Wearable technology will soon be surpassed by smart devices people can implant into their bodies, according to Greenwave Systems' chief scientist Jim Hunter.

I think implantables will be a big thing in three years,” Hunter tells Techworld at Web Summit in Lisbon.

With technology advancing faster than ever, people are looking to wearables and smart devices to not only make their lives better but also improve their health, and control aspects of their homes. But would you opt for a wearable over a implantable? Or rely on an ‘smart’ implantable to make your life easier?

“Technology can be as simple as a connected insulin pump to something as complex as bionics you wear on you, in you or attached to you,” says Hunter.

“Wearables is an interesting kind of side trip, but it really is about implantable technology going forward,” he adds.

Can we trust implantables?

With cybercrime on the rise and smart devices seemingly vulnerable to attacks, changing public opinion about everyday smart devices is a mammoth task itself, and it may be even more tough to create trust in implantables. 

“If you look at things as an industry we have to figure some stuff out before a lot of people start saying ‘oh yeah put that in my body’. We’ve got to do some hard thinking and some problem solving to get there.

“So when we start to think about the implantables, we talk about a kind of revolution. We are moving in a direction where this is not something we are going to avoid, not something we’re going to prevent. It's going to happen so we have to embrace it and do it correctly,” says Hunter.

Hunter explained how as a society trust is one of the biggest barriers to getting a product to market.

“People will naturally reject change. As a species we do that until you start to show the value of something. For example, let’s say I get an implantable insulin pump, I no longer have to get blood tests, I no longer have to prick my finger every day, I never have to prepare a needle and inject insulin again. It’s a win win. Although, it’s not a win win until I can trust it.

“You’re always going to have the fringe adopters but moving forward to the mass market you always have to hit that trust factor,” adds Hunter.

Wearables vs implantables

If people were to adopt the idea of implantables, it’s fair to say that this could render wearables somewhat irrelevant. Whether or not wearables could coexist if implantables take off is up for debate.

“Wearables is really interesting technology and it’s great because it bridges industries like fashion, sports and technology. But now we’re talking about the actual livesaving stuff, the real life improvement stuff,” says Hunter.

“I think that you create things that people can’t live without. For example, if you were to have said 10 years ago that you’re going to sit across from me and you’re not going to really look at me but still have a conversation with me [via your smartphone], I would have said no that’ll never happen,” he adds.

Securing implantables

One of the biggest underlying barriers to users adopting new technologies is security. And this concern will definitely be magnified when discussing tech implanted into the body. While implantables could lead to improved healthcare and living conditions, it could leave people more at risk then ever before.

"As co-chair at the IoT Consortium's Privacy Security Committee, security, safely and privacy are huge points for us to get right as an industry. So we work with the industry to get everyone on the same page. To be a client on the internet, to be an internet citizen as a device, you have to have security," says Hunter.

"I suppose the question will rise asking what is the definition of an implantable but I think that in three years time, if we think about how little time has passed since the first iPhone, we think 'wow' so many things can changed in that many years," he adds.

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