Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

IBM Predicts Home Electricity From Your Bike, Mind-Reading Computers

There’s something about the reflective, year-end state of mind that causes tech companies and institutions (and pundits) to make predictions about what they think is plausibly in our near future.

One example is the annual tech prediction by analyst Mark Anderson, which I wrote about last week. Another is IBM’s recurring “Five in Five” series, wherein Big Blue looks at the unfolding technology landscape and predicts what innovations are still just this side of “gee whiz” today, but will be commonplace within five years.

Think back to what we were doing in 2006, and how far things have come in that short period of time in terms of consumer and enterprise technology. The iPhone existed only as an Apple prototype. Facebook had just opened itself up to the population at large, beyond just college and university students. Twitter was just getting started. And a tablet was a not-terribly-popular PC design.

As you’ll see, some of these five predictions aren’t exactly mind-blowing, especially if you pay attention to general technology trends. Over the past decade, you’ve probably already heard predictions saying that computer passwords will go away and be replaced by biometrics of some kind, whether in the form of fingerprints or voice authorization or some part of your eyeball. Also: Junk mail I actually want? That one I’ll believe when I see it. However, I really like the “think to call” idea, which sounds like a super speed-dial.

Anyhow, here are IBM’s predictions for stuff we’ll see by 2016, and a video explaining them in a little more detail:

You will make your own energy: Anything that moves has the potential to create energy. Your running shoes, your bicycle and even the water flowing through your pipes can create energy. Advances in renewable energy technology will allow individuals and scientists to collect this energy and use it to help power our homes, offices and cities.

You will not need a password: Your biological makeup is the key to your individual identity, and soon, it will become the key to safeguarding it. Each person’s unique biometric data such as facial definitions, retinol scans and voice files will be composited through software to build your DNA-unique online password. You will be able to log into your mobile phone or have access to an ATM machine by simply speaking your name or looking into a camera.

Mind reading is no longer science fiction: Scientists are researching how to link your brain to your devices, such as a computer or a smartphone, so you just need to think about calling someone and it happens. Scientists have designed headsets with advanced sensors to read electrical brain activity that can recognize facial expressions, excitement and concentration levels, and thoughts of a person without them physically doing anything.

The digital divide will cease to exist: In five years, the gap between information haves and have-nots will narrow considerably due to advances in mobile technology. Growing communities will be able to use mobile technology to provide access to essential information and better serve people with new solutions such as mobile commerce and remote healthcare.

Junk mail will become priority mail: Think about how often we’re flooded with advertisements we consider to be irrelevant or unwanted — it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. In five years, unsolicited advertisements may feel so personalized and relevant it may seem spam is dead. Systems will be able to filter and find only the data that’s important and relevant to you and will bring you the information without you having to ask for it.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik