IBM predicts five big technologies of the future

IBM says soon you won't need passwords; mind reading will be routine; the so-called digital divide will cease to exist and junk mail will become important

IBM today issued its sixth annual look at what Big Blue thinks will be the five biggest technologies for the next five years. In past prediction packages the company has had some success in predicting the future of telemedicine and nanotechnology.

This year IBM thinks very soon people will never need passwords; mind reading will happen; the so-called digital divide will cease to exist and junk mail will become important.

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On IBM's Building a Smarter Planet Blog, Steve Hamm writes: "Making this kind of prediction is difficult. So, every year, IBM researchers stick out their necks. Which is risky."

"A lot of people wait for things to happen. It's rare than an organization says: this is a big change, and it's coming," says IBM Fellow Bernard Meyerson.

So what's coming? According to IBM:

No passwords: You will never need a password again because of what IBM calls "multi-factor biometrics." Smart systems will be able to use retina scans and other personal information in real-time to make sure whenever someone is attempting to access your information, it matches your unique biometric profile. To be trusted, such systems should enable you to opt in or out of whatever information you choose to provide. Your biological makeup is the key to your individual identity, and soon, it will become the key to safeguarding it. You will no longer need to create, track or remember multiple passwords for various log-ins. Imagine you will be able to walk up to an ATM machine to securely withdraw money by simply speaking your name or looking into a tiny sensor that can recognize the unique patterns in the retina of your eye, IBM said.

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Mind-reading: IBM scientists are among those researching how to link your brain to your devices. If you just need to think about calling someone, it happens. Or you can control the cursor on a computer screen just by thinking about where you want to move it. Scientists in the field of bioinformatics have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognize facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and people's thoughts without them physically taking any actions. Within five years, we will begin to see early applications of this technology in the gaming and entertainment industry. Furthermore, doctors could use the technology to test brain patterns, possibly even assist in rehabilitation from strokes and to help in understanding brain disorders, such as autism, IBM stated.

Digital divide? In five years, the gap between information haves and have-nots will narrow considerably due to advances in mobile technology. There are 7 billion people inhabiting the world today. In five years there will be 5.6 billion mobile devices sold -- which means 80% of the current global population would each have a mobile device.

No more junk? In five years, unsolicited advertisements may feel so personalized and relevant it may seem spam is dead and spam filters will be so precise you'll never be bothered by unwanted sales pitches again, IBM said. IBM pointed out that it is developing technology that uses real-time analytics to make sense and integrate data from across all the facets of your life such as your social networks and online preferences to recommend information that is only useful to you.

Power: Advances in renewable energy technology will allow individuals to collect al sorts of kinetic energy -- walking, bicycling -- which now goes to waste, and use it to help power our homes, offices and cities. Imagine attaching small devices to the spokes on your bicycle wheels that recharge batteries as you pedal along. You will have the satisfaction of not only getting to where you want to go, but at the same time powering some of the lights in your home, IBM said.

For a look at IBM past predictions go here or here.

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