Many parts of that network are already here—mobile application-controlled home thermostats, for example—according to the report, which was not limited to healthcare, but included home and personal-health monitors among the networked devices predicted to be in widespread use by that date.
Survey respondent Patrick Tucker, author of “The Naked Future: What Happens In a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?” said that, in 2008, the number of Internet-connected devices outnumbered the human population for the first time and by 2013, their numbers expanded to 13 billion. He added that the IT firm Cisco projected that by 2020 there will be 50 billion Internet-connected devices, including “phones, chips, sensors, implants, and devices of which we have not yet conceived,” Tucker said.
He added, “One positive effect of 'ubiquitous computing,' as it used to be called, will be much faster, more convenient, and lower-cost medical diagnostics. This will be essential if we are to meet the healthcare needs of a rapidly aging Baby Boomer generation.”
Many people will wear devices that will let them connect to the Internet and receive feedback on their activities, health and fitness. They also will monitor others (their children or employees, for instance) who are also wearing sensors, or moving in and out of places that have sensors.
“Everything will become a node on a network,” predicted survey respondent J.P. Rangaswami, chief scientist for Salesforce.com, whose vision was quoted at length in the report.
“This will affect the food you buy and cook and eat; the fuel you use to power yourself, your devices, and your vehicles; the time you take to do things; and, as you learn to live longer, the burden of care will reduce as a result of far better monitoring of, and response to, your physical and emotional state, in terms of healthcare,” he said.
“People will engage with information using all of their senses: touch and feel, sight, sound, smell, and taste—using them in combination, more often than not. Wearable, connected devices will become embedded more and more in our bodies, more like implants, as in the [Google] Glass becoming more like contact lenses,” Rangaswami said. “As that happens, our ability to use nerve impulses to engage with information will expand dramatically. We will see today's connected devices become smaller and smaller and slowly merge into the part of the body from where the particular sense related to that device operates.”
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn