Over the weekend I came across this blog post, which outlines some of IBM's predictions for the future of technology over the next five years. I found it fascinating not only because their goals are varied and ambitious, but also because the company has transformed itself from a hardware/software company to a true global technology innovator and solutions provider (including the recent announcement of selling their server business to Lenovo).
In the early 2000's, IBM began to sell off their desktop and laptop business and began to make services their main focus. This was a wise move and positioned the company as a true innovator and leader in the industry.
Over the past eight years, IBM has announced five technologies that they believe will come to fruition over the next five years. The company generally gets about half of them right, but they can serve as a roadmap of sorts, giving consumers and industry leaders a glimpse into the company's priorities and vision for the future. Here's what IBM predicted at the end of 2013:
#1 Smarter Schools: IBM is implementing a pilot program in a Georgia public school system to track and analyze data points- like attendance, grades, and participation in extracurricular activities, to improve graduation rates and make better decisions about the curriculum. By leveraging big data, IBM is helping educators and students create and implement a better experience for students, teachers, and administrators.
#2 Self Correcting Cities: Harnessing the power of social media and data created through mobile platforms can help cities make decisions about transportation, traffic, and municipal services like garbage and recycling pickup in real time. In the post, the author suggests that transportation authorities could mine for data about commuter volume and instantly make small adjustment to scheduling to help ease congestion and delays along commuter rail and public transportation routes.
#3 Digital Guardians: Understanding when, where, why, and how consumers use technology can help companies understand when something looks wrong. By tracking online use, credit card spending, and the type of online media and entertainment a consumer uses, companies can raise a red flag when something looks off. Additionally, sensory technology on smartphones and other mobile media can help monitor health and wellness- everything from daily steps, to calories burned, to patterns in blood sugar levels for diabetics.
#4 Tailored Medical Treatment: Personally, I'm most excited about doctors ability to leverage technology to analyze your personal medical history against global standards, to create a truly personalized treatment plan. By analyzing your medical history and comparing it against thousands of other cases, doctors can determine which course of treatment, whether that be drug therapy, surgery, or other plans, will work best for you.
#5 Shopping Locally: While consumers love the ease and convenience of online retail sites, like Amazon, there are certain products and services that benefit from a brick and mortar presence. Traditional retailers can utilize some of the same data mining technology to learn about their customers, creating a truly customized shopping experience, based on preferences, purchase history, and other data points.
I am most excited about tailored medical treatment and smarter schools, because I believe they will have the largest impact on society. I'm happy that IBM continued to identify aggressive goals for their technology and take the initiative to use use big data to tackle big global problems. I look forward to watching them succeed and plan to check back in 2019 to find out more.