IBM announces its annual "Next 5 in 5" list
By Ben Coxworth
December 20, 2011
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.
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.
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?
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