The "next big thing" is coming - in five years time

If you’re a fan of technology management books then I’d be hard pressed to find a better one to suggest (at least for your top ten) than former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s “Only the Paranoid Survive”. Not only does Grove use his ramblings to describe his personal thoughts on the general IT memory and microprocessor industry maneuverings of the eighties, he also uses the book to officially coin his favourite phrase…

The Strategic Inflexion Point

In subsequent years, Grove’s term has been modified to describe “disruptive technology shifts” in a positive sense — and we can certainly see cloud computing, broadband proliferation and new touch-based GUI interactions as similarly strategic inflexions in their own right.

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Image courtesy of IBM press room

So if these so-called paradigm shifts tend to happen in the IT industry with regularity, just how often can we expect them to occur? If you are a developer or a systems integrator, when exactly should you be ready for the next big shake up?

The answer, generally speaking, is about twice a decade.

So if somebody asks you to put money down on when the next big thing is going to happen in IT, put a clever bet down on “oh, about five years” and you won’t be far wrong.

By no small coincidence we find that IBM has used its end of year press release quotient and not inconsiderable past track record in computing experience to once again lay down what it calls its annual “Next Five in Five” — a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. Simply put, these innovations are as follows:

· You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D holograms for real-time chats: Scientists are working to improve video chat to become holography chat – or “3-D telepresence.”

· Batteries will breathe air to power our devices: In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow your devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today — in some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices.

· You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet: In five years, sensors in your phone, your car, your wallet and even your tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-time picture of your environment. You’ll be able to contribute this data to fight global warming, save endangered species or track invasive plants or animals that threaten ecosystems around the world. In the next five years, a whole class of “citizen scientists” will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to create massive data sets for research.

· Your commute will be personalised: In the next five years, adaptive traffic systems will intuitively learn traveler patterns and behaviour to provide more dynamic travel safety and route information to travelers than is available today.

· Computers will help energise your city: Innovations in computers and data centres are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to do things like heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer.

Has IBM got it right? Well, some of it – probably. Will this impact the way we compute, develop and interoperate with technology? Well, some of it will – yes. Is the next big thing really only five years away? You bet it is.

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