IBM’s 5 in 5 List for 2013: Humans and Computers Become Smarter Together

IBM 5in5 2013Every year around this time, the IBM Research team publishes a list called “5 in 5”.   The list is based on research into market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Research labs around the world.  As a foresight analyst, I love these annual lists as it’s a little bit of trends research readout and a little bit of scenario planning that’s all designed to get people thinking and talking about how our lives will be transformed in the near future by technologies that are being developed today.

This year’s IBM 5 in 5 explores the idea that humans and computers will become smarter together and as a result of learning insights from the vast amounts of data.  The 2013 5 In 5 lists explore scenarios in education, retail, healthcare, security and our cities.   IBM says that in the future, everything will learn – driven by a new era of cognitive systems where machines will learn, reason and engage with us in a more natural and personalized way. These innovations are already beginning to emerge, enabled by cloud computing, big data analytics and learning technologies all coming together. Over time, these computers will get smarter and more customized through interactions with data, devices and us.  Humans and computers will learn faster and the result will be that we will be able to solve previously unsolvable problems in education, retail, healthcare, security and our cities.

So this year’s 5 in 5 from IBM is as follows

1. The Classroom Will Learn You.    IBM says that the classroom of the future will give educators the tools to learn about every student, providing them with a tailored curriculum from kindergarten to high school and on to employment. In the next five years the classroom will learn about each student using longitudinal data such as test scores, attendance and student’s behavior on e-learning platforms, not just aptitude tests.  Sophisticated analytics delivered over the cloud will provide decision support to teachers so they can predict students who are most at risk, their roadblocks, and then suggest measures to help students conquer their challenges based on their individual learning style.  For more, read the full story around “The Classroom Will Learn You” 
2. Buying Local Will Beat Online.   Today, most physical stores are limited to the insights they can gain at the point of sale – and the trend of showrooming is making it harder to compete with online retailers who compete solely on price.  IBM says that In five years, new innovations will make buying local du jour once again.  Savvy retailers will use the immediacy of the store and proximity to customers to create experiences that cannot be replicated by online-only retail.  They will magnify the digital experience by bringing the web right to where the shopper can physically touch it.   For more, read the full story around “Buying Local Will Beat Online” 
3. Doctors Will Routinely Use Your DNA To Keep You Well.   Imagine if treatment could be more specific and precise – where computers could help doctors understand how a tumor affects a patient down to their DNA and present a collective set of medications shown to best attack the cancer.   IBM is predicting that in five years, advances in big data analytics and emerging cloud-based cognitive systems coupled with breakthroughs in genomic research and testing could help doctors to accurately diagnose cancer and create personalized cancer treatment plans for millions of patients around the world.  Smart machines will take the output of full genome sequencing and scour vast repositories of medical records and publications to learn and quickly provide specific and actionable insights on treatment options for oncologists.  For more, read the full story around “Doctors Will Routinely Use Your DNA To Keep You Well”    
4. A Digital Guardian Will Protect You Online.  IBM says that by 2019, each of us could be protected with our own digital guardian that will become trained to focus on our digital and physical assets, offering a new level of identity theft protection. Security will assimilate contextual, situational and historical data to verify a person’s identity on different devices. By learning about users, a digital guardian can make inferences about what’s normal or reasonable activity and what’s not, acting as an advisor when they want it to.  For more, read the full story around “A Digital Guardian Will Protect You Online”     
5. The City Will Help You Live In It.    IBM has been leading the discussion around Smarter Cities  for about five years.   IBM is saying now that within five years Smarter Cities will be able to react more in real time.  Computers will learn to understand what people need, what they like, what they do, and how they move from place to place.   Soon it will be possible for cities and their leaders to understand and digest new information freely provided by citizens, knowing which city resources are needed, where and when, so the city can dynamically optimize around the needs of the citizens.   For more, read the full story around “The City Will Help you Live In It”.

There is much more content for you to learn more about each one of the 5 in 5 prediction scenarios.   For more information, you can check out

And, if you want to, you can explore all the past lists of IBM 5 in 5 projects and how those technologies have progressed since appearing on the list.  For that go to Five in Five—where are they now?