IBM’s Mobile (and Scary?) Future

Dec 30 2010

“Never make forecasts, especially about the future.”  - Samuel Goldwyn

IBM have bravely made some predictions about the next five years.  Although none of their ideas are wildly controversial, they are worth reading (and watching).  The five key themes are:

Green becomes simple (and profitable)

Several of IBM’s predictions rely on mobile technology and applications to support accessibility of information wherever you happen to be.  In their first prediction, they claim that the technology will enable those with a smart phone to manage their personal carbon footprint, especially with the development of smart electricity grids and connected home devices.  This would include remote access and control, as well as up to date information on electricity usage.

Driving becomes safer

Connectivity between vehicles and the road and environment, will change the way we drive, keep us safer and help us avoid traffic jams (although I doubt that will be completely possible in some Asian cities!). As well as on-board intelligent systems, this will include intelligent traffic management, which adjust traffic signals and signs in real time to take advantage of accessibility of latest information.

Eating becomes stressful?

“We are what we eat” will become hauntingly relevant, as we are able to access a range of information on everything we eat and drink.  Our phones will be able to scan products and tell us the source and make up of the product(s), climate, soil conditions, storage, transport, and much more.  If you are particular about your food, this could be a great blessing.  Alternatively, some may prefer to switch off the application and continue to enjoy the same food they have always done.

Cell phones merge become wallets and travel guides

Earlier this week, I was sat next to someone on the train from Devon to London, who proudly showed me a whole range of applications on his phone, but admitted it was useless for making phone calls!  Over the next five years, there will be many more (indispensable) applications to add to our phones, which will enable us to leave our wallets, guide books, maps and other travel kit at home, becoming a personal concierge in the process.  For example, allowing us to see a new outfit on a personal avatar with the right size, and helping us to find the best entertainment options when we arrive in a new city, and then make the reservations and book the tickets too.

Medical records will become personal avatars

Doctors will be able to see, hear and understand medical records in new ways, with enhanced medical images and sensing, and using 3D representations of our bodies to search medical records for relevant symptom history.  This information will then be used to diagnose based on databases of patients with similar histories, providing more relevant advice tailored to your personal medical history.

You will see a key theme of all these predictions is the accessibility of relevant data from ourselves, our environment, and the people and products that we interact with.  This accessibility will be driven by the increasing ‘smartness’ of many household devices and most importantly the main device that we carry in our pockets.

I believe that these predictions are undoubtedly true in terms of the development of the technology (although such technology may not reach everyone in the next five years), but IBM’s predictions don’t always reflect the importance of human behaviour in accepting change.

Am I going to scan a beer or pizza before I indulge?  I’ll let you know in five years time.

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