The Internet of Things (IoT) has come a long way and the industry keeps introducing products that essentially make our lives connected. We can connect our home appliances, so grocery shopping problems are solved as our connected fridge can do it for us, using data to ascertain our preferences. There has also been a lot of work done on smart cities, where connected devices enable better living through improvements in infrastructure, environment, transport and other sectors. We also have wearables that can collect our health data from how far we walk to our heart rate or sleep quality. And now, tech companies want to take the IoT to a whole new level, by introducing wearables in the form of smart contact lenses that can essentially digitize our eyes.
Google, Samsung and Sony are among competitors in the race to deliver smart contact lenses. The Google X team has been collaborating with Novartis, and their smart lenses will be designed to control glucose levels in blood from tears, with the approach contributing to diabetes research and improving the lives of those who suffer from the condition. The lenses use miniaturized chips, sensors and antenna to measure sugar levels and transmit this data. The device will also be useful for those aiming to lead a healthy lifestyle to control their sugar intake.
Meanwhile, Samsung is working on embedding Augmented Reality (AR) technology into their product. The idea is to incorporate cameras, motion sensors and transmitters that will be able to reflect information on the real world. The lenses will be connected to smartphones and allow users to take pictures, with their eyes. Processed data will then provide users with useful actions. For example, if a person spots a restaurant across the road, it will be possible to read the menu without searching for it.
Sony came up with a similar concept and will use cameras to collect data and complete user requests. However, unlike Samsung, the company is not that into AR and is focused on advancing the physics of their device. Photo capturing and filming will be possible with a blink of the eye and the lenses will be able to store footage. Embedded electroluminescence display would allow the viewing of videos, images and other information, minimizing smartphones use.
Smart contact lenses are not just another trend with questionable benefits, they provide many opportunities from healthcare to entertainment, and a higher quality of life. The fact that they are exposed to both the sun and air means they are capable of harvesting energy and using it as their power supply. However, there are also challenges, including ways of incorporating the real and digital world through contact lenses, instead of only fooling human eyes with an additional display, whilst security issues may become more prevalent.
With such rapid development, there are also ethical questions to answer, with smart technologies often being vulnerable to malfunction and privacy issues. Smartphone cameras pose privacy threats, but are still too obvious and can be spotted if used maliciously, if however, smart contact lenses are launched, it would be extremely hard to detect the nature of a user’s intentions.
In the IoT world, cybersecurity remains a major issue that stops connected devices from being integrated everywhere. With smart lenses, if hackers can break into Cloud and other systems, then they could learn the way these devices are programmed if strong security solutions are not in place. Such cyber attacks can be harmful to both personal data and user health, as the device is physically connected to the most sensitive part of the human body. Until some of these issues are overcome the spread of this technology will be slow, but who knows what may happen in the future?