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03 January 2012

IBM Five-in-Five: Company makes tech future predictions

Imagine the spokes from your bicycle powering your phone battery or never needing another password again in your life. Imagine a world where you don’t type or dictate e-mail, you think it. And junk mail is a thing of the past. And imagine if, in this world, the digital divide no longer existed.

It all sounds great, and all of these new world characteristics are being touted by IBM as the five technological developments we could see in the next five years. The predictions are part of their annual Five-in-five series, which looks at the “five innovations that will change how people work, live and play over the next five years.”

1) People will power electrical devices using everything from the water flowing through the pipes in their house, to their running shoes and bike spokes.  

2) Passwords will be eliminated and replaced with biometric scanning.

3) Your brain will be linked to your digital devices. In other words, when you think about calling someone, it happens.

4) The digital divide will be eliminated, thanks to mobile devices that will be able to power remote health care and mobile commerce.

5) Junk mail won’t exist, since analytics will allow marketers to send only the information recipients are really interested in.

This is the sixth year IBM has undertaken the Five-in-Five prediction contest. In 2008, IBM predicted that users would be able to talk to the Web and have it talk back (Hello, Siri.) In 2006, real-time speech translation was among IBM’s predictions (Apparently, there is now an app for that.). But for these two hits, IBM still has a number of predictions that have yet to be realized, including that the way we drive will be completely different (a prediction made in 2007) and that we will be able to access health care remotely.

The science fiction influences in the predictions are clear, with mind-reading being a science fiction trope familiar to fans from Star Trek to Star Wars. Meanwhile, the importance of analytics and big data are ever-present when it comes to innovation. But it will be interesting to see how long it may actually take to see these advances, and what role IBM stands to play.


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