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  • Helen Hawkes

Edge of Tomorrow

There’s a new wave of devices on the horizon as the internet of things — and senses — revolutionises the way we live, shop and think. By Helen Hawkes.

L’Oréal’s AI-powered Perso dispenses customised skincare and makeup on demand. Photography courtesy Of L’Oréal.

The latest in consumer technology is rapidly changing. Right now, it’s a smart watch that takes calls and tracks your workout, or a robot vacuum that expertly negotiates your Cappellini sofa. 

As we barrel towards digital everything, it’s more likely to be a tiny, biocompatible skin patch that monitors every aspect of your health in real time, or a virtual assistant that curates immersive entertainment.

“The Internet of Things [IoT] is rapidly evolving, weaving its way into every facet of our lives,” says Professor Rocky Scopelliti, futurologist and author of “The Conscious Code”. 

“Imagine AI-powered algorithms that can analyse your biometric data, lifestyle choices and genetic data to predict and prevent ill health,” says Scopelliti. The Apple Watch Series 9 can already measure your skin temperature, capture your blood oxygen saturation levels and record an electrocardiogram (ECG) of your heart anytime.

“Or visualise a smart home that you control with just your thoughts,” continues Scopelliti. “Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are already being used for rehabilitation and communication, and their potential in the consumer space is immense.” 

Billionaire market disruptor Elon Musk is trialling the Neuralink, a cosmetically invisible brain implant designed to let you control a computer or mobile device. While its main benefit may be for people with disabilities, it conjures images of a future world in which we interact with online devices simply by the power of our mind.

Ryan Winn, CEO of independent think tank the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), agrees that the future of the IoT —­ networks of smart “things” enabled by connectivity, artificial intelligence and data analytics — presents opportunities to rethink the way we live. Yet for human beings to thrive through such a transformation, the risks as well as the opportunities must be examined, he says.

Bringing it home

A 2019 McKinsey report predicted there would be more than 43 billion IoT devices connected to the internet by 2023. Many such devices and applications are used in advanced manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture; in cities and regions for real-time monitoring of traffic congestion, pollution, public safety, waste collection and infrastructure maintenance; and to track carbon emissions and help prevent and manage environmental disasters.

Samsung’s Family Hub Plus smart fridge has a 32-inch touchscreen and can customise recipes, show movies, send messages and control connected smart devices. Photography courtesy of Samsung.

In smart homes, IoT devices such as thermostats, lights and security cameras can be interconnected to curate living spaces. To manage these devices, work PC-free or simply play a movie, Samsung launched the Smart Monitor M8 with a built-in IoT hub. 

For those looking simply to integrate various streaming devices and operate them with voice control or an app, there is the Sonos Beam smart soundbar. For hi-tech foodies, Samsung’s Family Hub smart fridge allows you to stream cooking shows on its display screen while you create culinary masterpieces. 

All about the ambience? Wi-Fi-enabled LIFX smart bulbs can imbue your office with gym vibes while you make strides on your Peloton Tread, a smart treadmill with live and on-demand fitness classes.

Scopelliti suggests that in the future the IoT will be able to adjust lighting, music and even temperature based on our mood and preferences, as well as curate deeply immersive and emotionally resonant entertainment experiences.

Life less ordinary

The IoT is already revolutionising skincare and makeup, with IoT-enabled mirrors that use augmented reality to scan our faces and apply virtual makeup. L’Oréal’s Perso tool uses AI to personalise hair and skincare formulas, which it then dispenses from a nozzle in the top, tweaked for factors including local air quality and time of day.

Myleaf is an Australian med-tech startup specialising in alternative medicines that uses the IoT to offer a clinic and dispensary in one platform. 

Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Horizon Light Up Connected Watch. Photography courtesy of Louis Vuitton.

Accessories are being revamped, too. Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Horizon Light Up Connected Watch combines traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge tech, with features like multiple built-in watch faces and travel-related functions. Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses are uber-cool spy craft/future wear accessories, able to answer calls, stream music and take photos and videos. 

Fast-forward in time and retail experiences will involve interactive displays that recognise our preferences and recommend products based on past purchases or real-time interactions, and digital stores will replicate brick-and-mortar ones and allow shoppers to try on clothes virtually, predicts Scopelliti.

A Feast for the senses 

According to Scopelliti, digital experiences that transcend the mere visual and auditory, immersing you in a symphony of sensations, is the next step beyond the IoT.

“The Internet of Senses [IoS] could revolutionise the way we interact with the digital world, blurring the lines between physical and virtual experiences and enriching our lives in countless ways,” he says. “While the IoS is still in its early stages of development, there are already exciting examples of its applications.” 

Samsung’s Smart Monitor M8 with built-in IoT hub. Photography courtesy of Samsung.

Immersive virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets like Meta Quest 2 offer stunning visuals and spatial audio. Haptic feedback technology is already present in game controllers, phones and VR gloves, providing realistic sensations of vibration, pressure and texture. 

In the beauty sphere, YSL’s Scent-Sation leverages neuroscience to provide personalised fragrance advice based on one’s sensory reaction to scents.

Causes for concern

While the opportunities for the IoT (and IoS) to make our lives better is “mind-boggling”, one of the biggest concerns is data privacy, according to ACOLA’s Ryan Winn. “This is something the Australian government is having conversations about,” he says. “But do you regulate the device or the technology, which is moving so quickly? There is a lot of responsibility on industry to develop standards as well as questions about who owns the data and where it is being stored.”

Some of the biggest risks exist around old or cheap IoT devices that may have poorer security and pose the weakest link, says Winn.

At the same time, not everyone can afford the latest IoT technologies. New inventions could potentially exacerbate existing inequality and create new forms of social exclusion, says Scopelliti. “For technology to serve humanity we need to focus on inclusivity, accessibility and ensuring that these advancements enhance, rather than diminish, our human experience.” 

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eleventh edition, Page 58 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Edge of Tomorrow”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  


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