IBM on How Computing Will Change Us in 5 Years

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Each year IBM makes predictions about how technology innovations will change the way people work, live, and play within the next five years. They are based on market and social trends combined with ideas from the thousands of biologists, engineers, mathematicians and medical physicians in IBM research labs around the world.

Since 2006 at about this time IBM comes out with five predictions, dubbed 5-in-5, about how technology will affect the world within five years. Each year the predictions look at how technology innovations will change the way people work, live, and play within the next five years. They are based on market and social trends combined with ideas from the thousands of biologists, engineers, mathematicians and medical physicians in IBM research labs around the world.

Last year the 5-in-5 predictions focused on how systems would augment human senses. It looked at sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. For example, a machine that experiences flavor could determine the precise chemical structure of food and why people like it. Or, computers might smell for chemicals in urban environments to monitor pollution or analyze the soil.

IBM’s 5-in-5 predictions for 2013 go in a different direction. This year the researchers looked at how innovations in computing allow us to interact with the meaning that lies in data. The researchers, taking a distinctly benign view, suggest that systems will emerge that treat us as individuals, adapt to us, and look out for our interests. Others, of course, might see this as the tyranny of Big Brother.

Here is this year’s 5-in-5:

1. The classroom will learn you. Teachers will work on device that can monitor and interact with the student and ultimately create a unique persona for each student. Teachers will use that persona, which changes over time, to guide the student on his or her learning path. They will know, through the student’s device, what the particular student is struggling to learn and will provide the right help at the right time.

2. Buying local beats online. The combination of cloud technology and in-store display will enable local stores to act as a showroom for the wide variety of products available online and enable customers to interact with a product. Of course the store will recognize you and know your preferences. In short, IBM is predicting the convergence of online and brick and mortar retail.

3. Doctors will use your DNA to keep you well. This already is happening how. But it goes beyond DNA to using the data analytic power of computers to diagnose patient ills and guide doctors in treatment. IBM’s Watson is doing some of this today. How quickly this will evolve remains to be seen; healthcare is a minefield of conflicting interests, most of which have nothing to do with patient care and successful outcomes. You can, for instance, have your personal genome assessed and analyzed today but few have opted to do so. Do you want to know you have a strong genetic inclination toward a disease for which there is no cure?

4. Your city will help you live in it. Sitting at consoles in operations centers connected to myriad sensors generating massive amounts of real time data, city administrators will be able to, say, manage traffic lights interactively as traffic flows or dynamically adjust the arrival and departure of various transportation. All things we as citizens probably want. The city also could become a huge social network where policies are developed based on clicking likes. Big brother, anyone?

5. A digital guardian will protect you online. The retailer Target just compromised tens of millions of personal identifications at the end of the year. We truly need an effective digital guardian. As IBM notes, this requires continuous, sophisticated analytics, to identify whatever activity in your digital life varies from the norm and flags any sudden deviation of behavior. This guardian needs to shut down bad things proactively before it reaches you and also provide a private safe fortress for your data and online persona. As one whose email was recently hacked, this blogger is ready to sign up today. My apologies to any readers who received a desperate message purportedly from me saying I was stranded in Turkey, my wallet destroyed, and in immediate need of money to get home. Hope you didn’t send any.

Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year. New Year Resolution #1: Follow this blogger on Twitter: @mainframeblog

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