Mind-reading computers, eyeball security and more things to look forward to

IBM researchers predict bold tech changes ahead

Imagine a world where mind reading is the norm, eye scans will replace computer passwords and you can harness energy to power your home by taking a walk.

IBM predicts that within five years these and other science fiction-like scenarios will be as common as frappuccino drinkers at the corner Starbucks.

IBM labs has released its list of innovations, called The Next Five in Five, that the company believes will change our lives in the next five years.

This year's picks are: energy creation from all movement, multi-factor biometric security, cessation of the digital divide, mind reading technology and analytics/personalization innovations.

Already being done to some extent by media companies to personalize news choices, analytics would intuitively know what you consider spam and what you consider important. It will know what your preferences are and could, for instance, reserve concert tickets for your favorite band when it comes into town, but not before checking your calendar to see if you're free.

Similar to a personal assistant, the technology IBM is developing uses analytic and sense-making to integrate data into applications that present only the information you want--and then take action if needed.

Another technology, biometric security, will be created that will enable people to replace the multiple passwords in our heads with a retinal scan, voice recognition or fingerprint identification. This should cut down drastically on the surging problems of identity theft, IBM said. Biometric data such as voice files and retinal scans will be composited through software to build your DNA-unique online password.

For example, punching in a ATM code when making a withdrawal will be replaced by saying your name or looking at a camera.

"Your biological makeup is the key to your individual identity and soon it will become the key to safeguarding it," IBM said in its report.

Science fiction fans will love this one. IBM also is researching how to link your brain up to a device such as a computer or smart phone so that "thinking" an action is enough for the device to perform the action. This is accomplished by studying brain patterns. Examples are thinking about who you want to call and the smart phone calls it or thinking about moving a computer cursor on your screen from left to right and the action is performed. IBM sees this technology eventually encompassing the process of typing too, but probably beyond five years. The technology also has applications for health care and rehabilitation.

In Ireland, IBM scientists are already testing converting ocean waves into electricity. Within five years, they believe you will be able to power your house from energy you create yourself. From running shoes to bicycle riding to water running through pipes, anything that moves can create energy. Researchers envision a small device will be able to be worn on a person or attach to a bike as an energy collection agent. Advances in renewable energy to power workplace, homes and cities are making this possible.

Mobile is already changing the world and closing the digital divide. Going forward it will create ripple effects to help the world and save lives, according to IBM. Since the wealth of a nation is determined by access of information, mobile technology allows disadvantaged and poorer areas to have access to vital information such as weather conditions that affect agriculture and to communicate with the outside world for selling goods. IBM, for example, is introducing solutions and models for mobile commerce and remote health care. In five years, 80 percent of the global population will have a mobile device, IBM said.

IBM's 2009 predictions included: cities will have healthier immune systems, city buildings will sense and respond like living organisms and cities will respond to a crisis—even before receiving an emergency phone call.

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