IBM announces its annual "Next 5 in 5" list


December 20, 2011

IBM has released its Next 5 in 5 predictions for 2011

IBM has released its Next 5 in 5 predictions for 2011

Image Gallery (6 images)

It's late December, and that means that it's time once again for IBM's Next 5 in 5 list. Every year since 2006, the corporation has put together an annual roundup of the top five emerging technologies that its researchers feel "will change the way we work, live and play" within the next five years. Here's a look at what caught their attention this year.

Personal energy harvesting

While big ideas like solar, tidal and wind power certainly show promise, the IBM researchers believe that much of the energy used to run our homes will come from smaller, more personal sources. These could include things such as piezoelectric generators in our clothing, batteries that are charged by the spinning of our bicycles' wheels, or turbines that are spun by the water flowing through our homes' pipes. Essentially, anything that moves could be harnessed as a source of power.

Biological passwords

The days of having to memorize and keep track of alphanumeric passwords will come to an end, as biometrics take over. In order to authenticate our identities online and in person, we will use technologies such as retina scans, voice prints, fingerprint scans or face recognition.

Mind reading

Yep, mind reading. It won't so much be about spying on other people's private thoughts, however. Instead, it will involve things like controlling computers or other devices with our brain waves - if you want to call someone on your smartphone, for instance, you will just have to think about doing so in order to make it happen.

"Mind reading" will also be used to analyze the thought patterns of people with brain disorders, in order to help assist them in daily living, and to treat their condition.

No more information gap

While the world wide web has done much to disseminate information across the planet, its "world" hasn't included people who can't afford computers or smartphones, or who live in places lacking the infrastructure to connect such machines to the internet. With the rise of low-cost mobile devices, however, people in developing nations will gain full access to that world.

Farmers will be able to check weather reports to determine when to fertilize crops, patients will know when the visiting doctor is scheduled to be in town next, and financial transactions can be conducted without the need of a physical brick-and-mortar bank. The possibilities are endless.

Computers that know us

Presently, in the emails and other information updates we receive, we have to sift through a lot of stuff that doesn't apply to us. Within five years, however, analytics and sensemaking technologies will allow our computers to "know" us, and filter out information that we don't need.

It is even suggested that by combining our personal preferences and calendars, computers could proactively reserve tickets to a concert by our favorite rock band, if we were free on the date of the performance.

As you can see by the links, all the technologies on IBM's latest list are already in development, so it's not a huge stretch to state that they will gain prominence in years to come. Perhaps, however, there's something that should have been on the "top five" list, but wasn't. Do you think IBM missed anything?

The video below explains more about the selections.

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

dunno about that personal energy harvesting. Any energy extracted from a bike has to be put in at the pedals, and that means working harder as a rider.


Based on the scientific breakthroughs with LENR in the past year, practical, low cost, very local (home) energy production is eminent. This will be a very disrupting technology that will take hold fast and touch most people, businesses, and governments.


I\'m not very sure about this list. Personal energy production sounds interesting but is limited. Are we going to have 5 different connectors on our shirts? my ipod charger doesn\'t fit my blackberry... I would never allow my mind to be read and actually create things to happen. I enjoy my ability to think bad things of people and they haven\'t a clue. Could you imagine thinking of an ex girlfreind and suddenly your phone is calling her? You\'d explain you were mad at her but your wife would never believe you. Filter out information I don\'t need? yeah right. when they get c3po working... then I\'ll believe it. Biological passwords make sense... but it\'s expensive. who is going to pay for it? Probably the tax payers... sigh.


Personal energy harvesting - with people getting more and more inactive, I doubt it. I always hated bicycle dynamos. It\'s like driving with brakes on.

Biological passwords - that won\'t last long. A compromised password can be changed, a skimmed credit card may be replaced, not your fingerprints or retina.

Mind reading - I don\'t even see practical applications working in the laboratory that could compete with hands and fingers. I hope some disabled persons will get some abilities back on the way, though.

No more information gap - except for those 850 million undernourished, this means, I guess.

Computers that know us - definitively. Because if your computer knows you, it\'s manufacturer also knows you. There\'s profit in it!


Well they missed one glaringly obvious thing that should be commercialized within the next 5 years, and that is Watson the Jeopardy champ! I should think something like that ought to be able to out-answer Google search.

So IBM are sitting on a hundred billion dollar sci-fi technology that could be ramped up and deployed worldwide right now, but instead they figure they should focus on micro energy harvesting, as if they had any expertise there. I think they should instead focus on Watson as their #1 core business, and then ask Watson what it thinks will be the next \"5 in 5\". I bet it would have a better idea, if anybody would listen.


re; Adrien

You are already converting energy put in at the pedals into heat every time you use the brakes. Why not convert it into electricity instead?


Bio-passwords - no chance! Todays mega-threat is malware stealing passwords - imagine how screwed-up you\'re going to be when one steals your retina login.

A quick visit to the surgeon to change your password? I think not.


Why not a hydrogen powered future.

Dawar Saify

re; Dawar Saify

Because 1. You loose about half the energy you put into generating hydrogen. 2. Even liquid Hydrogen is a low density fuel. 3. Hydrogen migrates through every material known to man causing more energy loss. Granted some faster than others.


Filter out information I don\'t need?

Who or what decides? Facebook, Google and others already ndo this without permission or notification. Governments and other organizations have done this since organizations existed.

Judges in the USA do this routinely by deciding that certain facts are irrelevant to the case, news services do this to one degree or another--some more obviously than others...even gossips do this filtering.

Reminds me of a government attorney who argued that Freedom of Information Act requests which were \'frivolous\' shouldn\'t be permitted.

Every organization reports \'facts\' with some sort of spin/bias--the better ones admit it.

I don\'t even like to limit my information sources voluntarily, as by definition that avoids knowing about something, and thus provides no basis to determine it\'s relative importance to me.

Charles Barnard

In 2007 the Next 5 on 5 were: 1- We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world 2- Real-time speech translation - once a vision only in science fiction - will become the norm 3- There will be a 3-D Internet 4- Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance 5- Our mobile phones will start to read our minds Which predictions were ok? You can response by self. I see only a chances to have the predictions 2 and 4. See you on 2016.

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles