The huge computer company, International Business Machines (IBM) may seem like an aging dinosaur to some, or a relic from the past, but it’s far from that. Instead, the company that made the personal computer a household product has been keeping itself at the very cutting edge of high-tech high-performance science and business computing. And because of its unique history, the company feels it has a unique perspective on computing trends and a responsibility to share that vision with others. It’s because of that the company has released what it calls the “5 in 5″; a list of five technologies that it believes will substantially change the lives of most people over the course of the next five years.
The first is 3D technology; IBM believes it will evolve to the point where it is used in virtually every type of electronic display, from Smartphones, to movies and television, to still photos to images and video on the web. And it won’t require everyone to wear 3D enabling glasses either. Instead, it will all be based on holographic technology, which is just now in its true infancy. As researchers learn more, images created using new nano-materials will bring electronically generated imagery to life, as clearly as we’ve all seen in sci-fi movies, and it will become a de-facto standard; one that we will grow accustomed to expecting.
The next new technology IBM sees as making a big impact on our lives will be far less subtle because it will be based on battery technology. As it stands today, most people feel very constrained by the duration of the batteries in their laptops, iPhones, and other gadgets. In five years’ time, IBM predicts, such constraints will be but a distant memory as new advances in battery technology evolve. Of particular note are batteries that are completely different from what we see today, ones that use the air we breathe to hold onto an electric charge for us. Not only would such an advance be ever present, but it would mean all of our gadgets would instantly becoming lighter.
Number three on the list, as IBM sees it, is the merging of electronic gadgets that do things for us, with gadgets that allow us to do for others. Imagine, they say, if every Smartphone, iPod, pad and wristwatch and other handheld type devices served not only the purpose of providing us all the features we get now, but also served as a remote sensor for use by city planners, energy companies, doctors and a whole host of others who could consolidate that data and convert it into trends that could be used for forecasting societal behavior. That’s exactly what IBM sees happening over the next five years. They point to the GPS tracking built into Smartphones already as evidence.
Number four? IBM thinks the morning commute will be transformed into a peaceful trip to the office; no rush hour, no tie-ups, or construction delays, no unexpected problems. All because of traffic sensors that will alert us to such problems and provide automatic route mapping that will take us around them. That is, for those still having to commute. Over the next five years, IBM expects the number of people working from home or nearby hubs to jump dramatically.
And finally, number five. IBM thinks the way energy is used to power all of our stuff, especially that used for heating and cooling homes, will change dramatically to take advantage of efficiencies that computers can create for us automatically. The electrical grid will evolve to not only pipe energy from a central location, but to move it around from places that generate it, to places that need it, making things far more efficient and cheaper for everyone in the process.