IBM Predicts a Vastly Smarter Future

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    Every December, IBM makes a series of predictions tied to what it is seeing in the marketplace. This year, the firm has some interesting ones, from cities that become intelligent and, through technology, help citizens, to digital online guardians. As we move toward the end of the year, it is fun to talk about the firms that are looking forward.

    Your City Will Help You Live in It

    IBM is the most aggressive of any firm on its smarter initiatives and this blends into almost every prediction. The company actually has an initiative called “Smarter Cities,” so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it predicts that cities will get smarter. A smarter city helps you avoid traffic by telling you where it is and where to go, provides easy tools to help you make suggestions (like filling a pothole) and report progress (hopefully not in decades), and actively promotes retailers that do business in the city to draw in both local and outside tax revenues and customers. This IBM video helps explain how this smart city can work for its citizens.

    Buying Local Will Beat Online

    I’m not sure I fully buy this one, but IBM thinks local stores will knock out big online retailers by releasing a number of new services that will match prices, provide better delivery times, and blend in-store and digital experiences. Folks often browse a local store, only to buy online. But if local stores could both be more competitive and easier to transact with, they likely could take a lot of share from remote sellers like Amazon. The problem is that I’ve heard this said about small stores vs. Walmart and malls over the years, and that pushback rarely happens. We’ll see if technology, which really wasn’t part of the prior efforts, makes the difference IBM thinks it will.

    Digital Guardians Will Protect You Online

    Online transactions will be protected by a digital guardian who will assure the buyers’ identity and security, make sure that the seller is legitimate, and assure that the transaction itself is safe. It will give you running recommendations about the transaction before you commit. Everything from, “hey, you do know another vendor is a ton cheaper,” to “the hot Nigerian princess you are sending your life savings to probably is an old fat guy that just wants your money” is likely. The idea is that this digital guardian is keeping its eye on you even when, or especially when, you’re not really thinking. IBM says we can expect this sort of protection in about five years.

    Doctors Will Use DNA to Prevent Sickness

    This is especially cool and we are closer to this than you think. Doctors will be able to use DNA to come up with custom treatments for major illnesses like cancer. The remedies should be vastly more successful and far less risky than what is done today.  Some cancer centers are actually doing some of this now. I just lost both a sister-in-law and an uncle to cancer and this one really hit home for me.

    Classrooms Will Learn the Students

    People learn at different rates and favor different methods. Men, for instance, favor trial and error and hands on, while women (who suddenly seem smarter) want to be shown. Schools of the future will auto-orient courses to best match each individual student so that their full potential, whatever that is, can be reached. Those that are especially talented and those that are challenged can each reach full potential without being adversely hurt because there is no real average. Today, most courses are designed for the mythically average. This alone could change the U.S. from a scholastically lagging country to one that is again leading.

    Wrapping Up: In Five Years

    This future that IBM forecasts will be here in five short years. It will be a future where cities actively help citizens, where small retailers can compete with the giants, where digital guardian angels protect you, where doctors are vastly more capable of keeping you well, and where children can reach their full potential regardless of background or mental capacity. I expect most of this will actually come to pass and that gives us a future worth looking forward to. Thanks to IBM for providing these positive views of the future at this critical time.

    Rob Enderle
    Rob Enderle
    As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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