IBM’s annual Next 5 in 5, a list of five innovations that will take off in the next five years, is ready. And in our humble opinion, it’s probably pretty accurate. The theme this year is “cities,” and according to IBM, our major urban centers are about to become a whole lot smarter.
More specifically, IBM predicts that cities will have healthier immune systems (read: a “health Internet” that gathers information to prevent the spread of disease), buildings will act like living organisms with help from sensors that monitor things like temperature, occupancy, and light, cars and city buses will go electric thanks to renewable energy-powered smart grids, smart water systems will cut down on water waste and improve purification technology, and cities will use analytics to stop crime before it happens (Minority Report, anyone?).
Many of these predictions are already coming true. Smart meters are being deployed across the country, EVs are being unveiled at a rapid rate, and IBM has begun to install water-monitoring technology in Europe. It’s optimistic to think that the technologies described in the 5 in 5 report will all be in their advanced stages by 2015, but they are more realistic than some of IBM’s predictions from 2007–i.e. 3-D Internet and mind-reading cell phones. As much as we would love to “virtually walk the aisles” of our favorite stores, most Internet users will probably be using shopping Web sites in their current form in the next few years.