Five Innovations That Will Change the World in 5 Years

Posted December 29, 2010 in Innovation

Here is an article about what IBM thinks is going to be the next innovation trends that will change our lives in the next 5 years. I like the one about there being no traffic jams. Since I live in one of the most congested cities in the country, that would be a miracle:

by Jaymi Heimbuch

IBM has unveiled a list of five innovations that will alter the way we run our lives, and change how our societies work, in five years. Among the innovations are batteries that breathe air, environmental sensors built into practically everything from our cell phones to our wallets, adaptive traffic patterns for personalized commutes, and cities that run on waste heat from data centers.

IBM states that there are five major technologies that we can expect to alter our lives over the next five years. Their list makes a lot of sense considering the coverage of breakthroughs and prototypes we’ve had in each of the areas.

3D interfaces for talking with friends is in the works. IBM notes that 3D TVs are already gaining momentum, as is the video chat segment of the telecommunication industry. So it’s only a matter of time before you’re talking with your friends hologram-style. It could be a solution for more personal long-distance company meetings that can reduce business travel.

IBM also expects us to have batteries that breathe air as a source of energy.

“Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today, scientists are working on batteries that use the air we breath to react with energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting batteries. If successful, the result will be a lightweight, powerful and rechargeable battery capable of powering everything from electric cars to consumer devices,” states IBM.

While we first heard about this technology well over a year ago, we’re guessing this particular innovation is still farther than five years away.

But one innovation that we definitely agree will be common in five years is environmental sensors embedded in all our stuff. It’s already happening in pilot projects with cell phones and bracelets — sensors that detect air pollution, seismic activity and other data and transmit the information to a central database for real-time visualizations of real-world data.

“In 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 contribute 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, a whole class of “citizen scientists” will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to create massive data sets for research.”

Already, cell phones have become invaluable tools for citizen science, and the idea of citizen science as a source of useful, quickly collected information is on the rise. We can picture it being huge in five years.

IBM thinks that our commutes will be tailored to our needs in five years, with no traffic or delays. Now wouldn’t that be a dream come true!

“In the next five years, advanced analytics technologies will provide personalized recommendations that get commuters where they need to go in the fastest time. Adaptive traffic systems will intuitively learn traveler patterns and behavior to provide more dynamic travel safety and route information to travelers than is available today.”

We already have apps that help determine smarter routes for driving, and companies like Google are already working on mapping real-time traffic information to help speed the flow and reduce idle time for cars. While we might not have such a perfect system as IBM is daydreaming within five years, we expect we will indeed be a lot closer to improved traffic systems by then.

And finally, IBM expects computers to help run our cities, electricity-wise. The company states that as much as 50% of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes to air cooling, and new technologies can redirect that waste heat to other useful places, such as heating homes and offices. We’ve already seen this at work in places like Finland and IBM is running a pilot program in Switzerland. If subway systems can heat homes in Paris, then data centers are definitely an option as home heaters in five years.

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