At first blush, a lot of the predictions that IBM recently made concerning five major innovations we should expect to see within the next five years might seem a little outlandish.
However, systems that can read facial expressions, relevant data that will follow you anywhere, devices that automatically capture and renew energy, biometrics and pervasive mobile computing are all concepts that have been around in one form or another for quite some time. As Bernie Meyerson, an IBM fellow and vice president of innovation, notes, it's not the coming up of algorithms needed to create these technologies that represents the major challenge, but rather finding the way to deliver those technologies in a format that makes them economically viable to consume.
What IBM is really saying is that within the next five years, these technologies will have crossed an economic threshold that for the first time makes them affordable to deploy across a broad range of applications.
If you accept that premise, then the real challenge facing IT leaders is going to be maneuvering their organizations into a place that allows them to take advantage of these forthcoming changes before rivals can react. No one can say exactly for sure when any of these technologies may go mainstream, but if and when they do, their impact is sure to be profound.
The degree to which any of these technologies may transform society is also unknown. But if you believe that as an IT leader part of your job is to prepare your organization today for the future, then you might want to pay close attention to where IBM researchers say the world is going. After all, IBM researchers not only tend to have impressive pedigrees; they frequently have track records to back up almost any prediction they care to make.