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?

New Transportation Study Says Urban Sprawl Causes Congestion

Driven Apart For years now, The Urban Mobility Report, issued every two years by the Texas Transportation Institute, has been regarded by many transportation and urban planning experts as the ‘bible’ on traffic congestion issues.   The report has been used to justify large road improvement projects throughout the country in an attempt to solve major metropolitan traffic congestion problems.

However, a new report from CEOs for Cities offers a dramatic critique of the 25 year old industry standard created by the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report (UMR).  The report provides a new look at traffic congestion and suggests there are additional reasons why  Americans spend so much time in traffic.  The report

The new report titled Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse says the solution to the congestion problem has much more to do with how we build our cities than how we build our roads.  The report says that we need new metrics like 'total trip distance’ and ‘total travel time’, metrics that are not currently in the The Urban Mobility Report.

The report ranks how long residents in the nation’s largest 51 metropolitan areas spend in peak hour traffic, and in some cases the rankings are almost the opposite of those listed in the 2009
Urban Mobility Report.  Here’s a list from the report of the 10 cities (out of the 51 studied) where commuters spend the most time getting to work every day. 

Cities Avg. hours per year in traffic
Detroit – Warren – Livonia 179
Indianapolis – Carmel 166
Louisville / Jefferson County 165
Raleigh – Cary 161
Birmingham – Hoover 159
Oklahoma City 154
St. Louis 153
Memphis 152
Richmond 147
Kansas City 142

The report says that compact cities are the real answer to reducing traffic delays.  The key is to have land use patterns and transportation systems that enable their residents to take
shorter trips and minimize the burden of peak hour travel.   These conclusions are very different than those of the UMR, which has long been used to measure traffic congestion and has been used to justify road improvement projects costing millions of dollars.

It’s nice to have a fresh look at the traffic congestion issue.  Thanks CEO for Cities!

For more information, you can access the report (exec summary AND the detailed report) and supporting press release, graphics, etc. by heading over to http://www.ceosforcities.org/work/driven-apart

IBM and SeeClickFix: A Social Collaboration Challenge on the Smarter Cities Scan

seeclickfix challenge

Are you aware of some non-emergency issues going on in your community that if fixed that could help improve the quality of life in your town?  Some examples might be:

  • A dangerous intersection for pedestrians
  • A bike lane that is always blocked
  • An area that always floods whenever it rains
  • A building with broken windows
  • A vacant lot that needs to be cleaned up
  • Potholes on a certain street that never get fixed
  • Cracked sidewalks that need to be fixed
  • Unsafe activity going on in your neighborhood

The SeeClickFix Challenge:

There’s a very interesting crowdsourcing effort going on I thought you might be interested in checking out.  The folks at SeeClickFix have partnered up with IBM’s Smarter Cities Scan in an effort called the “SeeClickFix Challenge on the Smarter Cities Scan”

SeeClickFix empowers residents to actively care for and improve their neighborhoods by engaging them to report on things they think needs to be ‘fixed’ by posting information of those things on the web.  Residents pinpoint the exact location on a map and can upload pictures of the problem.  The IBM Smarter Cities Scan team recognized this service as a novel approach to help us all improve the cities we live in.  So the two teams are now partnering in this unique social collaboration challenge.  The crowdsourcing effort will run from February 8-21 on the Smarter Cities Scan.   And you can participate!

How You Can Participate:

  1. See – spot a non-emergency issue in your neighborhood, go to http://seeclickfix.com/citizens and enter your city name to begin the process
  2. Click – “Report an Issue” to open a ticket describing the issue and what can be done to resolve it
  3. Fix  – Monitor your ticket and the issue you reported to see how your city responded.
  4. Share – Go back to the Smarter Cities Scan site and report on your SeeClickFix experience by sharing your SeeClickFix story.   We want to understand how citizens and  communities put SeeClickFix to new uses in all urban environments.  In the process perhaps we can generate some new ideas on how to make our cities better places to live in.  So please share your story!!

