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The 5 in 5

Innovations that will change our lives in the next five years

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Five in Five—where are they now?

Past predictions that are becoming a reality.


Digital taste buds will help you eat smarter

IBM’s computational creativity system for culinary recipes has led to several papers and patents and is starting to lead to client engagements. IBM is collaborating with the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and its team of world-class chefs to codify culinary knowledge into mathematical terms a computer can understand, to create novel and scientifically flavorful ingredient combinations. An important aspect of this collaboration is pairing human creativity with machine creativity to create the best possible outcomes and results. This is being illustrated by blending creative and flavorful ingredient combinations suggested by the machine, with creative interpretations of how to prepare and cook the dish suggested by professional chefs.

Computers will have a sense of smell

IBM’s “sniffing” technology is already in use at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, working to preserve and protect priceless works of art by monitoring fluctuations in temperature, relative humidity, and other environmental conditions. And this same technology is also being used in the agricultural industry to monitor soil conditions, allowing farmers to better schedule irrigation and fertilization schedules, saving water and improving crop yield.


City buildings will sense and respond like living organisms

IBM is working with The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to develop and install advanced smart building technology in 50 of the federal government’s highest energy-consuming buildings. Part of GSA’s larger smart building strategy, this initiative connects building management systems to a central cloud based platform, improving efficiency and saving up to $15 million in taxpayer dollars annually. IBM is also helping the second largest school district in the U.S. become one of the greenest and most sustainable by making energy conservation and cost savings as easy as sending a text message. The Los Angeles Unified School District empowers its students, teachers and staff to identify maintenance issues such as leaky faucets and broken air conditioning units by sending text messages and photos through their mobile phones.

Energy-saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows

IBM Research has built a new kind of solar cell—one where the key layer that absorbs most of the light for conversion into electricity is made entirely of readily-available elements—and set a new world record for efficiency. The cell holds the potential for enabling solar technology to produce more energy at a lower cost. Composed of copper, tin, zinc, sulfur and selenium, the cell's power conversion demonstrates an efficiency of 12 percent—holding a world record since 2009 when IBM demonstrated 40 percent higher than the value previously attained for this set of materials. Already, Japanese manufacturers Solar Frontier and TOK Corp are developing thin-film solar cells originally designed by IBM.



It will be easy to be green and save money doing it

IBM is working with Recology, a San Francisco-based resource recovery company, to help the city save money while reaching zero waste by 2020. By improving recycling programs, Recology continues to reduce landfill disposal. IBM is also working with The Jefferson Project to preserve the delicate ecosystem in and around Lake George in upstate New York. The Jefferson Project aims to use a combination of advanced data analytics, computing and data visualization techniques, new scientific and experimental methods, 3-D computer modeling and simulation, weather modeling, and historical data to gain an unprecedented scientific understanding of the lake – while protecting a $1B tourism industry. IBM is also teaming on sustainable, money-saving programs and systems with cities and counties worldwide including Dubuque, Iowa, Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance

In 2006, scientists from IBM and Stanford University discovered new chemical formulas that could make it easier to recycle the 13 billion plastic bottles disposed of around the world each year. Called Green Chemistry, the breakthrough could lead to a new process that has the potential to significantly increase the ability to recycle and reuse common PET and plant-based plastics in the future. Now, those same IBM scientists have teamed with the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to convert common PET plastic materials into antimicrobial polymers, a nanomedicine breakthrough with implications spanning healthcare and medicine.