Mind-reading a possibility, junk mail a priority and the use of facial and retina scans to access information – according to IBM, in five years not only will all of this be possible but it will also be the social norm.
Every year IBM releases five technology predictions for the next five years, based on the availability of technology and the likelihood of large-scale adoption.
Since 2006, three of the predictions IBM made for that year have come true. The first is that we would have remote healthcare access, including medical records being accessible to patients online. This prediction came true with governments pushing doctors to adopt electronic health records. Secondly, we would have context-aware mobile phones, and indeed the use of smartphones and wifi has brought Google Maps and GPS to handsets. Thirdly, that nanotechnologies will be used to manage our environment, including molecule-sized robots to more efficiently capture solar power. IBM has since pushed the benchmarks for solar-powered efficiency in its labs.
Failures from the 2006 predictions include 3D internet and real=time speech translation. The speech translators were equivalent to Star Trek’s universal translator, where two people speaking the same language would be able to understand one another.
So what does IBM project for the five years to come?
People power will come to life
IBM engineer Harry Kolar predicts in five years energy will be created from unexpected sources. Kolar says because anything that moves has the potential to generate energy, within five years advancements in renewable energy technology will mean that the energy from our running shoes could power our TVs.
The science behind this theory is parasitic power collection, which pulls and transmits energy created by the slightest movement. Kolar suggests that one day the energy from the ocean could be harnessed and use to power entire cities. Kolar also says there will be huge environmental and economic benefit from this. Countries such as Ireland would be able to use the energy from their coastal oceans instead of having to import 86 percent of its energy (fossil fuel) for 2010.
You’ll never need a password again
Traditional passwords will become obsolete and instead biometric data will be key to personal security. IBM Fellow and Speech CTO, David Nahamoo, hypothesises that people will rely on retinal scans, voice files and DNA instead of user IDs and current password systems. In the future biometric data will allow a person to walk up to an ATM, state their name, and look into a camera to access their account.
Mind-reading is no longer science fiction
Kevin Brown of IBM Software Group's Emerging Technologies theorises that in five years mind-reading will no longer be science fiction. Through the use of bioinformatics, sensors can be used to understand our thoughts. This is based on technologies like EPOC, which through multiple sensors can read our electrical brain impulses. By training the device (EPOC) people are able to translate their thoughts into actions on their computer. Brown suggests by 2017 smaller versions of the EPOC will be available. These will be embedded onto hats and will be able to detect our thought patterns and send these to our mobiles, allowing people to interact with the world simply through thinking. An example of this is wondering what traffic would be like on the way home and the information popping up in front of you.
The digital divide will cease to exist
Paul Bloom, IBM's CTO for Telco Research, reckons mobile phones will assist people in daily life by initiating communication with us and providing helpful information based on context. Ordering lunch from your mobile? You would get a text recommending restaurants based on your preferences. Your phone would also be your wallet, bank and record keeper so your phone could let you know what the impact of the lunch will be on your budget and modify restaurant recommendations based on your cash flow. Paper money would become obsolete because transactions would be made mobile to mobile.
Junk mail will become priority mail
Jeff Jonas, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Software Group's Chief Scientist of Entity Analytics, is behind big data and analytics. Jonas suggests that junk mail will become priority mail due to sensemaking engines. IBM is working on sensemaking technologies where the data will find even more data relevant to you.
Jonas provides this scenario as an example of how you would use the technology.
“Ten minutes before you hop in the car to drive to a meeting over coffee, you get this text: 'Don’t take the 405, take the 110, then exit 10b, and 3 blocks up there’s a Starbucks.' You think: Well that is nuts; my coffee shop meeting with my buddy Kenny is at least 15 miles from there. So you text “?” as a reply.
"The answer: 'Big accident on the 405, will affect Kenny too; already cleared this with him, and this Starbucks is the proposed compromise when considering all the factors'.”
You can vote for the most likely prediction by clicking "like" on IBM's Smarter Planet website.
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).