I just entered my first ‘problem’ into the SeeClickFix database for my community and found the process easy.  There’s a walking/bike path in my community that needs repairing in a certain spot.  It is not paved and doesn’t drain well…so it gets all muddy.  The path is just a few feet from a 50mph road and I am worried some runner or biker will slip and fall into traffic. 

Want More Information?

Spread The News!

The more people we have contributing stories, the more we all learn in the process.  Help publicize this collaboration challenge to your social networks via email, Facebook, and Twitter (use tag #seeclickfix).  And If you blog, consider authoring a post about this challenge as I have done here.

IBM IdeaWatch: Innovative Thought Leadership On Intelligent Computing For A Smarter Planet

IBM IdeaWatch I subscribe to IdeaWatch, a monthly e-newsletter sent out by IBM’s Institute for Business Value team.  The newsletter always provides interesting articles.   The articles contain strategic insights and recommendations based on research that IBM’s Institute for Business Value team of analysts and consultants regularly perform.  The articles help me stay informed on the critical issues facing business leaders. 

Today I opened the most recently newsletter in my in-basket.  You can see the full online version at IdeaWatch.  Here’s a list of the articles in the current issue:

As mentioned above, you can access the current version of the e-newsletter online at IdeaWatch.  From that page you can also access all the previous issues.

If you are not yet subscribing to this monthly e-newsletter, I encourage you to do so.  It’s a nice monthly digest that provides with current thought leadership content. To subscribe, you’ll need to go to the subscription center for IBM e-newsletters https://www-931.ibm.com/bin/subscriptions/welcome.cgi?cl=ZZEN and once you register with your email id, you’ll be presented with a list of e-newsletters.   Look for IdeaWatch: Business Perspectives from IBM Global Business Services and select it to subscribe.

IBM: 5 Innovations That Will Impact Us Within 5 Years

IBM 5 in 5 The world is experiencing unprecedented urbanization.  Last year marked the first time in history that the majority of the world’s population was residing in cities.  This trend is not stopping and will have huge implications for our large urban environments we call home.  So what can be done to make our cities economically, socially and technologically healthy–and keep them that way?

IBM recently unveiled a list of 5 innovations that will have the potential to change how people live, work and play in cities around the globe over the next five years.  The following text provides a summary and there is a 3 minute video embedded below…

IBM’s Next 5 in 5…

1) Cities will have healthier immune systems:  Because of population densities, cities will remain hotbeds of communicable diseases.  By standardizing methods for sharing health information and analyzing disease outbreaks, public health officials will know precisely when, where and how diseases are spreading.

2) City buildings will sense and respond like living organisms:   The technology that manages building facilities "will operate like a living organism that can sense and respond quickly." Thousands of sensors inside buildings will monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, occupancy and light.  These smart buildings will enable repairs to be made before something breaks, will help emergency units respond quickly, and will let people and companies monitor their energy consumption and carbon emission in real-time.

3) Cars and city buses will run on empty:   IBM predicts that improved battery technology will power the next generation of eco-friendly vehicles. It says the new batteries won’t need to be recharged for days or months at a time (depending on how often the vehicles are driven) and will allow trips of 300 to 500 miles on a single charge.  Also smart grids in cities will allow vehicles to be charged in public places using renewable energy, such as wind power, for charging so they no longer rely on coal-powered plants.

4) Smarter systems will quench cities' thirst for water and save energy:  To deal with the estimate that demand for water is expected to increase sixfold in the next 50 years cities will install smarter water systems to reduce water waste by up to 50 percent.  Smart sewer systems will also be installed that not only prevent run-off pollution in rivers and lakes, but purify water to make it drinkable.  Plus, interactive meters and sensors will provide people with real time, accurate information about their water consumption. 

5) Cities will respond to a crisis:  Even before receiving an emergency phone call. In support of the news:  IBM is helping law enforcement agencies analyze information so they can anticipate crime and be ready to respond when it happens.  Also the New York Fire Department has selected IBM to build a state-of-the-art system for collecting and sharing data in real-time and the company is also designing smart levee systems to prevent cities from devastating floods. 

