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Five in Five for 2008
IBM came out with their latest "5 in 5". These are five predictions for technologies that will havean impact over the next five years, summarized on 5 pages. Before I give my take on this year's set,here is a quick recap of[Last Year's 5 in 5]:
3-D representations of the human body to improve health care
This prediction is based on the idea that most medical mistakes result from lack of informationabout the patient. A 3-D avatar of the patient would allow the doctor to click on the section ofthe body, and this would trigger retrieval of patient records, relevant X-rays, MRI images, and so on.For example, IBM System Storage Grid Medical Archive Solution (GMAS) provides the storage that wouldallow any doctor to access these records, even if the image was taken at a different facility.
Unfortunately, this prediction only applies to patients who can actually afford to see a doctor. Apparently,no amount of technology, no matter how cool it is, can convince governments to make health care somethingeveryone has access to. Michael Moore has done a good job explaining this in his film documentary [Sicko].
Digital passport for food
Using RFID tags and second generation barcodes, you will have access to details of a food's origin,transportation conditions, and impact to the environment. Much of this information is already gathered,just not stored in a database accessible to the consumer.
Last year, the term "locavore" was the2007 Word of the Year for the Oxford American Dictionary, referring to people who limit what they eatto food produced within a certain radius, from family farms and locally-owned businesses.Here is an excerpt from a [Locavores] website:
Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates. This globalization of the food supply has serious consequences for the environment, our health, our communities and our tastebuds.
Certainly, I am all for selling storage capacity to the food industry to help store vasts amount ofinformation for this, and certainly some people will be able to make smarter decisions based on thisinformation. This is not the first time this idea came up. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration introduced [nutrition labeling requirements] on thehope that people would choose more healthier foods. Despite this, people still opt for white bread, iceberg lettuce, and processed meats, so possibly having more information about where food comes from, and how it was transported, may not mean much to some consumers.
Technology to manage your own carbon footprint
"Smart energy" technologies allow you to walk the talk, by managing your own carbon footprint inyour home. For example, if you forgot to turn off the heat or air conditioner before leaving thehouse on your commute to work, your home would call your mobile phone, so that you can turn aroundand go back and correct that mistake. Better yet, IBM is working with others to provide web-enabledelectric meters that would allow you to turn off systems from work or cell phone browser.
Of course, such technology already exists for the data center. IBM Systems Director Active EnergyManager (AEM) allows you to monitor the actual usage of your servers and storage devices, and insome cases make adjustments to control energy consumption. This can feed into the IBM TivoliUsage and Accounting Manager software to incorporate energy usage as part of the charge-backcalculations. See the [IBM Press Release] formore details.
Cars that drive themselves
Not only will cars that drive themselves reduce the number of drunk-driving accidents, it canalso help reduce congestion in big cities, by routing traffic to different directions, based onGPS and presence-aware technologies. Stockholm (Sweden) has already reduced peak hour traffic by 20 percentusing this approach.
While I admire the concept, cars are perhaps the least energy-efficient mode of transportation.Often, a family can only afford a single vehicle, and it is purchased based on the worst-case scenario.A friend of mine has only two children, but a sever-person mini-van that gets only 17 MPG. Why suchan energy-inefficient vehicle? Because she occasionally drives her daughter and her friends tosoccer practice, and that represents the worst-case scenario, minimizing the parent/child ratio. Theother 99 percent of the time, she is driving by herself, or with one child, and consuming a lot ofgasoline in the process.
A better approach would be to find technology that connects airports, trains, buses and light rail forpublic transportation to greatly reduce the need to drive a car in the first place.
The idea that a family can have only one vehicle plays in the storage arena as well. Larger companiescan afford to have different storage for different workloads. The IBM System Storage DS8000 high-end disk system for their large OLTP anddatabase workloads, an XIV Nextra for their Web 2.0 storage needs, DR550 to hold their compliance data,and so on. Smaller companies are often tasked to find a single solution for all their needs, andfor them, IBM offers the IBM System Storage N series, providing a "unified storage" platform.
Increased dependence on cell phones
Before the cell phone, the last don't-leave-home-without-it technology most of us carried was the credit card. Now, IBM predicts that we will be even more dependent on our cell phones, becoming our banker, ticket broker, and shopping buddy.For example, you could use your cell phone to take a picture of a shirt at the mall, and it will then show you what youwould look like wearing that shirt, on a 3-D avatar representation of yourself, or perhaps your spouse, and getinformation on what discounts are available, or where else the shirt is being offered.
None of this example actually uses the "phone" part of the cell phone, however the cell phone is one device thatnearly everyone carries, so it becomes the development platform for all other technologies to be based on.
The common theme running through these is that it can be helpful to store more information than we do today,provided we make it accessible to the people who need it to make better decisions.