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Holistic Digital Synergies Imperative for the Internet of Behavior (IoB)

Holistic Digital Synergies Imperative for the Internet of Behavior (IoB)
February 19, 2021

COVID-19 put a lot of focus on “human behavior”. Largely, the spread and containment of the virus depended on the behavior of people. Basic hygiene practices such as washing hands regularly, using face masks, maintaining social distancing etc., became important “social evidence” for COVID-19 security and, as an extension, these behavioral trends have made their presence felt in the list of “emerging technologies”.

For instance, Health Passport (with apps such as Aarogya Setu in India and Health Code in China), and social distancing Technologies are notable entrants in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2020 which has already registered 5-20% market penetration, courtesy the populations of both countries and the heightened adoption of these apps amid social distancing. This is a huge share for first-time entrants into the technology list.

The corporate world has taken note of this too and all those conversations around the “Internet of things”, around the potency of data harvesting, the importance of Data Analytics, and the need to use all these insights to make the offerings more targeted, customized and personal, in the world of social distancing, have begun to assume a new angle.

It is not enough to use data analytics for bottom line alone, it’s important to use these analytics to “nudge” human behavior too. Putting in sensors to track whether or not employees are washing hands regularly, modifying the basis of the company premise access from just an ID card to using advanced Face ID sensors (which track the usage of masks etc.), using sensors in public areas such as cafeterias to ensure social distancing is maintained, are some of the ways corporates are already beginning to leverage the “Internet of behavior”.

It is not enough to use data analytics for bottom line alone, it’s important to use these analytics to “nudge” human behavior too.

The evolving pyramid of IoB
Figure 1- The evolving pyramid of IoB

The latter two Ps in the holy trinity of Profit, People, and Planet had never received as much attention and importance. COVID-19 changed all that.

While the “Internet of things” (IoT) catered to the first P, the latter two Ps would be best served by an extension of IoT which is the “Internet of behavior” (IoB). Graduating to analytics and Behavior push based on those analytics (as shown in the pyramid above) will be key to the success of IoB.

By 2025, Gartner predicts that the activities of around 40% of the global population (more than 3 billion people) shall be tracked digitally with a view to influence our behavior. There will surely be ethical ramifications, but more fundamentally, “IoB” will let the world reimagine the existence of human beings in an all-permeating digital world.

While a lot of the above sounds foresighted, initiatives around the “Internet of behavior” will truly fructify and succeed when all the foundational digital cogs need to synergize and collude. Let us explore how.

What does the Internet of behavior (IoB) entail?

IoB is about utilizing data analytics to influence human behavior. Sensor-led driver assistance systems that recommend good driving practices, health apps on our phones that track our diet, sleeping patterns, heart rate, blood glucose levels etc., and suggest “habit alterations” are examples of the Internet of behavior that are already entrenched in our day-to-day lives.

As stated above, COVID-19 has forced the corporate world to come out with apps, sensors, technologies of various kinds to track, trace, and temper the behavior of employees to ensure COVID-19 compliance at all times.

But for this to be successful, we need strong sensors in place that can track habits and send in data but most importantly, we need to make the process very user-friendly so that people readily adopt these apps/trackers as a good practice than bend under it momentarily under pressure.

Therefore, the three very important ingredients for IoB are:

The evolving pyramid of IoB
Figure 2- Ingredients for IoB
  • Robust platform and tools that can help create effective apps and sensors
  • Effective data and analytics so that essential insights can be drawn via data harvesting from all the monitoring and the data itself
  • Excellent user experience so that the tool/application gets adopted and used in the first place

The first two ingredients become redundant if the adoption does not take place. Hence, user experience and adoption become the most important element. However, if there’s adoption but not enough data harvested and insights drawn, there will not be any scope to influence user behavior either. Therefore, a holistic synergy of the above three ingredients will be key to the success of IoB.