A common denominator in all five of these innovations is a sophisticated data analytics capability that can take volumes of data, perform modeling and simulation on that data, and turn it into actionable insights for decision makers.  Five years could be an optimistic time frame for a few of these, but in this case, I think a little optimism helps to push the envelope on research and development of the innovations.

Watch the 3 minute video….

Read up more on IBM’s Next 5 in 5

A Unique CrowdSourcing Event: The Smarter Cities Scan

Smarter CitiesDo you live in a large urban city or in one of the sprawling suburban environments on the fringes of a large city?

I wanted to make you aware of a really interesting collaboration / social media project launched recently in support of the Smarter Cities effort.  And I wanted to ask for you to participate if you have some time…and/or…ask you to invite people in your network that might want to participate.  Anyone interested in improving the quality of life in large / sprawling urban environments is invited to participate. 

The social media brainstorming project is called the Smarter Cities Scan (http://smartercities.tumblr.com).

For this exercise in collaborative innovation and hive intelligence to succeed, significant numbers of people need to contribute their diverse thinking over the next few months.  That will generate the very large, complex data set that can then be analyzed and processed into a useful model that can then be used to improve urban environments. 

You can find more information on how to participate is attached below.  For more detail behind this project, you can point people to this post   The Smart Cities Scan:  Let's build an open model with shared imagination and deep analytics

How to participate in the Smart Cities Scan

  • From the homepage – http://smartercities.tumblr.com – simply click on Post Your Ideas to start contributing images, video, links, quotes, text or any combination of all of these.  You can even  submit a post by email, or via a mobile phone, by sending your thoughts and ideas to smarterplanet@tumblr.com.
  • You don’t need to have a Tumblr account to submit a post, but please include your city and country and any descriptive tags at the bottom of your post so that your ideas can be tagged for others to find. You can also easily create a free Tumblr account if you like this easy-to-use, multimedia microblogging tool.
  • You‘re always free to scan all posts, search on topics and tags, soak up some of Smarter Cities background and inspiration material in the about section, or find answers in our Help & FAQ section. 

If you want more information, send any suggestions, questions or problems to smarterplanet@tumblr.com

Thoughts on Water Management

Though it's a worldwide entity, water is treated as a regional issue.  There is no global market and very little international  exchange.

Addressing environmental challenges will require public-private partnerships.  Consider water, a poorly understood and often wasted and mismanaged resource.  Our global agriculture system wastes an estimated 60% of the 2,500 trillion liters it uses each year. Municipalities lose as much as 50% of their water supply through leaky infrastructure.  And there are nearly 53,000 different water agencies in the U.S. alone, each managing a short stretch of river or a handful of reservoirs.  Despite the fact that water is a shared resource, there’s no coordination of data among these agencies and no holistic view of the entire water ecosystem, or its impact of human activity.  – Source:  Thoughts on Water Management from the Western Governor’s Association.WLDRN069

Water flows through everything – from the air, the land and our own bodies to the global economy.  In fact, every time a good or service is bought or sold, there is a virtual exchange of water.  It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt; 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk; and 10,500 gallons to make a car.  Though the total amount of water on this planet has never changed, the nature of that water is changing.  Everything from where rain falls to the chemical makeup of the oceans is in flux.   And these changes are forcing us to ask some very difficult questions about how and where we live and do business.

As water management issues continue to mount and costs continue to increase, information technology and collaborative innovation will play an instrumental role helping communities, businesses, and governments deal with the tremendous complexity ahead. The combination of volumes of data, the need for mining across different and new data types and the demand for real-time responses requires a new kind of water management intelligence and models that encompasses scalable, statistical algorithms, and massively parallel approaches.

Some links for those of you interested in water management

8 Emerging CleanTech Investment Areas

A new report is claiming that, with an aggressive infrastructure investment, eight emerging technologies could meet 60 % of new energy demand by 2020.  It is also claiming that we could abate more CO2 than is necessary for climate stabilization in just 10 years.  

