The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the few technologies that has the real potential of changing the way the entire world works. Gartner predicts that there will be about 8.4 billion connected devices by the end of this year, a figure which has increased by a whopping 31% from 2016. By now, people have accepted that anything and everything can be digitally connected through the world of internet, but does that include our brain, too? Apparently, it does.

No, we aren’t talking about science fiction. This has actually happened, and the thing we’re talking about here is called Brainternet, a word formed with the amalgamation of Brain and Internet. The technology works by converting brain waves into signals that can then be live-streamed and made accessible through a web portal. The system depends on some basic elements. A person is required to wear a mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) headset to capture brain wave signals that are then transmitted to a small computer, which then deciphers them with the help of specialised code. This is then made available as information on a website.

Though right now, the tech is still in its nascent stage. As of today, people only on the web-portal side of the wall know what’s happening in someone’s brain that too within the limits of what EEG has to offer, but they cannot input the information from the other direction. However, according to the creators of the tech, that’s exactly the direction they’re progressing towards.

“Ultimately, we're aiming to enable interactivity between the user and their brain so that the user can provide a stimulus and see the response,” said project coordinator Adam Pantanowitz, a lecturer in the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering, in a statement. Although researchers observing EEG readings are able to do this already, the technology will allow more people, including the subject themselves, to see what’s exactly happening in their head.

This type of interactivity can be enabled by our smartphones. Just consider this, you have an app on your palms that can dial up other peoples’ brains. It would be pretty awesome, won’t it be?

According to the creators of the tech, their main aim behind developing the tech was to garner a better understanding of how the human brain works, and currently, it offers only a few health-based applications.

In an email interview to Forbes, Pantanowitz shared, "In the short to medium term, this mobile, portable and simple tech can enable some really forward-thinking medical applications, such as streaming brain data if a person suffers from epilepsy, or blood glucose data of a person who has diabetes.”

He further added, "This can allow people to interact with their own data in a unique way (through an interface or a smartphone), and allow them to store it more seamlessly (so that diagnostics can be performed), and shared with, say, a medical practitioner."

For the uninitiated, there’s actually nothing alarmingly new about EEG, and nothing new that Brainterent can enable. The market already has a lot of devices that are capable of turning brain waves into actionable signals. The thing that makes this tech different from others is the connectivity factor.

While it is one thing to use brain waves to carry out tasks, it is another ball game altogether to harness and translate brain activity across a network. When we add interactivity feature into the mix, we will enable people to send signals back and forth. While this is still a long haul, one can say that it’s still worth considering the implications of our brains moving towards more transparency.

According to Pantanowitz, now is the time for us to think through these concerns. He said, "I believe that any [brain] signal that is produced by a person would need to be uploaded on an opt-in basis. Not every person would be keen to 'open-source’ their thought signals (and some of their most private data). So this needs to be treated with some serious consideration, as does the security around systems like these which may appear in the future." He further added that projects such as Brainternet is more like a proof-of-concept that can help in catalysing these larger conversations.

[Image: Ancient Code]

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