IBM looks towards a learning world with annual "5 in 5" list


December 17, 2013

IBM has released its latest list of technologies that will most affect our lives over the next five years

IBM has released its latest list of technologies that will most affect our lives over the next five years

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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, " Watson-like technologies" 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.

Source: IBM

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Sounds good.

I like that tech that'll help city councils. I don't know what things are like elsewhere but here in New Zealand councils seem to be incredibly wasteful and inefficient. Anything that helps to improve them is welcome.


The classroom will learn you...... sounds tome that IBM needs to learn english grammar as a first step.

Buying local will beat from the company who stated that there will only ever been a need for five big computers......

The city will help you live in the city will supply breathing masks, body armour, and all that will be necessary to exist in a war zone.

Doctors will routinely use DNA....yeah, yeah.......underpaid and overstretched doctors will really have time for that.

A digital guardian will protect you is an off switch fitted to all computers you know.


This is a list of solutions that don't exist. IBM's motto should be "Computers Make Everything Better." Sadly, many actually believe this is true.


"This year's list centers around the concept of computers learning about individuals in order to best meet their needs." No it doesn't, its simply about more things we don't need that will make IBM even more money, reduce privacy and distract us from the more importnant things in life.

Brendan Dunphy

I was technical high level at IBM. These five are all efforts at some challenged employees and their management to plow the ground for further cloud applications , (read IBM for profit cost centers) using ever increasing personal privacy violation tracking technology. Understand that the euphemism "cloud" is full dependency on remote (to the customer) facilities.

We purposefully migrated away from that high risk (to the user) environment with the PC to allow maximum independence from remote failures, both human (accidental and purposeful) and nature caused.

And, whoever is responsible for the nonsense “touch and feel” obviously never used or simply does not understand the advantage of an Amazon when shopping. I am disappointed to see such shallow, disheartening, self-serving analysis coming out of IBM, what I still consider my company..


And when someone hacks your digital guardian???


Self serving.


Forget DNA on a mouse. Check out - Search Organ on a Chip.


It would be bloody marvelous if IBM released a self-healing operating system for those of us who just want the computer to work. Microsoft still haven't gotten that.

Detlef Pelz
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