In the waning days of 2010, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) announced five innovations it claims "have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years."
I don't know who put the list together at IBM but only one item on it -- the potential for devices like mobile phones that will not require batteries -- really grabbed my attention. The rest were merely interesting and at least one borders on being pedestrian. For instance, I didn't know what to make of IBM's statement that "you won't need to be a scientist to save the planet." I thought that was pretty obvious.
Scientists in general are not trying as a group to save the planet. In fact, many of the hazardous materials that have polluted the earth nowadays are a result of scientific explorations and inventions. I am not knocking scientists, okay? They have done wonders for mankind and businesses as well as individuals enjoy today the fruits of their labors. However, like most blades, inventions by scientists tend to cut both ways depending upon how they are deployed. I agree you don't have to be a scientist to save the planet but does that belong in a list of spectacular technological innovations from a company like IBM?
IBM's list and explanations follow. My verdict, in italics, follows each item. I would like to know what you think of them.
You'll beam up your friends in 3-D: In the next five years, 3-D interfaces -- like those in the movies -- will let you interact with 3-D holograms of your friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3-D, and as 3-D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, you will be able to interact with photos, browse the Web and chat with your friends in entirely new ways.
My verdict: Please tell me this technology breakthrough also has a business application or at least the potential for much more than adding to the pile of useless software tools we continue to invent. Beaming up holographic images of a friend sounds more naughty than useful. IBM said the 3-D data could "allow engineers to step inside designs of everything from buildings to software programs, running simulations of how diseases spread across interactive 3-D globes." Great, but the concluding part of the sentence was not very encouraging. 3-D data could help engineers visualize "trends around the world on Twitter – all in real time and with little to no distortion," IBM said. Truly disappointing.
Batteries will breathe air to power our devices: Ever wish you could make your laptop battery last all day without needing a charge? Or what about a cell phone that powers up by being carried in your pocket? In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today. And better yet, in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices.
My verdict: I love it. Even better, the technology exists already as IBM further said. In fact, it's so futuristic we may finally get batteries that are so advanced they are "capable of powering everything from electric cars to consumer devices," according to IBM. I have no objection to this, certainly not when crude oil is selling for almost $100 per barrel.
You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet: 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.
My verdict: First, IBM is saying the obvious here. Many of the people fighting to save the planet today are not scientists although we are all glad to have them in our camp. Sensors in my wallet? Absolutely not. Semiconductor companies marketing sensors would like us to be surrounded by sensors but there's an element of overkill here. Perhaps I am being too suspicious of Big Brother but I don't want a talking wallet. Still, the sensors can certainly help generate the information we need to be better stewards of our environment and better humans.
Your commute will be personalized: Imagine your commute with no jam-packed highways, no crowded subways, no construction delays and not having to worry about being late for work. 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.
My verdict: I like the idea of personalized commute based on information generated about the larger environment to direct and plan less jam-packed highways and trips. Do we need another five years to develop this, though? The technology exists already. We need to use them now and not wait until we have burned millions more of work hours in needless traffic jams.
Computers will help energize your city: Innovations in computers and data centers are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to do things like heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer. Can you imagine if the energy poured into the world's data centers could in turn be recycled for a city's use? New technologies, such as novel on-chip water-cooling systems developed by IBM, the thermal energy from a cluster of computer processors can be efficiently recycled to provide hot water for an office or houses.
My verdict: I have always thought our society continues to waste much of what we generate and that we can still squeeze tremendous productivity from our current systems. This is one of those heartwarming technology developments that help confirm this view. The only challenge here is the will to introduce and implement the technologies identified for this purpose by IBM. I believe many companies may not want to participate or encourage this because it will eat into their current revenue base and erode margins. How do you convince a company that's making money from wasted energy to act against its interest?
I'm not yet born in 1964 :-) but thats sounds interesting. It seems IBM is a visionary in the IT world. In the article by Boljaji I am curios if all of the technologies mentioned will be released to the public by 2011. If thats so it will be another era of technological revolution.
Thanks Bolaji for doing the excellent dissection of the IBMs forecasts.Some of my views on IBM's forcasts are as below
1. 3D imgaing - I would love to see the use of Holographic inteactive 3D images to be helpful for people who are staying continents away from thier near and dear ones. For them this virtual in person meetings will be definitely something!
2. Personalised Transport - I would visualise a personal transport like the foldable and stackable electric car developed by MIT . You just pick up a car from the road side stack , go whereever you want to go and leave it at your destination . No parking hassles, no polution, less traffic jams because of its compact size, no ownership relared hassles, just pay per use.
Reminds me of all the promise depicted at the New York World's Fair, which I went to see in 1964. IBM had an exhibit there that featured 45 man-made steel trees, with puppets that explained data processing.
By moving to the core of the industry and offerings services that keep the system humming, a group within the electronics market has rendered irrelevant the question of ownership and control of the supply chain.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.