technology and adoption continue to gather pace, the concept seems less fantastical and more pre-destined with each passing day and advancement. In fact, you can even purchase DIY chip implant kits on the internet! So, whilst its applications and usages are still being developed and refined, technically speaking there’s no reason why we couldn’t soon be marking the end of the wearable era and the beginning of an internable revolution; where the Fitbits and Apple watches of the world are not worn as an accessory but as a functional part of the human body.