IBM’s 5 Year Vision Focuses On New Technology For Visualizing The World


    Last week IBM focused attention on “five technologies that [they] believe have the potential to change the way people work, live, and interact during the next five years.” They call their vision “5 in 5“. The technologies they chose all have to do with enhancing our ability to visualize the world from the micro to the macro level. Here’s what IBM sees in our future.

    Diagnosing illness from what people write and say
    Mental and physical disorders with a neurophysiological basis such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease can affect the language processing areas in the brain. IBM is applying machine learning algorithms to the speech and written text of individuals with known disorders with the goal of identifying patterns that have diagnostic value. The hope is that diagnostically-relevant speech patterns will aid in the early detection of mental and physical disorders. IBM envisions a possible future where speech detection systems in smartphones can provide early warning of a developing illness or provide clinicians with a tool for monitoring the progress of ongoing treatment plans. You can learn more here.

    Hyperimaging makes invisible portions of the electromagnetic spectrum visible
    IBM is working on an affordable hyperimaging platform that combines information from across the electromagnetic spectrum and translates it into wavelengths that are visible to the human eye. Information from the radio wave, microwave, infrared and x-ray spectra could be made visible. IBM envisions applications such as a heads-up display in a car window that allows the driver to see black ice on the road or see through fog and rain, or an app that works with your smartphone’s camera to tell you the nutritional value of the food on your plate. You can learn more here.

    Big-data analysis unlocks insights from the Internet-of-Things
    Imagine machine-learning algorithms that can generate actionable insights from the tens of exabytes (1 exabyte = 1 billion gigabytes) of data currently being produced every month by connected objects, wearables, cellphones, remote sensors, satellites and more. IBM calls it the macroscope and they envision it as a system that can aggregate, organize and analyze vast quantities of data that will increase our understanding of planetary ecosystems. They’re using an early version of the macroscope in partnership with the Gallo Winery to integrate “irrigation, soil and weather data with satellite images and other sensor data to predict the specific irrigation needed to produce an optimal grape yield and quality.” You can learn more here.

    Lab-on-a-chip technology for disease detection at the nanoscale level
    Liquid biopsies detect biological markers of illness and disease from bodily fluids. IBM is working to implement liquid biopsy technology on a single silicon chip that can be conveniently packaged in a hand-held device. The technology is capable of detecting nanoscale-sized biomarkers that are invaluable for early detection of diseases like cancer or Parkinson’s. It can also be used to determine whether a person is contagious which could save millions of dollars in the workplace if people with a communicable illness have the good sense to stay home instead of going to work and infecting their coworkers. You can learn more here.

    Sensors that process data at the speed of light detect and signal pollutant leakage
    IBM is developing silicon photonic technology that enables data transfer at the speed of light. The technology is intended for deployment in a wireless network designed to detect and report leakage of pollutants such as methane gas from natural gas pipelines and facilities. The network would make it possible to cut the time it takes to identify a leak from weeks to minutes. Data gathered by the sensors could be combined with satellite and real-time wind data to build complex models of how pollutants move through the atmosphere which could be used to find unmonitored pollutant leaks. You can learn more here.

    People would be wise to listen when IBM talks about future technology. Their past achievements include the invention of floppy discs and hard drives, the relational database and SQL, Fortran, DRAM, the virtual machine, the ATM machine, magnetic stripe cards and the Universal Bar Code. Their employees have won five Nobel Prizes, six Turing Awards, ten National Medals of Technology, and five National Medals of Science. IBM has a long history of looking forward, thinking big and accomplishing what they set out to do. If their future is like their past, IBM’s 5 in 5 will be more than pie in the sky.