Sunday, January 13, 2008

IBM Predictions for the Future Spell Web 2.0 Business Opportunities Now

IBM has released their annual “Next Five In Five,” a set of predictions released at the end of each year, to predict where technology will take us in five years. http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/five_in_five/12312007/index.shtml

The December 2007 predictions, however, seem to have already come true, or, at least, be on the verge of coming true. Thus, as predictions, they are not as engaging as some of the futurist visions that discuss really radical new technologies and techniques. However, as indicators of where real business opportunities exist now and in the immediate future, IBM's predictions are pure gold.

The “Five in Five” is not quite the same, but is similar to another set of predictions issued by IBM. "Five Innovations that Could Change Your Life Over the Next Five Years," http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/five_in_five/010807/index.shtml which came from an IBM-sponsored distributed event, and virtual think tank.

Below are IBM's five predictions. I've added brief commentary as well as a list of possible opportunities that can be developed or expanded now.

1. Green Technologies for Everyday Life
"Smart technologies" will proliferate. According to IBM, the current trend to put timers and sensors on lights and electrical equipment will expand to the point that almost everything will have energy-saving elements, and many will utilize nanotechnology in the sensors and other design.


Business Opportunities Now:
---Sensors to control energy consumption
---Devices that have them (sellers and manufacturers)

2. Driving Patterns and Traffic Management

Yahoo Go! and Google Maps already provide information for handhelds. Numerous mashups can be downloaded that integrate traffic information with maps (such as Google maps). The opportunities exist to provide better coverage. They can also be helpful in reviewing real estate or driving conditions at a distance from one's handheld.


Business Opportunities Now:
---Info systems (web app that integrate with live information)
---Monitor that gather the information and feed them to a central database -- cell phones with GPS? OnStar nav systems?
---Companies that provide the services to install devices and monitoring systems / software

3. You Are What You Eat: Crop / Food tracking and reporting

According to IBM, all our food will be traceable, and we'll be able to find just where it was grown, processed, and warehoused. Honestly, there is nothing new in this -- all food has such information already. If it did not, how would we have been able to determine where the tainted spinach came from in the outbreak that occurred in 2006? However, according to IBM, the tracking information will extend to the types of soil, the nature of the farm environment, and the dates of transit.



Business Opportunities Now:
---Far beyond the barcode information // especially date
---Origin and provenance (soil, country, etc)
---Provenance and transport (processing and packaging)
---Agricultural industry can sell information to users
---Packaging manufacturers would design packaging to facilitate the new need
---Problem -- too much information for competitors?

4. Cell Phones Do Everything

According to the prediction, cell phones will be personal assistants that will do everything from find maps, deliver email, allow you to see ratings for a restaurant, share videos, and post directly to social networking sites.



As we all know, that prediction has come true. In fact, just yesterday, I used my Blackberry Curve (with service provided by T-Mobile) to find the street address of Kyoto's, a restaurant in Reno, Nevada, where I was to meet for lunch. I used Yahoo Go! to enter the name of the restaurant and the town. I obtained the street address, found a map, and also even found some ratings and customer comments regarding their sushi. I was able to avoid a traffic accident on one of the streets on the way to the restaurant, thanks to Based on that information, I found the restaurant, and then ordered the sushi sampler. The ahi sashimi looked good, so I will probably try that next time. I could have filmed a movie of it and posted it directly to my YouTube account or as a video comment on Yahoo Go!, but decided against it. I was afraid I would dribble soy sauce on my white blouse.

Business Opportunities Now:
---Marketing portals that are cell-phone / smartphone friendly
---Packages to help businesses meet the needs of their cell phone-based customers
---Packages to help vendors, businesses, and consumers input information in many fields (rating restaurants, providing maps, etc.)
---Packages to help consumers decode all the information and use it
---Effective ads etc for cell phone display

5. Doctors will use super-scans to analyze patients.

Needless to say, this is also a prediction that has already come true. It is useful to see, though, that IBM expects the trend to continue and the information to become more portable, more user-friendly, and -- well, potentially more dangerous.



Business Opportunities Now:
---Technologies that help enhance imaging
---Computer programs that help display more effective models
---Medical technology companies creating diagnostic tests
---Insurance and pharmaceutical companies (ways to use the info)
---Target market for certain treatments and medicines
---Privacy / encryption devices -- my personal feeling is that if it gets to the point that one can do a scan of a person without one's permission (remote scans at at distance, or even at places such as airports), it might be useful to have an internal device that scrambles the scan -- a kind of portable force-field. It would also be helpful to be able to encrypt the information once it is obtained.

In many ways, the predictions have already come true. The predictions are useful, nevertheless, because it is possible to gauge the nature and direction of trends, as well as their volume and impact. In addition, it's possible to identify where and how one might take advantage of opportunities to develop new products and services.

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