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Will tech take the romance out of dating and replace it with intelligence?

eharmony future dating iot smart tech man sending receiving love sms text message on mobile phone with red hearts
sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo
If you think dating and relationships are already complicated enough, hang on. Wait until the Internet of Things (IoT) starts showering you with so much information you’ll finally get a handle on what “big data” means and why monster computers are required to make sense of it. According to the Future of Dating: 2016 report by eHarmony and Imperial College Business School, a growing percentage of our date selection process will be based on smart technology.

This isn’t the first time eHarmony and Imperial have generated such data-backed dating prognostications. In 2014 the twosome’s first report predicted as many as 70 percent of couples would hook up online. In 2015 they were all about the future potentials of full-immersion virtual reality and DNA compatibility matching, combining sensory experience with a factor checklist of nearly unimaginable length.

Before you start digging into the full Future of Dating report, be aware of its perspective. eHarmony defines itself as a “science-based relationship site committed to helping singles find the best possible partner based on several key dimensions of compatibility.” The eHarmony approach is hardly impulse-driven or based on superficialities, although “impulsiveness” and “superficiality” — they won’t call them that — surely figure as objective measures in the Compatibility Matching System (CMS) members use after answering literally hundreds of questions about themselves.

And one promise of IoT’s smart tech, in fact, is that you may not have to answer questions about yourself at all, because your watch, footwear, clothing, and smart home monitors will do it for you. The report covers three areas of smart dating: wearable tech, the potential of smart homes, and the acceptance of “smartness” overall and its incursion into dating and relationships.

A look at the report’s revelations about wearable tech charts key smart technologies by data collected, traits reflected in the data, relevance to attitude and behaviors, and dimensions of compatibility. For example, sleep wearables track sleep, dreaming time, and eye movement. That data reflects sleeping and waking behavior — all pretty obvious, right? But the relevance matters in cohabitation expectations, anger and temper, life priorities, and values. Therefore you can use the data to check for compatibility based on emotion management, vitality and security, adaptability, and physical energy. And that all comes just from wearables that track your sleep!

Smart home devices will have the potential to reveal even more to our prospective soul mates. The report goes from room to room analyzing the potential of smart devices. It says, for example, “A smart toilet would be perhaps the best indicator of a person’s health – providing data on nutrition, diet, and certain medical conditions.” Apparently, future suitors will have shed their concerns about TMI (too much information) in the smart future awaiting us. Since the mass adoption of smart toilets isn’t expected till 2026 or later, we advise finding your mate sooner.

Future of Dating: 2016 predicts smart tech data will be used by 40 percent of online dating services in the U.S. and the U.K. by 2026 and by 90 percent of the service by 2036. The study further predicts 30 percent of relationships will start by online dating by 2026 and 40 percent by 2036. Tucked right in with those predictions is an estimated population growth rate of 1 percent, which doesn’t really relate to other figures in the report other than to lead one to reflect on the observations that, even with all the coupling assisted by smart tech data matching, the birth rate is expected to remain constant.

The report concludes that smart tech will “alleviate” the problems of subjectivity and the second-guessing of survey questions in compatibility matching questionnaires. The promise is all steps in online dating will be “much easier in every stage; application and profile building could be instantaneous, matching far more accurate, and the data on the two people’s compatibility could even be used to suggest great locations for shared experiences or mutually-compelling topics of conversation.”

The report authors admit that the presence or absence of “butterflies” when meeting face-to-face still matter, but they are still convinced that data on how you brush your teeth, for example, “could actually carry more significance than previously anticipated.”

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