The Next 5 in 5 — innovations that will change our lives in the next five years

December 20, 2011
Information analytics

Information analytics (credit: IBM)

In the latest Next 5 in 5 multi-year forecast, IBM examines market and societal trends expected to transform our lives in the next five years and emerging technologies from IBM’s global labs:

Energy: People power will come to life

Imagine being able to use every motion around you — your movements, the water rushing through the plumbing — to harness energy to power anything from your house to your city. It’s already being tested in Ireland, where IBM scientists are studying the effects of converting ocean wave energy into electricity. But instead of a buoy to capture motion, a smaller device that you wear or attach to your bicycle during a ride, for example, will collect the energy you create.

Security: You will never need a password again

The name “multifactor biometrics” sounds as intriguing as the thrillers that use it as a plot device. In real life, the use of your retinal scan or your voice as a passport to verification will replace multiple passwords for access to information and secret hideouts, should you decide to accept the option. Your unique biological identity becomes your only password as multifactor biometrics aggregate these characteristics in real time to prevent identity theft.

Mind reading: no longer science fiction

Dialing a telephone is considered so last century. Soon, overt communication with devices might be just as archaic. IBM scientists are researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone, so you only have to think about calling someone and it happens. For example, see a cube on your computer screen and think about moving it to the left, and it will. Beyond electronics control, possible applications include physical rehabilitation and understanding of brain disorders such as autism.

Mobile: The digital divide will cease to exist

Mobile devices are decreasing the information-accessibility gap in disadvantaged areas. In five years, the gap will be imperceptible as growing communities use mobile technology to provide access to essential information. New solutions and business models from IBM are introducing mobile commerce and remote healthcare, for example. Recorded messages can be transmitted to quickly deliver valuable information about weather and aid to remote or illiterate users who haven’t had ready access before.

Analytics: Junk mail will become priority mail

Imagine technology that replaces the unwanted messaging in your life with the next best thing to a personal assistant. IBM is developing technology that uses analytics and sensemaking to integrate data into applications that present only the information you want—and then do something about it. Combining your preferences and your calendar, for example, the technology will proactively reserve tickets to your favorite band’s concert when your calendar shows you’re free, or research alternate travel plans when it detects bad weather along your route, and then tell you where to go.