A Peek into the three IoB ingredients

  1. Excellent user experience

    Per a new report from RiskIQ, the total number of mobile apps on the planet has now reached a massive 8.93 million, that is 1.16 apps per every living person in this planet. By adding one more app to this jungle, the probability of getting ignored and lost is a lot more.

    Research also shows that there are 80+ apps installed on the average smartphone. However, the average person uses ~9 mobile apps per day and ~30 apps per month (that is a mere 37% of the apps installed).

    Therefore, before the creation of the app, it is important to fundamentally reimagine the interaction patterns and touch points of the user, involve the users in the creation process, evaluate user persona journeys, understand the user needs, keep the app experience unified and cohesive, make the navigation easy and meaningful to make the app relevant and useful for the users.

    Likewise, after the app comes to life, it is important to convey the purpose, create a usage guide, train the users, and reward them by gamifying the experience in the app. A balance between instant gratification (saying congratulations for doing the desired) followed by an incentive to keep up and achieve more brings users back.

    Successful IoB apps such as Fitbit, Garmin Vivosmart, Amazfit Bip etc., adhere to the above user experience principles and hence are very popular in terms of adoption, usage, and behavior influence.

  2. Robust platform and applications

    Language agnostic, multi-format (XML, JSON, PHP, CSV, HTML etc.) supporting platforms that support all media types, that can easily connect to any API, which are capable of adding a cloud database if there is a need to store data- these are important characteristics of modern-day platforms that enable the creation of “state-of-the-art” applications.

    They bring in plasticity, fungibility, and power-packed functionality that wows the users and complements the way the app gets adopted. The platforms should allow for customizability for various channels, allow for centralized updates that gets replicated seamlessly, allow sending unique, actionable push notifications that convert users into contributors, allow social media integration, keep the interface interactive, and ideally, have a drag-and-drop interface that makes the app-building process fun and easy.

    Platforms such as Appery, Mobile Roadie, Appy Pie etc., are popular because they pack in much of the above features, especially social media integration.

  3. Data and analytics

    For all the user adoption and robustness in the platform spoken above, it is the data that gets captured through the app which serves as the true oil in lubricating and tempering user behavior. Therefore, actionable data and insights that can be sent back to users in the form of popups and notifications, prodding and encouraging them, sometimes even incentivizing them to adhere to a desired behavior will help in realizing the true Internet of behavior.

    A lot of the data collected by fitness trackers is now going toward developing the healthcare industry. Health and fitness are two interconnected industries and big data is galvanizing the relationship between the two. All of this data on people’s lifestyles, health habits, fitness, and diets is not only helping the industry but the notifications (around calories, BMI, heart rate, blood pressure, sleeping patterns) sent out by the fitness trackers serve as reminders and affirmation to the users who act and improve upon their lifestyle. Thus, actionable data is the very soul of Internet of behavior.

    Actionable data is the very soul of Internet of behavior.

Ethical ramifications exist

While all the good-intentioned “track to positively tailor behavior” sentiment exists, an underlying current that runs in parallel is- How much is too much? It’s ok to track a driver’s behavior, give him demerit points (if the driver flouts some rules) with an intention to correct his behavior going ahead but scavenging through his social media pages to track if he went out partying the night before to draw conclusions is stretching the rubber band a bit too much, almost in an immoral way.

So, its important for corporates to respect the various privacy laws around the world (GDPR, PDP, POPI, DPA etc.) while they build such trackers. Where there are no laws, respect the social boundaries of individuals and undertake the tracking in a moral, non-intrusive manner.

Conclusion

Amongst the many things that COVID-19 has drawn our attention to, one of the most important aspects has been that of human behavior. Our behavior will determine our safety in the world. It is a blessing that we have technology to guide us and remind us on our behavior and the “Internet of behavior” is a product of this trend.

As corporates put their gray matter together to develop apps, sensors of various kinds to keep a track on their employees’ behavior, let’s hope they take care of the ethical and moral ramifications and get the above three ingredients right— the right platform, the right data, but above all, the right user experience— so that users feel happy and do not burdened by the “Internet of behavior”.