Sex and the City and the Internet of Things

Sex and the City and the Internet of Things

Sex sells. That is pretty well established and widely known. Sex sells for money and it sells products. The former is typically frowned upon, while the latter exonerated, not to say honoured with awards, yet it is the former that has most transformed markets and payment systems. Online sex, usually dubbed porn due to its unemotional content, was the pioneer of online payments using credit cards. It drove the online payments sector in its early days. But while the medium was digital, the content remained analogue, and while sex between avatars is not unknown, and is available on Second Life for example,[1] it has not exactly taken off as a global market.

But with the Internet-of-Things (IoT), things are starting to change. First up, so to speak, is a range of smart vibrators. Vibrators that can measure physical movements, temperatures, blood pressures, etc. to send back to the user’s smartphone advice about when to use, how best to use, etc. One such device advertises itself as using an “array of sensors to create sex-drive summary. When the vibrator and app are on at the same time, the data will sync. It can then make suggestions on different aspects of the sexual experience and recommends foreplay time and arousal data related to menstrual cycle.”[2] Then there are vibrators that can be controlled remotely over the Internet by a love partner. Vibease, which describes itself as the “World’s First Wearable Smart Vibrator…  is a smart vibrating sex toy intended for women to enjoy alone or with a long-distance lover. With Vibease, ladies can connect to a ‘marketplace’ full of videos which vibrate to sensual story lines. Like smart sex toys, Vibease also allows a long-distance lover to send custom vibrations from anywhere across the globe – partner can control the vibrator remotely over the Internet.” This appears on a website Futurist MM’[3] that currently promotes seven different IoT sex toys, some in their R&D stage, others already marketed. Another sex toy product advertised on the site is mutual remote foreplay over Skype, and yet another is a Japanese project to promote a “sensory social media”, or as it says “Kiro0 is a social media platform which allows users to connect with each other using virtual sex toys. On Kiro0, you can send a vibration email and program what another user could feel.”

The nature of the promotions differs widely. Some, like Vibease above, are close to pornographic in their approach, focused upon arousal as the selling point. Others are more focused upon offering partners who live apart, maybe in different countries, a means to enjoy or explore their private sexual relations. What is common is the connectivity of smart devices over the Internet and the function of interactive control of those devices. Some of these IoT sex toys are for individual use, others for mutual use. But ultimately, they all generate data.

IoT is about to become the world’s greatest generator of personal data and machine-to-machine data, and as always the question is: who owns the data and how can it be managed securely and safely. In the case of sexually-related data the sensitivities are obvious. But there are good reasons why individuals may wish to share their data. For example, sexually-related diseases and dysfunctions are health issues, of mind and body. Tracking the transmission of sexually-related diseases is a major concern of the World Health Organization (WHO) and national medical agencies. The early detection of cancers and other ailments for which smart sex toys could provide alerts would benefit every user. But there is an issue: are these smart sex toys limited to creating arousal or do they include health monitoring? It has taken society far too long to be open about these issues, but now there is a genuine opportunity for digital technologies to make a positive contribution, and in a very user-friendly way!

[1] See Second Life Adventures http://www.second-life-adventures.com/second-life-sex/

[2] Mail Online, ‘The smart sex toy that can monitor a woman’s body to tell her exactly how to achieve the best orgasm‘, 15 April 2016, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3542593/The-smart-sex-toy-monitor-woman-s-body-tell-exactly-achieve-best-orgasm.html#ixzz47JOzzmBe

[3] Futurist Miss Metaverse, ‘7 New Futuristic Sex Toys’, 21 April 2016, http://futuristmm.com/future-sex/7-new-futuristic-sex-toys/

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