How the Internet of Bodies is redefining the essence of the human connection

The Internet of Bodies (IoB) envisions a world where we can make payments, exchange business information, or control our home environment with a simple touch or a thought.
Industries: General
Trends: IoT
  • Executive summary
  • Closing the digital/biological gap
  • Turn your body into a gateway to the internet
  • A network within the human body
  • Control devices with your mind
  • A mind-control brain implant
  • Wave your money goodbye
  • A new implant lets you pay with a wave of your hand
  • The invisible interface
  • Learnings

Executive summary

Imagine a day when tapping your finger on a countertop pays for your coffee or a firm handshake sends your digital business card to a prospective client. When the mere thought of turning up the heat makes your home respond automatically, ensuring everything is cosy and warm by the time you arrive. This isn’t just wishful thinking: it’s the future, and it’s coming faster than you might expect.

  • Electro-quasistatic signals could turn our bodies into conduits for data transfer and allow us to control devices with our thoughts and gestures.
  • Under-the-skin RFID chip implants are already available on the market and can be used to make contactless payments and convey medical information.
  • “There’s no avoiding that humans are getting augmented by machines,” says Shreyas Sen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University.
  • 51% of people are open to receiving a chip implant, according to a 2021 poll of 4,000 EU and UK citizens. 
  • “Where do we draw the line when it comes to privacy and security?” asks Theodora Lau, author and founder of Unconventional Ventures.

We are entering an era where a handshake could convey more than goodwill: it could allow us to exchange our digital identities. A nod could be a command, a glance a password. But how far are we willing to go in merging our physical selves with the digital universe—and at what point does the cost to our privacy and autonomy outweigh the benefits of such integration?

Closing the digital/biological gap

The smartphone has been our trusty companion for decades, cramming every task imaginable into its tiny frame. Wearable devices like smartwatches have started to chip away at the smartphone’s dominance, offering us snippets of information and control without needing to pull a device from our pockets. But even they rely on screens—on something you have to look at and touch.

In the not-so-distant future, the very concept of a ‘device’ could become obsolete. Why? Because our own bodies might become the ultimate tools for interacting with the world around us. This is the promise of an emerging concept known as the Internet of Bodies (IoB), where your skin, your movements, and even your thoughts become the interfaces connecting you to the digital world.

We are entering an era where a handshake could convey more than goodwill—it could exchange digital identities. A nod could be a command, a glance a password. Bio-integrated technology could make it possible to engage with a myriad of systems and devices through intuitive actions, making our interactions with technology more fluid than ever before. In this article, we will take a closer look at the IoB concept and explore what it means to be connected in a world where technology becomes an extension of ourselves.

“Right now, our gateway to the internet is this very exciting box in our hands. We find ourselves heads down, looking at it for a significant fraction of our awake time. If that’s not the kind of future we want, then technology needs to evolve”.

Professor Shreyas Sen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Purdue University

Turn your body into a gateway to the internet

The way we interact with technology has changed significantly over the years, with screens and keyboards gradually giving way to gesture and voice commands.

Until recently, our interactions with technology have been limited to traditional interfaces like screens and keyboards. Such interfaces have become so deeply ingrained in our daily lives that it’s hard to imagine a world without them. They have revolutionised the way we work, communicate, and relax, but they also have their limitations. Screens can strain our eyes, keyboards can cause repetitive strain injuries, and both can be cumbersome to use on the go.

The emergence of wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) marked a significant improvement in the way we interact with technology. They allow us to access information and control our environment with simple gestures or voice commands. However, while devices like smartwatches, fitness trackers, and augmented reality glasses undoubtedly offer a more convenient and hands-free way to stay connected, they still rely on traditional wireless communication methods, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which can be subject to interference and limited range. Some of the most cutting-edge solutions available today go a step further, by turning our very bodies into a conduit for connectivity between devices.

A network within the human body

Purdue University researchers have developed a new technology that turns the human body into a conduit for data transmission.

A giant leap forward in body-device interconnectivity is underway at Purdue University. Professor Shreyas Sen and his team are working on an innovative concept called ‘Wi-R technology’, which aims to make data transmission possible via the human body itself. The researchers hope that their new technology could one day enable devices like smartphones, laptops, and even medical implants like pacemakers and insulin pumps to communicate with one another seamlessly via the wearer.

