When IoT becomes IoB, the Internet of Behaviors

January 20, 2021 § Leave a comment

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The interest in IoB received a boost, when Gartner listed it as a major future technological trend which will touch the amazing amount of 40% of the world population by 2023 – in two years. A decade ahead, 6G and the exploding amount of human behavior data in the net will put more pressure on this development with its accessibility, speed, data transfer capacity, and real-time potential. For r&d, services and businesses this is a call for a timely analysis of what real potential IoB can and will offer.

I’ve been happy to read fresh news and columns taking IoB seriously and looking at the realistic potential, e.g. on assistive technology and IoB for empowering the disabled and older people, International Banker and many others. The ethics problems have been frequently touched, sometimes forgetting that the original idea in IoB was to separate id and behavior data, when it is required – and still offer massive, even global service potential.

Here I give a very short and limited explanation to some aspects of IoB, with the purpose to show why I believe IoB will be a significant aspect of the intelligent digital future and why we need a coding and notation system for classifying IoB behaviors. IoT and IoB will need each other in dealing with behavior data.

From IoT to behavior

Imagine that you have a motion sensor attached to a person’s wrist and you can address it as an IoT device, with an IP address or some other suitable code. Connecting to the device returns the angle or other useful data of the wrist – you receive data on ‘wrist behavior’.  This is only a primitive thought experiment example of a situation where IoB emerges from IoT.

IoT alone can be in trouble when the person being monitored by the ‘wrist sensor device’ takes various roles and the meaning of the wrist data varies accordingly: at work she can be a doctor, treating patients and engaged with other health care activities. Then in the afternoon she commutes, and in the evening, joins a ballet class. Between these activities a number of tasks and situations occur and the sensor reveals her wrist motions and whatever it is capable of sensing. To fully understand the meaning of the wrist data, it is necessary to know what is the exact role of the person at that moment and in that specific situation, that is, what kind of purposeful behavior is ongoing when data is being recorded. This is where IoB emerges from IoT.

The core idea of IoB is to know exactly the situation, the role and behavior occurring at a specific time. When this is known, the data provided by the IoT device (in this primitive example) can be interpreted and a meaning assigned to it. An engineering comment to this could be that there can and will be much more data available, for example about the person’s location, daily schedules, behavior history, and even audio and images that tell exactly what is the situation, the role and the ongoing task.

However, even if this supporting data were available, the recorded behavior data (in this case only the wrist) must be classified so that it is possible to know the aims and meanings of the specific behavior and relate it t other behaviors. Without a systematic coding of behaviors multiple data flows become problematic to interpret. The arm of the dancer and the doctor is the same but the purpose of the wrist movement changes from one behavior and situation to another. Knowing the situation and purpose makes it possible to analyze, give relevant and timely feed-back and provide offers or interventions that are 100% relevant. Recorded streams can then include these behavior codes.

Then there are the subjective intentions of acts. They hide from any straightforward IoT recording and monitoring systems, but they can be valuable and rich material fed by the subject to the IoB, and allow coding of the essence of the intentions. A simple and convenient arrangement is required for this, like voice commands, symbols, gestures and many other UIs can be used. New easy to use solutions will appear when the market for IoB is mature and the needs are known. An interesting relative to IoB is the UI of Spotify, where the user can express his/her feeling and wish by selecting the music genre, the artist or by using any known list. 

A few words of addressing and behavior codes

There are only a few systematic behavior classification schemes, and they are typically meant for certain contexts, like dance, games and emotional face expressions, to mention a few. See e.g. my thoughts on the computability of behavior. What is relevant for a dancer can be irrelevant for a handicapped person, but the IoB and IoT systems servicing them, can have similar technical architectures, where IoB includes a specific behavior coding scheme and is supported by IoT. Intelligent sensor devices and tools for IoT can work together with IoB to improve behavior recognition and related targeting.

In the 2012 IoB article  and in its follow-up I considered IPv6 with its 2128 address space as a potential means to manage and offer enough addresses to code and target any human behaviors and why not (dynamically?) reserve address segments for certain globally relevant service-, business-, education- or entertainment related behavior classes. The addresses within a segment need not be fixed and reserved – a set of dynamically defined addresses could be used for specific contexts – if I understand the possibilities of IPv6 right. Well, I have not discussed the limitations of this with IPv6 professionals and have something to learn here.

If indeed the IPv6 addresses are used by a service provider and its clients, the arrangement could alleviate the risk of hacking since the specific IoB ‘codes’ within a segment can be declared and known only by the two parties so that only they know what behavior they represent and the coding could be changed on the fly and vary across individuals.

Architectural solutions are needed and there are several alternatives, some of which aim at keeping the id and behavior data separate, while offering possibilities of even global services, and to secure the safety of the people using IoB.. However, like in IoT, IP addressing is not a necessity for IoB either and other behavior coding schemes can be introduced to different contexts as it happens already. There is much to do in this.

An amusing final note

I hope I don’t sound querulent. Trying to get funding for the IoB project in Finland from the leading tech and business fund some years ago, with my colleague we received puzzled looks and the decision: “It is impossible to understand what IoB could mean and used for.” Later I saw similar reactions, expressly reserved, if not hostile. I got frustrated but then one night, had an idea. Why not include IoB in my fictional story and show what it can do? At the time I was writing my novel “Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” which will hopefully come out by summer 2021 (it’s in English) and I included one compelling application of the IoB in the story. Well, then came Gartner and the IoB game changed, for a while at least, but IoB lives in the story of fiction science, as I call its genre. 

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