IBM – Next Five in Five

by Tony Morgan – Chief Innovation Officer Strategic Outsourcing, IBM

Each year, IBM produces its annual “Next Five in Five” report. This is based on five innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. They are a glimpse into our future.

IBM’s “Five in Five” is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible. This further strengthens the company’s reputation for investing in Research and Development, highlighted by the fact that the company’s inventors received a record 5,896 U.S. patents in 2010 alone, marking the 18th consecutive year it has topped the list of the world’s most inventive companies!

In the 2010 report, IBM believes that in the next five years, technology innovations will change our
lives in the following ways:

1: Batteries will breathe air to power our devices

Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that charges itself while being carried in your pocket?

In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today – or better yet, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices.

2: Computers will help energize your city

Innovations in computers and data centres are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to do things like heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer. Can you imagine if the energy used by the world’s data centres could in turn be recycled for a city’s use?

In May 2010 in the heart of Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) went live with a 6 terabyte supercomputer called Aquasar, which uses hot-water to keep its chips cool. Why water? Well, water removes heat 4,000 times more efficiently than air.

IBM scientists designed a novel network of microfluidic capillaries, similar to the human circulatory system, which is attached directly to each processor in the supercomputer. Just like in your brain with oxygen and nutrients, the capillaries allow water to reach within microns of the semiconductor material itself. By having water flow so close to each chip, heat can be removed more efficiently and ensure that the operating temperatures of the processors remain well below the maximally allowed 85 degrees C. The output heat, which is 65°C, then gets pumped into the ETH university buildings to provide warmth.

3: Your commute will be personalised

Whether you live in a big city or a small town, traffic congestion is an issue especially during
rush hour. Today there are more than one billion cars on the road and that number will double
by 2020. In the U.S. alone, congestion costs about $78 billion a year and each of us spend about a week stuck in traffic every year.

The IBM “Smarter Traveller” research initiative is exploring how to build personalised,
congestion-free travel routes for commuters and help transportation agencies better
understand and manage traffic, ultimately creating safer roads with less gridlock and reducing carbon emissions. Also, researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind predictive analytics tool called the IBM Traffic Prediction Tool (TPT) that analyzes and combines multiple possible scenarios such as traffic accidents, commuter locations and expected travel start times that can affect commuters on highways, rail lines and urban roads. The TPT offers future traffic forecasts for up to 60 minutes in advance, giving transportation operations the ability to quickly respond to potential issues and solve issues before commuters get stuck in a traffic jam.

4: You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D

In the next five years science fiction won’t be so fictitious anymore, as 3-D interfaces like
those in the films let you interact with 3-D holograms of your friends in real time.

Films and TVs are already moving to 3-D, and as 3-D and holographic cameras get more
sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, we’ll be able to interact with our
photos, browse the web, study, learn, work and chat with our friends in entirely new ways.

5: You won’t need a to be a scientist to save the planet

While you may not be a physicist, you are a walking sensor. In the next five years, sensors in your
phone, your car, your wallet and even your tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-
time picture of your environment. You’ll be able to volunteer this data to fight global warming, save
endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world.

In the next five years, IBM sees a whole class of “citizen scientists” emerging, using simple sensors that already exist in the world to create massive data sets for research. Simple observations such as when the first thaw occurs in your town, when the mosquitoes first appear and whether or not there’s running water where a stream should be – all this is valuable data that scientists don’t have in large sets today.

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