IBM's now-annual 'Five in Five' list always makes for some interesting reading. The list comprises, as partially betrayed by the name, five technological innovations that the company considers have the potential to change our lives over the next five years.
IBM's predictions aren't just pulled out of thin air, though. The list is based on developing social and market trends, as well as work being carried out in IBM's own R&D labs. Indeed, many of these technological developments are already starting to come into fruition.
This year's list, then, sits as follows:
1. Solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows
The next five years will see the creation of "thin-film" solar cells that will be up to 100 times thinner than today's silicon-wafer cells and cheaper to produce. These solar cells will be "printed" and arranged on a flexible backing, suitable for not only the roofs, but also the sides of buildings, tinted windows, cell phones, notebook computers, cars, and even clothing.
2. DNA will become a crystal ball for health
Your doctor will be able to provide you with a genetic map to tell you what health risks you are likely to face in your lifetime and the specific things you can do to prevent them — all for less than $200.
3. Two-way voice will change communication with the Web
In the future, you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice. The technology is already available. In places like India, where the spoken word is more prominent than the written word in education, government and culture, "talking" to the Web is leapfrogging all other interfaces, and the mobile phone is outpacing the PC.
4. Retailers will install digital shopping assistants
Fitting rooms soon will be outfitted with digital shopping assistants — touch screen and voice activated kiosks that will allow you to choose clothing items and accessories to complement, or replace, what you already selected. You'll also be able to snap photos of yourself in different combinations and email or text them to friends and family to get their opinions.
5. Forgetting will become a distant memory
A system incorporating a PC and portable and stationary smart appliances will record, store and analyze details of everyday life. The resulting data will be available to help people "remember" everything from phone conversations to a doctor's appointment.
Now if only I could be sure I'd remember to check back in 2013 to see if IBM was right…