Fatimah Moran, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
We have all probably heard the term “the Internet of Things” (or “IoT”). This term refers to the interconnectivity of objects or “things” resulting in new data sources. Wearables, smart homes, smart cars, and smart cities are a few examples of applications that provide products to consumers but in return they also provide valuable data to companies that provide the products & services to customers.
The Internet of Behaviours (IoB) is a technology that captures and use data“digital dusts” of people’s daily lives (Gartner, 2020) from IoT devices that focuses on individuals that can provide insights into consumer behaviours, interests, and preferences. IoB also provides companies with the ability to direct its marketing efforts towards specific consumers.
For example, a fitness wearable can track how many steps you do in a day and what time of day you are more active. This can be linked to your smart alarm clock, your TikTok account, your device location tracking application, your in-home voice assistant (such as, Amazon Alexa or Google Home), your house camera, your digital shopping list, and maybe even your smart refrigerator. That is a lot of invaluable information that can be collected about a consumer; everything from whether this consumer is a morning person to whether they have an online shopping addiction or a chocolate addiction can be inferred from collected information.
IoB also has implications for the public sector. Think of the amount of health surveillance and monitoring that is occurring because of COVID-19. Your smart phone’s (remove “location”) Test & Trace App can assist the health care system with its contact tracing capabilities. Imagine that this test and trace App could be linked to your smart car in order to discover where else you might have gone to last Friday night (pub, church, grocery store, classes, etc.) or the App could be linked to your fitness wearable. What if a surveillance tool could track whether you were washing your hands properly or whether you were wearing a mask. Imagine also who would have access to this information?
IoB has been identified as a strategic technology trend for 2021 (Gartner, 2020), and by 2023, 40 percent of people worldwide will likely be having their individual activities tracked digitally (www.bmc.com).
One of the objectives of these types of data mining/collection is to try to influence an individual’s behaviour in some way, that is, to either specifically market a product to them and/or to protect against problematic behaviour.
What prevents the onslaught of immense personal data collection from these technology sources? Privacy and information security laws are notoriously slow to catch up with technical innovations and rely on proper consent to be obtained from individuals using devices that collect their personal information. Security of information will be paramount to ensure trust being received from individuals and companies and/or the public sector. Like anything else, however, if the resulting behaviour provides a clear benefit to individuals and provides the information the company or public sector desires, then the IoB is here to stay.