This ‘body internet’ employs electro-quasistatic signals, which fall within a lower frequency band than the radio waves used by technologies like Bluetooth. In addition to facilitating faster data transmission, this also ensures privacy and security, as the signals are contained entirely within the user’s body. “Right now, our gateway to the internet is this very exciting box in our hands. We find ourselves heads down, looking at it for a significant fraction of our awake time. If that’s not the kind of future we want, then technology needs to evolve”, says Sen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University. “Instead, the smartphone could be deconstructed and distributed all around you at suitable locations such that it becomes invisible to the eye”.

At the 2023 CES tech expo, Sen’s team demonstrated how Wi-R technology works by streaming music from a smartphone to a speaker by simply touching the speaker, with the body serving as a medium for data transfer. The implications of this discovery are profound, promising to simplify the way we interact with our gadgets, eliminating the need to tap on a screen or issue a voice command to get a device to do something. Instead, instructions could be conveyed through simple skin contact—or, looking further ahead, perhaps even by thought.

Control devices with your mind

While the idea of controlling devices with our minds has been confined to the realm of sci-fi until now, technological advances may soon make it a reality.

The prospect of a seamless interface between our thoughts and technology has long captivated our imagination. Indeed, the very idea of controlling devices with our minds is so common in genre fiction it is considered a trope. However, rapid advancements in technology are now bringing us shockingly close to making this lofty dream a reality.

However, there are still significant challenges we need to overcome before we can truly blur the lines between mind and machine. The human brain is an incredibly complex organ, and its inner workings remain a mystery to us in many respects, preventing us from translating its functions into a digital format. Nevertheless, the rapid pace of innovation and the growing interest in this area of research suggest that we may be closer than ever to realising this dream.

A mind-control brain implant

Researchers have developed a brain implant that may one day enable us to control devices with our minds.

Building on their previous work with Wi-R technology, Sen and his team are working on another invention that could potentially enable us to control technology using nothing but the power of our brain within the next couple of decades. In a 2023 paper published in Nature Electronics, the team describes a brain implant that uses the same electro-quasistatic signals that Wi-R technology uses to enable communication in the human brain.

“The popularity of the IoB is growing, because in addition to improving our health, these technologies can make us more capable, more efficient, more productive, and make our lives more convenient.”

Mary Lee, senior mathematician, AI thinktank Rand

By placing these implants at several key points around the brain, we may one day be able to control devices just by thinking about the desired action—no physical interaction required. For example, we could start the coffee machine or call a friend simply by transmitting our thoughts to the target device via the implant. Unlike existing methods that rely on an extensive network of wires and electrodes to interface with the brain, Sen’s approach aims to utilise the brain’s inherent conductivity to facilitate communication. This wouldn’t just reduce the need for invasive wiring, it also promises to amplify data transmission speeds more than a hundredfold compared to alternative wire-free methods.

However, to effectively replicate the activity of a human brain, which consists of billions of neurons, a wireless implant would need to reach data transmission rates in the tens of megabits per second. While no current technology can achieve this within the brain, electro-quasistatic signals exhibit the most potential in reaching this goal. “There’s no avoiding that humans are getting augmented by machines and that machines are constantly changing our lives”, says Sen. “But our research shows that it’s possible for these machines to help you without requiring you to always have to look at a screen”.

Wave your money goodbye

Although we have significantly reduced our reliance on cash payments over the years, modern payment solutions remain just as vulnerable to theft.

One of the most pervasive concerns in modern society is theft. The constant worry of losing our wallets, credit cards, or mobile devices can be a significant source of stress and anxiety. Traditional payment methods like cash and credit cards, while convenient, are inherently vulnerable. They can be easily stolen, duplicated, or compromised, leaving us exposed to financial loss and identity theft.

But even modern digital payment solutions, such as mobile wallets, are not immune to security threats. These technologies rely on external devices like smartphones or wearables, which can be lost, stolen, or hacked just like any other piece of technology. As a result, many people are seeking out alternative payment methods that can provide a higher level of security and peace of mind in an increasingly uncertain world. One of the most formidable solutions may yet be found—or rather, inserted—under our skin.

A new implant lets you pay with a wave of your hand

Biotechnology company Walletmoor has developed an implant that allows users to pay for their purchases with a simple wave of their hand.

