Skip to main content

Five innovations that will change the way we live over the next five years

Take five to read about these five

These five innovations will change how people around the world work, play and live over the next five years. But this isn't just our thinking? we've included the input of some 150,000 people from 104 countries who took part in "InnovationJam," a recent online brainstorming session...along with insights from our Research labs and business consulting think tank.

Take five to read these "Next Five in Five":

Healthcare prognosis: more flexible, accessible, affordable

Wireless innovations coupled with the ability to securely capture sensitive medical data have the potential to allow healthcare to move from the traditional doctor's office to wherever the patient happens to be.

Remote healthcare is increasingly becoming important. People in the U.S. are moving out of major cities to rural areas in record numbers. And a significant percentage of developing world populations has virtually no access to meaningful healthcare, largely because of poor infrastructure, especially lack of transportation. In the future, technology will enable:

Real time speech translation will become the norm

The movement towards globalisation needs to take into account basic human factors, such as differences in language. IBM speech innovations are already allowing travelers using PDAs to translate menus in Japanese and doctors to communicate with patients in Spanish. Real-time translation technologies will be embedded into mobile phones, handheld devices and cars. These services will pervade every part of society, eliminating the language barrier in our new smaller, faster-paced world.

This year, IBM announced two new technologies from our Research labs that are already impacting our lives. Just listen...

While translation software exists for Web site text, the ability to translate video and audio-often the more interactive and engaging content-is still an obstacle.

The Internet moves to the 3rd dimension

The popular online immersive destinations, such as Second Life, will evolve into a 3-D Internet, much like the early work by AOL and Prodigy evolved into the World Wide Web. The 3-D Internet will enable new kinds of interactive education, remote medicine and consumer experiences, transforming how we interact with our friends and family, teachers, doctors and more.

Imagine being able to virtually walk the aisles of your favourite stores, interact with experts and even virtually try on clothes, all in the convenience of your own home. Or if you could recreate the blueprints of a room in your home and test out different appliances, cabinets styles, colors and more.

Kids can experience things that they could never access through traditional means. For example, they will be able to walk through rain forests or visit ancient Rome.

Today, 3-D virtual worlds are emerging on the Internet that have a very realistic look and feel to them.

Working with a broad community, and leveraging decades of experience in supercomputing, visualisation and work with the three major game platforms (Microsoft's XBOX 360, Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3), IBM hopes to help build out this next generation Internet, one that is open, immersive and 3-D.

Micromanaging our environment down to the nano-level

Early this year, IBM will undertake new research projects focused on the environment: advanced water modeling, water filtration via nanotechnology and efficient solar power systems.

Advanced water modeling, distribution and management systems
The ability to support economic and population growth has been contingent upon whether urban planners can ensure a reliable supply of water to residential and commercial establishments.

With the ubiquity of IP-based technology today, it is possible to envision a technologically enabled "smart" water distribution system that helps manage the end-to-end distribution, from reservoirs to pumping stations to smart pipes to holding tanks to intelligent metering at the user site so consumption could be managed in a responsible way.

The water distribution system would serve as a grid, much like a utility grid, at multiple levels: federal/central, regional, city/town and even down to a single residence or commercial establishment.

Water desalination using carbon nanotubes
The current methods of desalinating water, reverse osmosis and distillation, are both expensive and high maintenance. IBM will research methods of filtering water at the molecular level, using carbon nanotubes or molecular configurations, which can potentially remove the salt and impurities with less energy and money per gallon.

Efficient solar power systems
Political instability, the high cost of fossil fuels and worries about global warming have increased interest in alternative energies. IBM is a leader in developing silicon technologies-the microprocessors that run the world's leading game machines. We believe technology developments in this area will help further advance solar power and make it more efficient.

Get ready for mind-reading phones

"Presence" technology allows you to be found on the network, whether it's a computer network, mobile phone network or any other kind. Presence technology in its current form amounts to instant messaging applications. In five years, however, mobile devices will have the ability to continually learn about and adapt to your preferences and needs.

IBM and Norway's biggest telecommunications group are testing technology to allow mobile devices and networks to learn about users' whereabouts and preferences as they commute, work and travel. The system works with a variety of wireless networks including GSM, GPS, RFID and WiFi. It relies on sensors like GPS, processing software to filter information, an intuitive interface and it uses important events to adapt to the user's preferences.

For example, when a user enters a meeting room with several people, the mobile phone will automatically divert to voice mail. Your favourite pizza joint will know when you're on your way home after a late night and ping you with a special-price, take-home meal just for you.

Other company, product, or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others.