The report, titled  "The Gigaton Throwdown", was developed with the support of many, many people who are tied to the cleantech industry.  The effort was led, in part, by Sunil Paul, who is a founder of Silicon Valley’s Spring Ventures.

The report estimates that if annual global private investment in cleantech tripled between now and 2020, clean energy investments would be in line with fossil-fuel investments.   It is a lofty goal, but the authors say that if we are able to shift investment into ready cleantech solutions, the results would be world changing:  climate mitigation, energy security and 5 million new jobs planetwide.

The report highlights the eight emerging clean technology solution areas that are ready for investment and could yield the stated goals.

  1. Biofuels
  2. Building Efficiency
  3. Concentrating Solar Power
  4. Construction Materials
  5. Geothermal
  6. Nuclear
  7. Solar Photovoltaics
  8. Wind

According to the report each of the eight solutions listed above could feasibly deliver one giagaton of global energy, and each could avoid one gigaton of emissions from being discharged into the atmosphere by 2020, thus the idea for the name of the report.

Apparently the authors considered plug-in electric vehicles , but the projected adoption of this technology is predicted to be too slow to have an impact by 2020.

For more information:

Looking to 2050: Ten Challenges For The Human Race

Peter Schwartz is recognized internationally as a futurist and strategist.  He honed his skills at Royal Dutch/Shell Group in London, where he led a widely respected scenario planning effort.   He has written a number of interesting books about the future, including The Art of the Long View. 

This past May he gave the commencement address at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  During the address, he outlined ten longer term challenges for the human race as we look forward to the next 40-50 years.  He encouraged the graduates to come up with innovative solutions to these challenges. 

The top challenges Schwartz outlined are:

  1. Creating long-term solutions to meet our energy demands sustainably.
  2. Launching a bio-industrial revolution with sustainable manufacturing.
  3. Understanding and enhancing the human brain to avert age-related impairments.
  4. Improving agriculture to reduce costs and increase its energy and water efficiency.
  5. Building sustainable cities through better urban planning and "smart architecture”.
  6. Stimulating job growth and economic development.
  7. Fusing the technological with the spiritual and aesthetic dimensions of human culture.
  8. Advancing technological instruments to drive scientific discovery forward.
  9. Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution.
  10. Discovering new ways to lower the costs and environmental impact of space flight and development.  

The list above is an interesting list.  I am not sure that these are the top ten most important challenges, but each of the above ten are certainly important. 

Some comments…

  • Energy tops his list and it is hard to argue that it should not be there.  I can’t see the demand for energy going down anytime soon and we need to figure out how to transition to clean energy. 
  • Improving agriculture processes in developing nations will have have a significant impact on the economy and quality of life.
  • Building smarter and sustainable cities is a very large challenge as the number of megacities grow and grow.
  • Number 9 on his list, “Harnessing biological tools to advance human evolution” sounds both scary and beneficial at the same time.
  • Regarding number 10, with announced plans to go back to the moon and to Mars, we will need innovative ways to travel through space and live at the destinations we travel to.

It is worth pointing out that many on the list kind of fall under the push for a smarter planet.

If you want to read a transcript of Peter Schwartz’s commencement address, check out http://news.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=2585

Can you think of any other challenges Schwartz’s list?  The only one that comes to my mind right now is the never ending desire to live in a world free from war and conflict, but I don’t suppose for one minute that that will be solved in the next 40-50 years.

Smarter Planet: Billions of Sensors Tweeting

Innovation often occurs at the intersection of two points.  In this case, the intersection of Sensors and Twitter.

  • Fact:  There are billions of sensors today.  More and more of them are becoming embedded into our infrastructure, the products we use….and thus our daily lives.
  • Fact:  Twitter is here to stay.  More and more people are finding out that Twitter is more than just a consumer tool.  There are potential reasons to use it for productive purposes.

