As we turn the calendar to the next year — and decade — IBM is unveiling its fifth annual “Next Five in Five,” its perspective on five innovations it believes will change how people work, live and play over the next five years.
Several years ago, when mobile phones were purely for voice, IBM projected the strong uptake of mobile devices and smart phones and ‘carrying your business in your pocket.’ That’s all with us now. So bearing that in mind, what do IBM’s soothsayers predict now is in our future?
Batteries will Breathe Air to Power our Devices
This means that batteries in electronic devices will be smaller, lighter and last 10 times longer than they do today.
“In looking at the history of battery improvements, we’ve seen about 7% improvement on a year to year basis, and that clearly doesn’t match demand,” said Don Campbell, Chief Technology Officer for Business Analytics at IBM. “We’ve been very seriously working on all aspects of the technology to get better performance. For certain batteries, carrying a device around all day, that simple motion of walking around with the device can be leveraged to bring energy back.
“We are also looking at ways to take ionization out of the air chemically, to take advantage of what’s in our atmosphere,” Campbell said. “We have some ways to go there. Eventually, a battery that never runs out is the goal, but if we get 10 times the life we do today, this will still change how we use these devices.”
You’ll Beam up your Friends in 3-D
No, it’s not quite Star Trek time, but with the rapid advancement in 3-D technology IBM says you’ll soon be able to interact with your friends through 3-D holograms — in real time — from your phone.
“Some of these trends are already starting in the consumer space,” Campbell said. “3D TVs are becoming a potentially popular item. And the addition of holographic technology, which would eliminate the need for special glasses, will change the adoption rate.”
Holographic technology involves the reproduction of the splitting and scattering of light to represent a 3D image.
“You can see that light from different angles, move your point of view, get a much more natural feel from the perspective of what you are looking at,” Campbell said. “From an enterprise data perspective, it’s adding a third dimension of data without having other data items get in the way. We are attuned to looking at information in 3D, and when we can turn that on for people, they get a lot of value back.”
3D Projection in this format is likely to come out of tabletop devices, as what you see in 3D appears on TOP of the event, not instead of it. For straight commercial applications, Campbell said to look for this in interactive kiosks — “kiosks with 3D navigation capabilities rather than an awkward projection into 2D, which is what we look at today.”
Computers will help energize your city
The philosophy here is already apparent in IBM Smarter Planet initiatives, but there’s more to come, Campbell said, specifically energy being harnessed from computer heat, then used to heat and cool buildings.
“In the data center, 50% of the energy is cooling the data center, and a lot of that heat is just lost to us,” Campbell said. “A micro approach to passing water across the chip, pulling heat out of the chip and instead of getting rid of it, capturing, extracting and repurposing it, can lead to something as simple as driving a coffee maker in the lunch room, or as massive as heating a building in winter.”
You won’t need to be a Scientist to Save the Planet
People are walking sensors, and in five years, sensors in your phone, car, wallet and even your Tweets will collect data that give scientists a real-time picture of your environment. A whole class of “citizen scientists” will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to create massive data sets for research.
“We have all kinds of ways now of putting in place a sensor that will collect information,” Campbell said. “People carry devices with GPS chips, motion detectors, accelerometers, that can shut down hard drives about to crash. If we can leverage that to learn other things about our environment, we can really gain an advantage.”
Campbell doesn’t think privacy issues would become an issue here.
“People would agree to be part of this, and wouldn’t give up any personal information,” he said. ‘The law now requires mobile devices to be able to communicate GPS location in emergencies, and this is no different than that.”
Your commute will be personalized
This one sounds like GPS, but it goes much further, combining predictive analytics with real-time travel route information to recommend better ways to get to your destination.
“GPS tells me how to get from my home to the office, and traffic conditions, but what it doesn’t do is predict for me based on all kinds of other things what things might be like as my commute commences,” Campbell said. “For instance, it could predict how many parking spots in nearby garages are likely to be available when I arrive, so I know where to go first. And it might consider, if there is an event or a major disruption, if I should just take public transit, and redirect me to a drop -off place if that’s the case.”
Campbell said the limit of GPS is that it’s not personalized.
“If you add more personalization and data sources, I think these devices can be much smarter,” he said. “I’m happy to have GPS tell me how everyone should get from my place to work but what I would really like is to know MY information based on my preferences.”
In summing up the philosophy behind the projections, Campbell said that predictive analytics is critically important in understanding how we use data in various firms, both structured and unstructured.
“Long gone are the days where we just collected information and spewed it back out into decision making reports,” he said. “We need to understand how people communicate, using both trusted and untrusted sources, and distil it all down.”