Digital transformation is global and much more than the popular organisational digitalisation and digitisation drives. At the corporate level, the goal has always been a journey from simple business process optimisation and automation towards hyper-automation involving Robotics Process Automation (RPA), blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI) on either premise, cloud, or hybrid environments. At a global level, digital transformation is viewed as a technology intervention for faster, secure, and inclusive service delivery towards achieving the sustainable development goals enshrined in the efficient collation and use of data.
On the front burner of sustainable development goals is an effective cut down on carbon emission and several solutions are already on the table. One of the viable solutions is the smart cities programmes across the globe. While these projects are laudable, there have been recent conversations to develop global governance for sustainable smart cities. Some major smart world drivers are near-absolute digital cities, smart devices, smart infrastructure, smart health, smart economy, and emerging smart humans.
Smart cities are a model for the coming smart world, a future not far away. In order words, while not many would live in smart cities, almost everyone would live in the smart world. The smart world is much about seamless connectivity, connectivity of smart devices, smart infrastructures, and systems, including humans. So, today, we have the internet of things (IoT) and evolving internet of Bodies (IoB).
What You Need to Know About IOB
One of the most critical challenges of the smart world would be IoB. IoB begins with unique individual identification (ID), being able to identify people not only by assigned unique identity numbers but also by their real person in real-time on a global scale. According to digital identity.org, it has been estimated that 1.1 million people worldwide live without a digital ID.
Digital ID is simply an extension of physical ID, having identifiable unique code numbers and relevant data; examples include driver’s licenses, passports, and bank cards, which are a way to identify a person online. Technically, a digital ID is a digital representation of a person securely stored in a computer cloud. This is essentially a computerised record of who a person is. Technological advancements have indicated the enormous potential of good digital ID in health, the economy, and the environment in general. The use cases are intriguing and still evolving. For example, with the digital ID’s capability to store the entire human DNA of individuals in the cloud, it would be likely to use computer programs to diagnose things like cancerous cells specific to each patient and provide a tailored solution with extremely high precision. Similarly, individual carbon footprints can be measured in real-time, and the impact on the environment can be determined for necessary interventions.
Risks Associated with the Internet of Bodies
Despite the potential life-changing use cases of digital ID implementation, there has been considerable pushback from various quarters for the risks, which could be existential. Some have argued against the global rollout owing to the data security and privacy questions yet to be addressed. Typical of such questions is, what could go wrong if hackers break into the digital ID database and take over a person’s data or even millions of people? Because the same way signals can potentially be read and written into the digital ID records for good purposes, the same can be done for ill purposes by some “James Bond villains” somewhere. Clearly, more work still needs to be done on data governance and frameworks to build public confidence in participating in large-scale digital ID programmes. Several building blocks need to be addressed with little ambiguity, such as where the digital ID data would be domiciled within personal, national, regional, or global jurisdictions. Who and what systems would have access to such sensitive data, and to what degree?
Before rushing to provide answers to the many questions, there is a need to step back in the recent memory lane to see how we got to this point in our digital transformation journey. Look at how ID has evolved in recent years, exploring the benefits and challenges that have pushed the frontier of innovations to the present. This will help us appreciate both the facts and the risks that would allow the policymakers to access our readiness and weave appropriate governance to ensure genuinely sustainable rollout strategies.
Whichever side of the divide one finds oneself on, there is an obvious need to have people adequately identified both in the domestic and global spaces, as this would improve security and ease of social-economic activities. The drive to establish a good ID system has seen the movement from physical IDs of presenting oneself with a paper tally to digital IDs like driver’s license, international passport, national ID, Bank cards, etc.
Physical ID can only be helpful if the owner has it at the point of presentation or verification. Even at that, the chances of loss, duplication, impersonation, and theft are very prevalent, making this identification model inefficient and ineffective. To a large extent, the digital ID systems that are prevalent today have fixed some of the shortcomings of the physical ID model. However, since the present digital ID systems codify the unique IDs and data of holders into physical smart devices that are still exposed to loss and theft can put the owner’s data in the hands of unauthorised 3rd parties and fraudsters. In response, several innovative security layers are being put in place to mitigate the challenges of the current digital ID model. Still, one colossal gap remains, which is on data integrity.
Emerging Technologies in the Age of Big Data
Data is one of the biggest challenges facing the 4th industrial revolution and, by extension, the smart world. It is one thing to collect, collate and store ID data, and another to derive real and continuous value from it. The emerging technologies that the smart world would run on like blockchain, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Realities (AR), and Internet of Bodies (IoB) are heavily dependent on both the quantity and quality of data. How updated are your data stored with the financial institutions, health, and government agencies, for instance? Your answer is as good as the actual state of the smart world today.
So, to realise the dream of a smart world, our data must be online and accessible for both output and input needs. The data output capabilities would enable relevant systems to read our data in real time for intended purposes. The data input capabilities would support the update of our data in real-time by relevant systems so that our data remain up to date, relevant and useful. This is the dream of the smart world, and its full realisation is just a few years away.
You are smart enough to see that this digital transformation level cannot be achieved with our data residing on external devices, no matter how smart they are. Everything and everyone must be in sync with the data universe. Everything must be online and connected in real-time, from our cars, house, and office equipment/appliances to our bodies (IoT + IoB). The end is that we have a quick and accurate data pool to make precise decisions that hopefully would enhance human life in almost every way.
Head of Delivery, Fintech