The Internet of things (IoT) is no longer a part of some sci-fi flick. The technology that connects any electronic device to the Internet is very much underway and is already a reality in many fields. The collection of usage and data by these IoT devices provides valuable insights into users’ behaviors, interests, and preferences – something which has been coined as the Internet of Behaviors (IoB). This of course is nascent, but analysts see numerous possibilities for using IoB in business, personal finance, workplace, and so on.
Understanding the Internet of Behaviors
Gote Nyman, retired Psychology Professor at the University of Helsinki in 2012, developed the concept that behavior can be data mined. He believes that being able to see intentions of the human background to know what is about to happen in the connected world is doable. But Nyman also thinks that IoB itself is a complicated process as statistics may fall short of fully revealing meanings and contexts of individual life. Hence, Gartner researchers believe, the concept needs to be supported with hardcore data analytics and insights and understanding of behavioral science.
In its recent strategic predictions for 2021, Gartner announced that the Internet of Behavior is something we’ll become increasingly aware of in our daily lives and work. It combines existing technologies that focus on the individual directly – facial recognition, location tracking and big data for example – and connects the resulting data to associated behavioral events, such as cash purchases or device usage, said the research firm.
Organizations use this data to influence human behavior. For example, to monitor compliance with health protocols during the ongoing pandemic, organizations might leverage IoB via computer vision to see whether employees are wearing masks or via thermal imaging to identify those with a fever.
Likewise, a single device, like a smartphone, can track your online movements as well as your real-life geographic position. Today, brands know a lot more about you—your interests, dislikes, the way you vote, and the way you purchase. Uber, for example uses IoT data about drivers, traveler locations and preferences to reimagine the end-user experience.
Cyber Security and the Internet of Behavior
There’s however a dark side of IoT and the integration of behavior data can allow cybercriminals access to sensitive data that reveals consumer behavior patterns, believe experts. Cybercriminals can collect and sell to other criminals hacked property access codes, delivery routes, even bank access codes – the potential is endless.
The other likelihood is that they can take ‘Phishing’ to a new level by being able to better impersonate individuals for the sake of fraud or other nefarious purposes.
The rapidly expanding network of IoT devices means that new cybersecurity protocols are in development and that businesses need to be ever more vigilant and proactive. As Chrissy Kidd, researcher and technology author explains in the BMC blog, “The IoT itself isn’t inherently problematic; a lot of people like having their devices synced and get benefits and convenience from this setup. Instead, the concern is how we gather, navigate, and use the data, particularly at scale. And we’re starting to understand this problem.”
She further states that IoB approach, interconnecting our data with our decision-making, demands change of our cultural and legal norms.
“The IoT does not gather data solely from your relationship with a single company. For instance, a car insurance company can look at a summary of your driving history. As a society, we’ve decided this is fair. But the insurers might also scour your social media profiles and interactions to “predict” whether you’re a safe driver—a questionable and extralegal move,” writes Kidd.
It is not difficult for companies to link your smart phone with your laptop, your in-home voice assistant, your house or car cameras, and maybe your cell phone records (texts and phone calls). Also, it’s not just the devices themselves. Behind the scenes, many companies share (sell) data across company lines or with other subsidiaries. Google, Facebook, and Amazon continue to acquire software that potentially brings a user of a single app into their entire online ecosystem—frequently without our permission.
This, according to Kidd presents significant security and legal risks, and there is little legal protection in place for these concerns.
The Road Ahead
IoB is still in its early days but as more new data and analysis will be available (growing due to IoT) – companies should ensure they are aware of any consumer behaviors or trends in order to. A strong data security posture followed by best practice in data governance, introduction of cyber security training and awareness programs would help businesses stay ahead of the curve.
In fact, Gartner sees that soon the IoB will be prevalent, by year-end 2025, over half of the world’s population will be subject to at least one IoB program, whether it be commercial or governmental.
Moreover, by 2023, Gartner predicts that the individual activities of 40% of the global population will be tracked digitally in order to influence our behavior. That’s more than 3 billion people! The IoB will challenge “what it means to be human in the digital world” and that’s something to look out for.