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IBM Predicts the Next Five Years in Tech
Written by Malek

by Steve Hamm, Every year IBM predicts the future of technology via the IBM 5 in 5 initiative–our forecast of five innovations that will help transform aspects of modern life, making the planet smarter, within the next five years. We assess not just the availability of a new technology but also the likelihood of its  large-scale adoption.

This year’s predictions:

·    People power will come to life 
·    You will never need a password again
·    Mind reading is no longer science fiction
·    The digital divide will cease to exist
·    Junk mail will become priority mail



Click here to vote on the coolest prediction.

Making this kind of prediction is difficult. (In fact, to me, sadly, the one about eliminating the digital divide seems impossible.) So, every year, IBM researchers stick out their necks. Which is risky. “A lot of people wait for things to happen. It’s rare than an organization says: this is a big change, and it’s coming,” says IBM Fellow Bernard Meyerson.


Forecasting Innovation
Technology moves so fast it can be difficult to separate science fiction from fact, much less discern which game-changing breakthroughs are over the horizon. As the IT industry's leading innovator, IBM has the track record and pedigree to credibly predict the emerging innovations that could change how people work, live and play. This week, IBM revealed the next 5 in 5 -- an annual forecast of future technology trends -- which The New York Times, Washington Post and other global news outlets quickly endorsed as a collection of important ideas worth watching.

IBM's Viewpoint:
Here's a summary of IBM's 5 in 5 predictions to help you add to the conversation.

-- People power will come to life: Advances in renewable energy technology will allow individuals and scientists to collect energy from many common things that move, and use it to help power our homes, workplaces and cities.

-- You will not need a password: Each person's unique biometric data such as facial definitions, retinal scans and voice files will be combined through software to build a DNA-unique online password.

-- Mind reading is no longer science fiction: Scientists are researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone, so you just need to think about calling someone and it will happen.

-- The digital divide will cease to exist: The gap between information haves and have-nots will narrow considerably due to advances in mobile technology that enable access to essential information and deliver better services such as mobile commerce and remote healthcare.

-- Junk mail will become priority mail: Unsolicited advertisements may soon feel so personalized and relevant that spam will seem dead and gone. Computers will make sense of data and look up new information for individuals without even being asked.



Meyerson, who plays a role in the annual exercise, says the most useful thing about the process is that it requires IBMers to think holistically about innovation. They can’t consider science and technology in a vacuum. They also have to think deeply about social trends, market conditions the willingness of people to pay for cutting-edge technologies. That’s the kind of thinking that can transform inventions into high-impact innovations.

We’ve been issuing the Next 5 in 5 predictions for the past six years. So, how are we doing? Mindful of the difficulty, and considering the fact that for most of the predictions less than five years have passed, we’ve done pretty well.

Two of the first year’s predictions, for instance, have pretty much come true:

We will be able to access healthcare remotely from just about anywhere in the world. Today, through telemedicine, patients can connect with physicians or specialists from just about anywhere via inexpensive computers and broadband networks. Doctors can view x-rays and other diagnostic imagery from thousands of miles away.

Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance. Nanotechnology is now used in countless fields and industries, including agriculture, biotechnology and sensor networks, enabling us to understand and interact with the natural environment like never before.

Predictions from other years have panned out as well. A couple of examples:

You will have a crystal ball for your health. Thanks to advances in genetic research and high-performance computing it is now possible to affordably decipher an individual’s entire genome. This makes it possible for physicians to alert people to medical conditions they might fall prey to, and it clears the pathway, eventually, to truly personal medicine.

You will talk to the Web…and the Web will talk back. Today, speech recognition and mobile communications technologies make it possible for people to talk to the Internet using their computers or mobile phones, be understood, and listen to automated voices that are responsive to their needs.

The Next 5 in 5 initiative got its start in an IBM Innovation Jam in 2006. The seed goal was to get the entire company thinking about grand challenges. “If you give people a grand challenge you push them to really innovate,” says Meyerson. “That’s when extraordinary things can happen.”

IBM has played a significant role in each of these breakthroughs. So, it’s working.


What They're Saying
-- The Los Angeles Times spotlights IBM's 5 in 5 predictions

-- MSNBC examines IBM's thought-provoking 5 in 5 list

-- CNET reports on IBM's 5 in 5 forecast

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