IBM predicts top 5 innovations in five years

Armonk, N.Y. — IBM has released its fifth annual “Next Five in Five” list of innovations that are expected to significantly change people’s lives over the next five years.

IBM’s predictions include 3-D interfaces that will allow people to interact with 3-D holograms of your friends or business partners in real time, batteries that use air to power devices, personal sensor trackers that will allow everyone to fight global warming, analytics technologies that will deliver personalized travel routes, and recycling of excessive heat and energy generated by computers and data centers to heat and cool buildings.

IBM’s bases these innovations on several factors including market and societal trends and emerging technologies under development at IBM’s Labs.

In the 3-D arena, everyone knows that movies and TVs are moving to 3-D but scientists are also working on transforming video chat to video holography or what is called “3-D telepresence.”

IBM Research scientists also are working on new ways to visualize 3-D data, with technology that would allow engineers “to step inside designs” of everything from buildings to software programs, said IBM. This could include running simulations of how diseases spread across an interactive 3-D globe, and visualizing trends happening around the world on Twitter in real time with little to no distortion, cited the tech company.

Scientists also are working on batteries that use air to react with energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting batteries, said IBM. If this works, the market will have a lightweight rechargeable battery capable of powering everything ranging from electric cars to consumer devices, predicts the company.

IBM also expects advances in transistors and battery technology to allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today, and perhaps eliminate the need for batteries altogether in smaller devices.

Currently, IBM is working to reduce the amount of energy per transistor to less than 0.5 volts, which could eliminate the need for a battery in some consumer devices like mobile phones and e-readers. These devices could be charged using energy scavenging, said IBM.

Over the next five years, sensors in just about every device/item that you carry or use could track and collect data on your environment, which will help fight global warming. IBM believes this will lead to a class of “citizen scientists” who can help create massive data sets for research.

As an early example, IBM is contributing mobile phone “apps” that allow anyone to contribute data to causes such as improving the quality of drinking water or reporting noise pollution. An app called Creek Watch, for example, allows citizens to take a snapshot of a creek or stream, answer three questions about it and allow the data to be automatically accessible by the local water authority.

For commuters, IBM said advanced analytics technologies will provide personalized recommendations that will get them to their destinations faster. Using new mathematical models and IBM’s predictive analytics technologies, the researchers will analyze and combine multiple possible scenarios that can impact commuters to deliver the best routes for daily travel, said IBM.

Factors taken into consideration will include traffic accidents, commuter’s location, current and planned road construction, most traveled days of the week, expected work start times, local events that may impact traffic, alternate options of transportation such as rail or ferries, parking availability and weather.

Lastly, the excessive heat and energy generated by computers and data centers will be used to heat and cool buildings. Up to 50 percent of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes toward air cooling with most of the heat wasted because it is dumped into the atmosphere, said IBM.

With new technologies such as IBM’s on-chip water-cooling systems, the thermal energy from a cluster of computer processors can be recycled to provide hot water for an office or houses, for example. A pilot project in Switzerland using the technology is expected to save up to 30 tons of carbon-dioxide emissions annually.