Smart locks, thermostats, and smartwatches prove that IoT is already well integrated into our routines. But have you heard about Bio-IoT, the Internet of Things for biological systems?
The idea of using living organisms in an information transmission network may seem like fiction, but scientists have studied it for some time. Endowed with the ability to communicate, bacteria can offer high efficiency in the form of data processing nodes.
The subject is complex and still requires a lot of research and experimentation, especially when discussing process control mechanisms. With this content, you will get into the subject and discover what Bio-IoT is and how it can be applied.
What Is Bio-IoT?
In times of digital transformation, the Internet of Things (IoT) concept is no longer new to thousands of users worldwide. We are discussing the connection of objects — appliances, clothes, utensils, means of transport, etc. — to the world wide web.
IoT technology allows information to be transmitted from one device to another, creating a communication network between physical and digital realities. Now, two scientists from Queen Mary University, London, present what would be a disruptive technology, defending the possibility of using living organisms – a biological version of the IoT – in an article published in the MIT Technology Review.
In reality, this is a familiar proposal. Science has been studying how bacteria store and transmit data for several years. This was highlighted in research at George Washington University, suggesting the efficiency of some strains in information processing.
What Was Bio-IoT Created For?
But after all, if the Internet of Things is already working at full steam, what’s the point of involving biological organisms? The fact is that for an IoT device to be viable, it must have some characteristics, such as:
- ability to communicate with other devices and sensors;
- high performance of information storage and processing;
- environment monitoring, including several variables;
- own engine.
Although options are already available with these features — Arduino boards and Raspberry Pis, for example — the finding that bacteria meet these requirements opens up various innovative possibilities. After all, they can be found in abundance and, because they are tiny, reach environments inaccessible to artificial technologies.
Bio-IoT is the possibility of creating an efficient and cheap biological data mobility network.
How Does Bio-IoT Work?
In 2018, the Italian Federico Tavela, from the University of Padua, carried out an experiment in which the intestinal bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) was used to transmit a simple message “Hello, world” from one place to another.
Therefore, studies on bacterial data processing mechanisms have focused on this microorganism. E. coli meets every one of the requirements of an IoT device. Check it out:
- they store information in plasmids (DNA in the form of a ring) and transmit it to other organisms through a process called conjugation;
- they have, in their cell wall, receptors capable of detecting characteristics of the environment, such as temperature, light, and chemical substances;
- They are endowed with flagella that confer mobility and generate an impulse.
What Benefits Does Bio-IoT Offer?
As we have seen, an extremely common and abundant organism like E. Coli can be a perfect medium for IoT with biological applications. In addition to being mobile and capable of processing information through their DNA, bacteria are tiny and easy to manipulate and even program.
Proof of this is the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement – ”Do it yourself” in Portuguese – in biology. It is possible to find genetic engineering kits for children to reprogram E. Coli, making the bacteria glow in the dark, for example.
What Are The Possible Applications Of Bio-IoT?
Considering the characteristics we have seen so far, we know that bacteria can be reprogrammed to inhabit different environments, from the sea to “smart cities”. The application of Bio-IoT ranges from environmental protection to medicine.
Detection Of Toxins And Pollutants
Once coordinated and planned to integrate a given environment, bacteria can, through their cell receptors, identify the presence of substances. We can imagine uses such as identifying toxic substances in living organisms and polluting agents in the air or water.
As we have already seen, bacteria can store information in their DNA in the form of plasmids and process it in their ribosomes.
Carrying Out Bioremediation Processes
Here, we are talking about using living organisms to reduce environmental contamination through biodegradation for waste treatment. This happens because microorganisms such as bacteria use organic and inorganic material, carbon dioxide, for example, as a food source.
Reprogramming Bacteria To Treat Disease
Finally, bacteria can be reprogrammed, altering their DNA so that they perform functions that help in the treatment of certain diseases. For example, inserting the DNA that leads to the coding of a protein or a specific hormone. Once inside the human organism, microorganisms can be directed to the chosen location and activated through their sensors.
Also Read: IoT – The Protocols Used In The IoT World