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Dec 23 2011   8:07PM GMT

Taking stock of IBM’s 5 predictions for the next 5 years

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

If you are sick of the ridiculously short battery life you get out of your smartphone, you may only have five years to wait until kinetic energy technologies offer a respite.

That is just one of the predictions in IBM’s annual list of the five technologies or technology trends that will reshape computing within the next five years. Here are all five predictions:

“Energy: People power will come to life”
IBM is looking at how motion — from the energy that humans create just by walking around to that generated by ocean waves — will transform energy creation by the next half of this decade. Kinetic energy increasingly is being examined as a source for recharging batteries. Devices that use kinetics to charge mobile gadgets are already on the market: check out the nPowerPEG, which is focused at the outdoors set.

“Security: You will never need a password again”
IBM increasingly is getting amped up about biometrics. This is the idea that certain body parts, such as a retina or a fingerprint or maybe even your voice, might replace all those hideous passwords that we have to use for everything and that always seem completely useless when there is a major security breach. I think that this has a real shot at happening, because people are so fed up with password-memorization hell. But the vendors pushing this technology need to get over many people’s distrust of these technologies.

“Mind reading: no longer science fiction”
Today, I randomly ran into someone that I thought of just days ago, in a very unlikely place. This sort of serendipitous thing happens to me pretty often. But this particular IBM prediction scares me. The company believes that over the course of time, you will only have to think of a person’s phone number in order to dial it, due to technologies that link our brain to our mobile phones. The real breakthrough of this technology would be in its ability to help those with physical disabilities or brain orders. But generally speaking, it just scares me and I kind of doubt I’m the only person who feels that way.

“Mobile: The digital divide will cease to exist”
There are plenty of examples about how mobile phones and other mobile technologies are helping people in emerging nations or disadvantage regions here in the United States. IBM believes mobility has the potential to help level the playing field when it comes to access to services, such as healthcare. Personally, I think this is a very worthy goal but I seriously doubt we will reach this nirvana within five years. Maybe IBM is just trying to get people to think about this more, right ahead of the holidays.

“Analytics: Junk mail will become priority mail”
I had to read this one three or four times before I finally understood with IBM was trying to convey. Maybe this will help: suppose you could somehow prioritize all the special offers you receive in your email? Not the ones that are autogenerated spam, but the ones that truly have some value to you as a person, such as the concert tickets you really want to buy or that new technology you want to reserve? You can already do part of this today, but requesting alerts but what if software could take things one step further and take action on promotions that really appeal? That’s what IBM is driving at.

Which of these predictions do you think will hold water over the next few years?

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