A new payment implant developed by biotechnology company Walletmoor aims to address this issue by offering a more secure and convenient alternative to traditional payment methods. The device employs Near Field Communication (NFC) to enable secure contactless transactions that can be executed with a simple wave of the hand. “The implant can be used to pay for a drink on the beach in Rio, a coffee in New York, a haircut in Paris—or at your local grocery store”, says Wojtek Paprota, founder and chief executive of Walletmor. About the size of a small safety pin and only half a millimetre thick, the device can be discreetly placed anywhere under the skin, with the palm being the most practical site.

“The steps we take today define our future, which is inextricably linked to innovative technology slowly becoming our daily reality.”

Wojtek Paprota, founder and chief executive, Walletmor

By integrating payment capabilities into a virtually undetectable implant, you gain the peace of mind that your means of payment is inseparably attached to your person, impervious to theft and duplication of sensitive financial data. The company is also working on expanding the implant’s functionalities by developing a user-friendly platform that will not only enable you to manage your financial activities but also unlock doors, use public transportation, and even store personal business card information.

Beyond financial applications, the company is also exploring the possibility of using the implant to store vital medical information. This could help redefine emergency care protocols, allowing for instantaneous access to critical health information and thereby enhancing patient outcomes. “The steps we take today define our future, which is inextricably linked to innovative technology slowly becoming our daily reality”, Papota drives home. Dutch futurist Richard van Hooijdonk has taken a major step towards this future, possessing not one but two chips in his hands that offer similar functionalities.

“How much are we willing to pay for the sake of convenience?” she asks. “Where do we draw the line when it comes to privacy and security? Who will be protecting the critical infrastructure and the humans that are part of it?”

Theodora Lau, author and co-founder of Unconventional Ventures

The invisible interface

The Internet of Bodies promises to redefine the way we interact with our environment, but some privacy and security risks remain.

If and when the Internet of Bodies becomes a normal part of modern society, it could very well redefine the very essence of human interaction. A simple gesture, like a wave of the hand, could initiate a series of actions—your home’s front door unlocks, the lights flicker on, and your favourite music starts playing, all perfectly synchronised with your arrival. At work, collaborating with colleagues could take on a whole new meaning, where a subtle shift in your gaze or a specific thought pattern could share complex ideas, bypassing the need for verbal communication. The technology could even transform the way we travel, with your body acting as a universal passport and boarding pass.

While not everyone is enthralled by the idea of implanting a chip into their body, it seems that quite a few people—51%, to be precise—are open to it, as revealed by a 2021 survey of 4,000 people from the UK and the EU. Despite their willingness to consider the idea, a large portion of respondents also highlighted concerns related to security and the invasiveness of the implantation process.

Theodora Lau, a fintech expert, characterises implanted payment chips as a natural “extension of the Internet of Things”, highlighting the convenience they could offer. Nevertheless, she raises critical questions about the balance between the increased convenience and the associated privacy and security risks, especially as embedded chips become repositories of more extensive personal information.

“How much are we willing to pay for the sake of convenience?” she asks. “Where do we draw the line when it comes to privacy and security? Who will be protecting the critical infrastructure and the humans that are part of it?” These thoughts are echoed by Nada Kakabadse, professor of policy, governance, and ethics at Reading University, who warns of a darker aspect of this technology that could be exploited for control and oppression, thereby benefiting a select few at the expense of the many.


If there’s a single takeaway from this article, it’s that the line between our physical and digital selves is going to get blurry. The Internet of Bodies is an exciting concept that promises improvements to our quality of life that are near-unbelievable. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, we could be managing our entire lives through simple microgestures and thoughts.

  • Wi-R technology could turn our body into a conduit for data transfer, enabling smart devices to connect with in-body devices like pacemakers.
  • Brain implants using electro-quasistatic signals could allow us to control the technology around us with our minds.
  • Contactless payments may soon be possible: not with our phones, but with fingerprints or other biometric signatures.
  • Under-the-skin RFID chips containing our medical information could mean the difference between life and death—and they’re available right now.
  • Some experts warn of the privacy and security implications of the Internet of Bodies, demanding strong cybersecurity protocols be established.

Integrating technology into the very fabric of our being—literally—raises significant ethical questions about privacy, security, and personal autonomy. Are we ready to embrace a life where our bodies are not just biological entities but also part of a vast digital network?

Industries: General
Trends: IoT
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