IBM sees smart cars and super senses


20 Dec 2007

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Smart technology ranging from self-regulating energy-efficient houses to 3D X-rays are predicted by IBM in the company’s second annual ‘Next Five in Five’ list of innovative technologies to be developed and in use by 2012.

Based on new research coming from IBM’s own labs as well as analysis of social and economic trends, the predictions for the type of technology that may be commonplace in the next five years are for greener, smarter and more multifunctional devices to make our lives easier.

The strongest prediction is that houses, electrical items and energy grids will all be connected and work together to use the least amount of energy by intelligently scanning to turn off lights when the room is not in use or turning down the central heating in response to changing weather conditions.

These connected houses will also produce energy reports for the user based on monitoring of all power usage and will be controlled remotely from the mobile phone or the web.

Travel will also change as not just cars but traffic systems within cities get smart. Cars will communicate with other vehicles as well as sensors built in to the road and then determine what routes are most efficient to help reduce traffic congestion.

Traffic-light systems will also benefit from new technologies, having the ability to update in real-time based on second-to-second analysis of incoming traffic.

While machines get ‘smarter’ it is hoped that technology will also benefit the human body. Knowing what we eat, exactly where it was produced and when it was grown as well as what kind of fertilisers were used will become increasingly accurate as sensors will detail everything including the alkalinity of the soil in which a particular vegetable was grown.

Through wireless radio sensor technology and computer software the consumer will be able to tell how food is transported, including the air temperature and quality of the shipping containers.

Buying your food will also become easier, according to IBM, with the mobile phone taking on the role of your wallet as well as your bank and your ticket broker.

The shopping experience will change with new technology. Have you ever walked up to someone in the street to ask them where they bought a particular scarf or coat?

In five years’ time IBM predicts that mobile phones will be able to take a picture of someone’s outfit and cross-reference the snap on the web to come up with the designer’s name and a price and nearest shop where you can buy it.

Healthcare will also advance greatly in the next five years, with medical records taking on a new shape: you. Doctors may be able to reference your medical records in a 3D visual manner where a three-dimensional representation of your body can be clicked on to access records about particular body parts.

Diagnosis should also become increasingly accurate as powerful software allows for greatest analysis and cross-checking with previous cases based on more personalised diagnosis.

By Marie Boran