International Business Machines, the multinational computer technology giant, on Monday unveiled the ‘IBM Next Five in Five’ study, which is its view on five innovations that have the potential of changing the way people the world over work, live and play over the next five years.
The list is based on market / societal trends (expected to transform people’s lives) and also on emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that could make these innovations possible.
Usually it is the adults who teach the kids. But IBM scientists and business consultants say that some of today’s most popular pastimes from teens to post-graduates are on course to changing the way people will communicate, shop and work. Who would have thought that IM chats, text messages and video games would change the world. . . for adults!
‘IBM’s Next Five in Five’ indicates that technology developed primarily as ‘playthings’ for teenagers is set to radically alter the workday world for their parents. It is likely that in five years, adults will be sitting down at their desks and working with 3D Internet programmes that look more like PlayStation games than spreadsheets. Your mother’s mobile phone will use new IM technology that will ping her about special sales at Big Bazaar as she’s driving by the store or strolling through the mall.
“Our researchers are focussed on the application of technologies in ways that matter to people, business and society,” said Daniel Dias, director of IBM’s India Research Laboratory. “Open collaborative research and real-world innovations are going to shape the future. In the next five years, our lives will change through technology innovations in the following ways,” he said in a statement.
The five innovations that will change people’s lives over the next five years are:
1. We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world: Millions of people with chronic health problems such as diabetes, heart, kidney or circulatory problems will be able to have their conditions automatically monitored as they go about their daily lives. Device makers and healthcare professionals will take a proactive approach to ongoing, remote monitoring of patients, delivered through sensors in the home, worn on the person or in devices and packaging.
These advances will also allow patients to better monitor their own health and help clinicians provide the on-going preventive care regardless of a person’s location. Hardware and software advances in the field of remote-control healthcare will be a major source of consumer and enterprise innovation by 2012.
2. Mobile phones will start to read our minds: Advanced ‘presence’ technology will give mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) the ability to automatically learn about their users’ whereabouts and preferences as they commute, work and travel. ‘Presence’ technology — used in instant messaging — already makes it possible to locate and identify a user as soon as the user connects to the network.
In five years, all sorts of mobile devices will have the ability to continually learn about and adapt to your preferences and needs. Your phone will know when you’re in class or in a meeting and divert automatically to voicemail. Your favourite pizza joint will know when you’re on your way home after a late night and ping you with a special-price, take-home meal just for you.
3. Real-time speech translation — once a vision only in sci-fi — will become the norm: The movement towards globalisation needs to take into account basic human elements, such as differences in language.
For example, IBM speech innovations are already allowing media companies to monitor Chinese and Arabic news broadcasts over the Web in English, travellers using PDAs to translate menus in Japanese, and doctors to communicate with patients in Spanish.
Real-time translation technologies and services will be embedded into mobile phones, handheld devices and cars. These services will pervade every part of business and society, eliminating the language barrier in the global economy and social interaction.
4. There will be a 3-D Internet: The popular online immersive destinations, such as Second Life and the World of Warcraft, will evolve into the 3-D Internet, much like the early work by the likes of Darpa, AOL and Prodigy evolved into the World Wide Web.
In this immersive online world, you will walk the aisles of supermarkets, bookstores and DVD shops, where you’ll encounter experts you’d rarely find in your local store. The 3-D Internet will enable new kinds of education, remote medicine and consumer experiences, transforming how we interact with our friends, family, doctors, teachers, favourite stores, et cetera.
5. New technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance: Governments and companies are increasingly trying to improve environmental stewardship and secure reliable and cost-effective resources like water, energy, etc. Information technology, materials science, and physics will help meet environmental needs.
Nanotechnology — the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules to form tiny new structures — has already had a major impact on microprocessors, making electronic products like PCs and mobile phones smaller, better and cheaper.
In coming years, nanotechnology will likely be used for water filtration. This could advance ecology and conservation, helping to address the growing worldwide shortage of potable water supplies. Other areas where IT, physics, and material science will have a big impact are advanced water modeling and improving solar power systems.
These five innovations were selected based on projects from the brains in IBM’s Research labs, business research conducted by IBM’s business think-tank, and ideas pooled from more than 150,000 people from 104 countries, including IBM employees, their family members, universities, business partners and customers from 67 countries, during a recent online brainstorm called ‘IBM InnovationJam.’