As it does each year around this time, IBM unveiled its eighth annual "IBM 5 in 5." It’s a list of innovations that Big Blue is betting has the potential to change the way people work, live and interact over the next five years.
This year’s IBM 5 in 5 explores the idea that everything will learn -- driven by a new era of cognitive systems where machines will learn, reason and engage with us in a more natural and personalized way. These innovations are beginning to emerge enabled by cloud computing, big analytics and learning technologies all coming together, with the appropriate privacy and security considerations, for consumers, citizens, students and patients.
“We know more now than any other generation at any time has known. And yet, we struggle to keep up with this flood of increasingly complex information, let alone make sense of the meaning that is inherent in the massive amounts of data we are acquiring at ever faster rates,” said Dario Gil, Director, Cognitive Experience Lab, IBM. “By creating technology that is explicitly designed to learn and enhance our cognition we will usher in a new era of progress for both individuals and for society at large.”
The Classroom Will Learn About You
IBM predicts the classroom of the future will give educators the tools to learn about every student, providing each student with a tailored curriculum from kindergarten to high school and on to employment.
“In the next five years the classroom will learn about each student using longitudinal data such as test scores, attendance and student’s behavior on e-learning platforms, not just aptitude tests,” the firm said. “Sophisticated analytics delivered over the cloud will provide decision support to teachers so they can predict students who are most at risk, their roadblocks, and then suggest measures to help students conquer their challenges based on their individual learning style.”
Buying Local Will Beat Online
Shopping online is a national past time. Online sales topped $1 trillion worldwide for the first time last year, and are growing faster than in-store sales. Nevertheless, IBM reports, in five years new innovations will make buying local de rigueur once again.
“In five years, retailers could rely on Watson-like technologies to equip sales associates to be expert about every product in the store,” the firm said. “With technologies such as augmented reality and the recently announced plan to open Watson as an app development platform, IBM is providing shoppers with better in-store browsing and buying experiences.”
Doctors Will Use Your DNA
IBM asks us to imagine if treatment could be more specific and precise -- where computers could help doctors understand how a tumor affects a patient down to his DNA and present a collective set of medications shown to best attack the cancer.
“In five years, advances in big data analytics and emerging cloud-based cognitive systems coupled with breakthroughs in genomic research and testing could help doctors to accurately diagnose cancer and create personalized cancer treatment plans for millions of patients around the world,” the company said. “Smart machines will take the output of full genome sequencing and scour vast repositories of medical records and publications to learn and quickly provide specific and actionable insights on treatment options for oncologists.”
A Digital Guardian Will Protect You Online
Today we have more IDs and devices than ever before, yet security is highly fragmented, leaving us vulnerable. In 2012, there were more than 12 million victims of identity fraud in the United States.
“In five years, each of us could be protected with our own digital guardian that will become trained to focus on the people and items it is entrusted with, offering a new level of identity theft protection,” IBM said. “Security will assimilate contextual, situational and historical data to verify a person’s identity on different devices. By learning about users, a digital guardian can make inferences about what’s normal or reasonable activity and what’s not, acting as an advisor when they want it to.”
The City Will Help You Live In It
By 2030, IBM predicted that the towns and cities of the developing world will make up 80 percent of urban humanity and by 2050, seven out of every 10 people will be city dwellers.
“In five years smarter cities understand in real time how billions of events occur as computers learn to understand what people need, what they like, what they do, and how they move from place to place,” the firm said. “Soon it will be possible for cities and their leaders to understand and digest new information freely provided by citizens, knowing which city resources are needed, where and when, so the city can dynamically optimize around the needs of the citizens.”
How Realistic Is the List?
Over time, IBM said, these computers will get smarter and more customized through interactions with data, devices and people, helping us take on what may have been seen as unsolvable problems by using all the information that surrounds us and bringing the right insight or suggestion to our fingertips when it’s most needed. The firm predicts a new era in computing will lead to breakthroughs that will amplify human abilities, assist us in making good choices, look out for us and help us navigate our world in powerful new ways.
We caught up with Roger Kay, a senior analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, to discuss his thoughts on the list. He told us it’s a mixed bag.
“Security and medicine are well underway. Retail will be hard to get right, but some experimenting is going on already. Education will also require a delicate balance, but, again, templates already exist,” Kay said. “I guess that cities is the wildest because the whole landscape has to be instrumented with sensors, a communications infrastructure has to be set up, and a lot of entities have to coordinate.”