Tuesday, December 28, 2010
IBM Set to Change Our Lives With Upcoming Innovations
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IBM has formally unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" - a
list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people
work, live and play over the next five years.
IBM said that in the following years you'll beam up your friends in
3-D, the batteries will breathe air to power our devices, you won't
need to be a scientist to save the planet, your commute will be
personalized and that computers will help energize your city.
The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected
to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM's
Labs around the world.
IBM claims that 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
Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography
chat - or "3-D telepresence." The technique uses light beams
scattered from objects and reconstructs them a picture of that
object, a similar technique to the one human eyes use to visualize
You'll be able to see more than your friends in 3-D too. Just as a
flat map of the earth has distortion at the poles that makes flight
patterns look indirect, there is also distortion of data - which is
becoming greater as digital information becomes "smarter" - like your
digital photo album. Photos are now geo-tagged, the Web is capable of
synching information across devices and computer interfaces are
becoming more natural.
Scientists at IBM Research are working on new ways to visualize 3-D
data, working on technology that would allow engineers to step inside
of a designs of everything from buildings to software programs,
running simulations of how diseases spread across an interactive 3-D
globes, and visualizing trends happening around the world on Twitter
- all in real time and with little to no distortion.
Ever wish you could make your lap top 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 last about 10 times longer
than they do today, according to IBM. And better yet, in some cases,
batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices.
Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today, scientists are
working on batteries that use the air we breath to react with
energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting
batteries. If successful, the result will be a lightweight, powerful
and rechargeable battery capable of powering for everything from
electric cars to consumer devices.
But what if we could eliminate batteries all together?
By rethinking the basic building block of electronic devices, the
transistor, IBM is aiming to reduce the amount of energy per
transistor to less than 0.5 volts. With energy demands this low, we
might be able to lose the battery altogether in some devices like
mobile phones or e-readers.
The result would be battery-free electronic devices that can be
charged using a technique called energy scavenging. Some wrist
watches use this today - they require no winding and charge based on
the movement of your arm. The same concept could be used to charge
mobile phones for example - just shake and dial.
While you may not be a physicist, you are a walking sensor. 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, IBM says. 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.
Simple observations such as when the first thaw occurs in your town,
when the mosquitoes first appear, if there's no water running where a
stream should be - all this is valuable data that scientists don't
have in large sets today. Even your laptop can be used as a sensor to
detect seismic activity. If properly employed and connected to a
network of other computers, your laptop can help map out the
aftermath of earthquake quickly, speeding up the work of emergency
responders and potentially saving lives.
IBM recently patented a technique that enables a system to accurately
conduct post-event analysis of seismic events, such as earthquakes,
as well as provide early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow
earthquakes. The invention also provides the ability to rapidly
measure and analyze the damage zone of an earthquake to help
prioritize emergency response needed following an earthquake.
The company is also contributing mobile phone "apps" that allow
typical citizens to contribute invaluable data to causes, like
improving the quality of drinking water or reporting noise pollution.
Already, an app called Creek Watch allows citizens to take a snapshot
of a creek or stream, answer three simple questions about it and the
data is automatically accessible by the local water authority.
Imagine your commute with no jam-packed highways, no crowded subways,
no construction delays and not having to worry about 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.
IBM researchers are developing new models that will predict the
outcomes of varying transportation routes to provide information that
goes well beyond traditional traffic reports, after-the fact devices
that only indicate where you are already located in a traffic jam,
and web-based applications that give estimated travel time in
Using new mathematical models and IBM's predictive analytics
technologies, the researchers will analyze and combine multiple
possible scenarios that can affect commuters to deliver the best
routes for daily travel, including many factors, such as traffic
accidents, commuter's location, current and planned road
construction, most traveled days of the week, expected work start
times, local events that may impact traffic, alternate options of
transportation such as rail or ferries, parking availability and
For example, combining predictive analytics with real-time
information about current travel congestion from sensors and other
data, the system could recommend better ways to get to a destination,
such as how to get to a nearby mass transit hub, whether the train is
predicted to be on time, and whether parking is predicted to be
available at the train station. New systems can learn from regular
travel patterns where you are likely to go and then integrate all
available data and prediction models to pinpoint the best route.
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.
Up to 50 percent of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes
toward air cooling. Most of the heat is then wasted because it is
just dumped into the atmosphere. New technologies, such as 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.
A pilot project in Switzerland involving a computer system fitted
with the technology is expected to save up to 30 tons of carbon
dioxide emissions per year the equivalent of an 85 percent carbon
footprint reduction. A novel network of microfluidic capillaries
inside a heat sink is attached to the surface of each chip in the
computer cluster, which allows water to be piped to within microns of
the semiconductor material itself. By having water flow so close to
each chip, heat can be removed more efficiently. Water heated to 60
°C is then passed through a heat exchanger to provide heat that is