Artificial intelligence (AI), hyperimaging, macroscopes and smart sensors are some of the biggest innovations that will help change our lives within five years, according to IBM’s annual ‘5 in 5’ vision.

The IBM 5 in 5 lists ground-breaking scientific innovations which have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s research labs around the world.

Al provides window into mental health

In five years, what we say and write will be used as indicators of our mental health and physical wellbeing. Patterns in our speech and writing analysed by new cognitive systems will provide tell-tale signs of early-stage developmental disorders, mental illness and degenerative neurological diseases that can help doctors and patients better predict, monitor and track these conditions.

IBM plans to apply cognitive computers to analyse a patient’s speech or written words to look for tell-tale indicators found in language, including meaning, syntax and intonation with the goal of identifying patterns that have diagnostic value.

Combining the results of these measurements with those from wearable devices and imaging systems, and collected in a secure network, can paint a more complete picture of the individual for health professionals to better identify, understand and treat the underlying disease.

Hyperimaging and Al will give us superhero vision

IBM is working on a hyperimaging tool that combines information from across the electromagnetic spectrum combining multiple bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, to reveal valuable insights or potential dangers that would otherwise be unknown or hidden from view.

In five years, new imaging devices using hyperimaging technology and AI will help people see broadly beyond the domain of visible light. Most importantly, IBM says, these devices will be portable, affordable and accessible, so superhero vision can be part of our everyday experiences.

Big-data unlocks insights from the Internet of Things (IoT)

There are more than six billion connected devices generating tens of exabytes of data and thanks to IoT, new sources of data are pouring in from millions of connected objects – from refrigerators, heart rate monitors, remote sensors and more.

IBM calls it the “macroscope” and they envision it as a system that can aggregate, organise and analyse vast quantities of data that will increase our understanding of planetary ecosystems.

IBM researchers are using an early version of the macroscope in partnership with the Gallo Winery to integrate “irrigation, soil and weather data with satellite images and other sensor data to predict the specific irrigation needed to produce an optimal grape yield and quality.”

Labs “on a chip” technology for early disease detection

IBM is working on new medical labs “on a chip” which will serve as nanotechnology health detectives – tracing invisible clues in bodily fluids. The goal is to shrink down to a single silicon chip all of the processes necessary to analyse a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.

The technology could be packaged in a 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. These particles could be analysed to potentially reveal the presence of disease even before symptoms occur.

Smart sensors that process data at the speed of light

IBM is developing silicon photonic technology that enables data transfer at the speed of light. The technology is intended for deployment near natural gas extraction wells, around storage facilities, and along distribution pipelines, that will enable the industry to pinpoint invisible leaks in real-time.

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.

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