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IBM has revealed five ground-breaking scientific innovations with the potential to change the way you work, live and interact over the next five years.

IBM has been releasing its annual list of five technology developments that it believes will take-off since 2005, with previous high profile predictions including machine learning and big data.

In this latest round of forecasts the emphasis, perhaps unsurprisingly, is on AI and the Internet of Things. So, let’s have a look at this year’s contenders:

  • Using AI to diagnose illness from what we say and write: A large number of mental and physical disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can go undiagnosed and unaddressed for far too long. So, IBM is applying machine learning algorithms to the speech and written text of individuals with known disorders with the goal of identifying patterns that have diagnostic value. The hope is that diagnostically-relevant speech patterns will help doctors to catch tell-tale signs that might otherwise be missed.
  • Macroscopes – digitising the physical world via the Internet of Things: Thanks to the IoT new sources of data are pouring in from millions of connected objects, including remote sensors such as drones, cameras, weather stations, satellites and telescope arrays. After successfully digitising information, business transactions and social interactions, IBM is now in the process of digitising the physical world. The intention is to use a ‘macroscope’ – a system of software and algorithms to bring all of the Earth’s complex data together to analyse it for meaning. By aggregating, organising and analysing data on climate, soil conditions, water levels and their relationship to irrigation practices, for example, a new generation of farmers could have insights that will help them determine the right crop choices, where to plant them and how to produce optimal yields.
  • Hyperimaging and superhero vision: IBM believes that we too could one day see things that currently elude the naked eye. In five years, new imaging devices using hyperimaging technology and AI will help us see broadly beyond the domain of visible light by combining multiple bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to reveal valuable insights or potential dangers that would otherwise be unknown or hidden from view (for example helping a car to see through fog or rain). Most importantly, these devices will be portable, affordable and accessible, so superhero vision can be part of our everyday experiences!
  • ‘Lab-on-a-chip’ technology: In the next five years, new medical labs ‘on a chip’ will serve as nanotechnology health detectives – tracing invisible clues in our bodily fluids and letting us know immediately if we have reason to see a doctor. The lab-on-a-chip technology could ultimately be packaged in a convenient handheld device to allow people to quickly and regularly measure the presence of biomarkers found in small amounts of bodily fluids, sending this information securely streaming into the cloud from the convenience of their home. The aim is to alert us to the first signs of trouble, helping to stop disease before it progresses.
  • Smart sensors to detect pollution leakage: Most pollutants are invisible to the human eye, until their effects make them impossible to ignore. IBM is now developing silicon photonic technology that enables data transfer at the speed of light, with the technology designed to detect and report the leakage of pollutants. Networks of IoT sensors wirelessly connected to the cloud will provide continuous monitoring of the vast natural gas infrastructure, allowing leaks to be found in a matter of minutes instead of weeks, reducing pollution and waste and the likelihood of catastrophic events.

Far-fetched? Well IBM’s track record would suggest not, so it would certainly be interesting to revisit these innovations in five years and see which have turned out to be the winners…

Global Knowledge

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