Consider the following early applications:

1) Letting you know the exact moment a Ferry has left or arrived at a dock.  http://twitter.com/Red_Ferries

2) Letting you know exactly where a Telescope is pointed now.  http://twitter.com/Lovelltelescope

3) Letting you know the Temperature or humidity at a certain site:  http://twitter.com/tempcontiki

4) Letting you know when your laundry is done  http://twitter.com/pimpy3wash

5) Letting you know when your plant needs watering  http://twitter.com/pothos

6) Letting you how much energy you are using  http://twitter.com/tweetawatt

7) Knowing when a bridge is up or down  http://twitter.com/towerbridge

8) Keep track of high and low tide http://twitter.com/riverthames

9) Keep a log of your training runs  See this post

10) Letting people know your heart is beeping.  See this post

11) Keep track of your cats http://twitter.com/GusAndPenny

In fact, Andy Stanford-Clarke, Master Inventor at IBM, uses his home to show how sensors can tweet.  (from a blog post titled BBC – dot.life: Things that tweet)

Do we all understand where this is going?  Billion’s of sensors ‘tweeting’ to the ‘Computing Cloud’ (hopefully not something like (Skynet)where software agents monitor, analyze, and act upon these tweets based on pre-determined preferences.  The tweets are saved in a history file for us to review at anytime, so we always know what happened when. 

Just spend a few minutes and imagine how a city-wide sensor network could make that city smarter.  It becomes very similar to our own central nervous system, right?

Smarter Fire Departments = Smarter Cities

On page 18 of the Fire Department of New York’s 2009 – 2010 Strategic Plan, we find the text quoted below.

Develop a comprehensive data analysis system that will improve the efficiencies and effectiveness of a Coordinated Building Inspection and Data Analysis System (CBIDAS).  This risk-based inspection and computerized building safety program is one of the most important management initiatives in the modern history of the FDNY.   It will enable the FDNY to concentrate its fire prevention resources on the buildings and neighborhoods facing the greatest risk of serious fires.

As announced earlier this year, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) and IBM will build a “smart” system for collecting and sharing data in real-time that can prevent fires and help protect firefighters and other first responders when a fire does occur.

FDNY's new Coordinated Building Inspection and Data Analysis System (CBIDAS) will use technology found in business intelligence approaches to anticipate potential fire risks, analyze possible impacts, and improve processes such as collecting and disseminating data on building inspection, permits and violations that can reduce risks.

"This technology will allow us to shift to a risk-based inspection system that will prevent fires and improve public safety.  Combining different existing databases, and linking them with those of other city agencies such as the Department of Buildings, will dramatically improve the information available to our firefighters and result in a smarter, more productive inspection program."  – Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta

An important element of the project will be better communication, improved sharing of information and coordination of fire inspection and site/building structure information.  That sharing will take place both within the FDNY and between the FDNY and city agencies such as Department of Buildings, Department of City Planning, and Department of Environmental Protection, as well as contractors.

Learn more:  Fire Department of New York Selects IBM for Intelligent Fire Safety System (press release)

$50k ITS Congestion Challenge

Have an innovative idea on how to solve traffic congestion?   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), in partnership with IBM and Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations (STCI), has launched a global challenge to identify innovative ideas for combating transportation congestion.

ITS America is challenging commuters, transportation experts, entrepreneurs and academic researchers to come up with the best ideas to reduce traffic congestion and lessen its economic and environmental impact.

At stake is a $50,000 prize presented at the 16th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Stockholm, Sweden, this September.  The winner will also receive the development support needed to put his or her idea to work.

Winning ideas are expected to focus on the following five areas:

  1. Speed and efficiency:  Using technology to reduce delays and transport people and goods efficiently and reliably.
  2. Behavioral impact:  Innovative ways to convince users to choose options that reduce congestion.
  3. Safety:  Preventing accidents, improving incident response and providing more timely, accurate transportation information.
  4. Sustainability:  Lowering energy use and emissions while actively managing traffic and reducing congestion.
  5. Economic competitiveness: Improve productivity through new technologies (e.g., wireless applications and mobility tools).

For additional information and to enter submissions, visit Join the ITS Congestion Challenge