The IoNT emerges as the next generation of the IoT

By Ahmed Farrag, on


There is nothing more intriguing than exploring evolving technologies and their impact on our lives. It gives us time to better understand how to deal with those new advancements in order to maximize their benefits while neutralizing their potential risks.

“Horizon scanning for emerging technologies is crucial to staying abreast of developments that can radically transform our world, enabling timely expert analysis in preparation for these disruptors,” according to Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM’s chief innovation officer. “The global community needs to come together and agree on common principles if our society is to reap the benefits and hedge the risks of these technologies.”

The Internet of Nanothings (IoNT) is one such example of horizon scanning.

Top emerging technologies

On June 23, the World Economic Forum published a list of the top 10 emerging technologies in 2016. The list highlights new technologies that have the power to enhance human lives and transform industries around us. The IoNT topped the list.

From the minute we wake up in the morning until the minute we go to bed, we deal with countless things around us. As noted in the Ericsson 2016 Mobile Subscriptions Report, the IoT is expected to continue growing and connecting devices, making IoT devices the largest category of connected devices by 2018.

Getting these objects to interact with each other to become more intelligent is the main focus of the IoT. However, as materials science and biotechnology advances, it is now possible to build devices within the scale of a nanometer, a concept that is referred to as the IoNT. Though previous blog topics included the IoT and its potential uses, the IoNT is the next generation of the IoT because of its endless possibilities in the biomedical and healthcare industries.

Researchers understand that the artificial nature of IoT devices can result in undesired effects on humans because they are using synthesized materials. Thus, they cannot be widely used in the healthcare domain. Researchers are working on a completely innovative paradigm using synthetic biology and nanotechnology to reengineer biological cells. These efforts will enable intra-body sensing and actuation applications. Such cells can provide many uses, such as early warnings against cancer, arterial ailments, HIV and many other deadly diseases by collecting health-related information and transmitting it to healthcare providers. This early detection and diagnosis can greatly increase the chances for successful treatments.

Building the IoNT

In order to build IoNT applications with biological cells, the three following aspects have to be fulfilled:

  1. The ability to program the cells to execute certain functions
  2. A mean through which cells can exchange information
  3. An interface between cells and the internet to communicate with the external world

To achieve the first objective, researchers are looking into techniques such as genetic code manipulation. This will allow them to alter information within the DNA molecules of biological cells, making it possible to program and execute cell functions in a fashion similar to IoT devices and sensors.

A completely new communication paradigm is needed for biological cells to interact with each other. This paradigm will be based on the nature of the biological cells. In essence, scientists are looking into molecular-level communication. Chains of chemical reactions communicate and process information in the form of molecule chemical characteristics, such as concentration, type and energy, propagating them from a transmitter to a receiver.

Finally, the ability to read the molecule characteristics and translate them into electromagnetics will allow integration with external systems. Biological receptors, characterized by electromagnetic properties, can be bounded and altered by the presence of molecules. These receptors can modulate currents in electrical circuits, or nano-communication units, therefore providing an interface between biological cells and the external realm of internet-based systems.

The IoT is meant to enhance and significantly improve our daily lives. The IoNT will completely redefine the biomedical industry, promising a huge impact on everyday lives. IoNT devices will be implanted in areas as human skin in the form of electronic tattoos to sense biochemical information and communicate it wirelessly to nearby external electronic devices. This innovation will reinvent healthcare solutions as we know them.

About The Author

Ahmed Farrag

Cloud Architect at IBM

Ahmed Farrag is an IBM Accredited Software Architect, passionate about exploring new technologies around Mobile and Cloud computing. During his career at IBM, Ahmed has built solid skills around Solution Architecture, Technical leadership as well as expertise in a wide range of technologies including: Mobility, Cloud Computing, Self service portals, eCommerce & Order Management, Enterprise Content Management, and the Software Development Lifecycle.

Articles by Ahmed Farrag
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