IBM's Top 5 Life-Changing Innovations

IBM's new "5 in 5" list covers five technological innovations that will change the way people live and work over the next five years.

IBM has released its sixth annual "IBM 5 in 5" list of five innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

The next "IBM 5 in 5" is based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM's research labs around the world that can make these transformations possible. The list consists of these five findings: people power will come to life; you will never need a password again; mind reading is no longer science fiction; the digital divide will cease to exist; and junk mail will become priority mail.

In a post on IBM's "A Smarter Planet" blog, IBM strategist and writer Steve Hamm said the "Next 5 in 5" initiative got its start in an IBM Innovation Jam in 2006. "The seed goal was to get the entire company thinking about grand challenges," he said.

The first innovation about "people power coming to life" is about renewable energy. IBM said anything that moves or produces heat has the potential to create energy that can be captured--walking, jogging, bicycling, the heat from your computer and even the water flowing through your pipes. 

IBM says advances in renewable energy technology will allow individuals to collect this kinetic energy, which now goes to waste, and use it to help power our homes, offices and cities. For example, IBM said it will become possible to attach small devices to the spokes on your bicycle wheels that recharge batteries as you pedal along. You will have the satisfaction of not only getting to where you want to go, but at the same time powering some of the lights in your home, IBM said in a press release.

Created energy comes in all shapes and forms and from anything around us. IBM scientists in Ireland are looking at ways to understand and minimize the environmental impact of converting ocean wave energy into electricity. 

IBM continues to bridge the gap between science fiction and science fact on a daily basis, the company said. The second innovation in the "5 in 5," "you will never need a password again," will come about because your biological makeup is the key to your individual identity, and soon, it will become the key to safeguarding it.  

IBM says you will no longer need to create, track or remember multiple passwords for various log-ins. Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye, IBM said. Or by doing the same, you can check your account balance on your mobile phone or tablet. 

Each person has a unique biological identity, and behind all that is data. Biometric data facial definitions, retinal scans and voice files will be composited through software to build your DNA-unique online password, IBM said. Referred to as multifactor biometrics, smarter systems will be able to use this information in real time to make sure whenever someone is attempting to access your information, it matches your unique biometric profile and the attempt is authorized, Big Blue says. To be trusted, such systems should enable you to opt in or out of whatever information you choose to provide. 

Third, IBM says, "Mind reading is closer to reality than you might think." IBM scientists are researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone. If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens. Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it, IBM said.

Scientists in the field of bioinformatics have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognize facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and thoughts of a person without them physically taking any actions. 

IBM says within five years, we will begin to see early applications of this technology in the gaming and entertainment industry. Furthermore, doctors could use the technology to test brain patterns, possibly even assist in rehabilitation from strokes and to help in understanding brain disorders, such as autism, IBM said.

Life-changing innovation No. 4 in this year s "IBM 5 in 5" is that "the digital divide will cease to exist." Indeed, IBM says in five years, the gap between information haves and have-nots will narrow considerably due to advances in mobile technology. There are 7 billion people inhabiting the world today. In five years, there will be 5.6 billion mobile devices sold which ostensibly means 80 percent of the current global population would each have a mobile device. 

As it becomes cheaper to own a mobile phone, people without a lot of spending power will be able to do much more than they can today. For example, in India, using speech technology and mobile devices, IBM enabled rural villagers who were illiterate to pass along information through recorded messages on their phones. With access to information that was not there before, villagers could check weather reports to help them decide when to fertilize crops, know when doctors were coming into town, and find the best prices for their crops or merchandise. 

Growing communities will be able to use mobile technology to provide access to essential information and better serve people with new solutions and business models such as mobile commerce and remote health care. In our global society, the level of access to information increasingly decides the growth and wealth of economies.

In an interview in Hamm s post, IBM Fellow Bernard Meyerson, who also is the company s vice president of innovation for the IBM Systems and Technology group, said, "Today, through telemedicine, patients can connect with physicians or specialists from just about anywhere via inexpensive computers and broadband networks. Doctors can view X-rays and other diagnostic imagery from thousands of miles away."

Moreover, Meyerson added: "Thanks to advances in genetic research and high-performance computing, it is now possible to affordably decipher an individual s entire genome. This makes it possible for physicians to alert people to medical conditions they might fall prey to, and it clears the pathway, eventually, to truly personal medicine."

Meanwhile, No. 5 in the 2011 "IBM 5 in 5" list is that "junk mail will become priority mail." IBM said in five years, unsolicited advertisements may feel so personalized and relevant it may seem spam is dead. At the same time, spam filters will be so precise that you ll never be bothered by unwanted sales pitches again, IBM said.

This article was originally published on 12-20-2011
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