For eight years now, IBM has annually released what it calls the IBM 5 in 5 – "a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years." All five items on this year's list, which was released today, center around the concept of computers and other systems learning about individuals in order to best meet their needs.
"The classroom will learn you"
For decades now, we've already seen a movement away from classrooms being places where the teacher simply lectures, and the students all try to keep up. In the near future, however, IBM predicts that teachers will be able to tailor the curriculum to each individual student. This will be possible via cloud-based systems that analyze a student's personal data – such as test scores and attendance – and then suggest courses of action that the teacher can take to help that student reach their full potential.
The concept brings to mind a set of prototype augmented reality goggles that we recently covered, which allow university lecturers to see which students are having trouble following the content being presented.
"Buying local will beat online"
This one is perhaps a little surprising, but it seems that the beleaguered brick-and-mortar shop is going to stage a major comeback. How? Cloud-based systems will gather data on the demographics, preferences and needs of individual customers, then use that information to guide them through the choices available in local stores – where they can actually touch and feel the merchandise, and take it home with them that day. Likewise, "
" will allow salespeople to act as experts on almost every product they sell.
IBM has already demonstrated such technology in the form of an experimental augmented reality app, that automatically delivers personalized coupons, offers, customer reviews and hidden product details to shoppers in stores.
"Doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well"
Despite the advances being made in the fight against diseases such as cancer, the fact is that what works for one person isn't necessarily going to work for another. Thanks to "advances in big data analytics and emerging cloud-based cognitive systems coupled with breakthroughs in genomic research and testing," however, the hope is that doctors will be able to devise treatments tailored to the specific patient.
We've recently seen something along those lines. Columbia University Medical Center has developed a way of replicating an individual human's immune system in a living mouse, so that treatments can be tried on the animal in order to see if they're safe and effective for use on the person.
"A digital guardian will protect you online"
Identity theft and computer viruses are major problems that don't appear to be going away anytime soon, so IBM envisions a sort of guardian angel program that will learn about us as individuals, and follow our activity online. If our guardian notices "us" doing things that aren't in keeping with our usual behavior, or that involve untrusted third parties, it will intervene or at least contact us for verification.
"The city will help you live in it"
Ever feel like city council makes decisions without any idea as to what the public wants or needs? Well, that shouldn't be the case in the future. Using mobile communications and social media, citizens will be able to let city officials know what services are needed. Computer systems will be able to trawl through all that data, in the process learning "to understand what people need, what they like, what they do, and how they move from place to place."
IBM is currently establishing such a system in Brazil, in the form of a crowdsourcing platform that lets users report instances where accessibility problems are faced by the disabled.
A series of videos outlining all five items on the list can be seen below.