In the next few years researchers envision a topsy-turvy future, where classrooms learn from their students rather than other way around and brick-and-mortar stores make a comeback after years of suppression.
Driving this thought is a wave of soon-to-be released supercomputers that will be designed with cognitive function, meaning they’ll be able to think, learn, even reason.
The revelations were unveiled this week in IBM's (IBM) “5 in 5” list, or five technologies it believes will drastically alter humanity over the next five years.
The list is based on the emergence of hyper-personalized technologies deriving from big data analytics, cloud computing and so-called “learning technologies.”
“IBM researchers are exploring the idea that everything will learn,” the company said.
These technological breakthroughs, it adds, will amplify human ability, assist in making good decisions and offer protection. In essence, they'll help people navigate the complex world in new powerful ways.
The idea is that in five years cloud-based learning systems will enable classrooms to create personalized lesson plans for systems based on their vastly different learning styles.
“Imagine a system that knows you’re a visual learner with a math phobia,” IBM says. “Not only will the classroom create a lesson plan to help you master algebra, it will preempt difficulties in calculus.”
In time, it says, teachers will be able to reach more students in more meaningful ways, ending the era of one-size-fits-all education and instead creating personalized, experiential learning.
With online sales reaching $1.0 trillion globally last year, local stores have been struggling to compete with the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN). But IBM believes that will all change within five years.
Smart mobile devices, from wearable technology to tablets, that tap cloud-based cognitive systems, will be able to learn about shopper’s personal preferences, it says.
The technology would enable customers to have personalized shopping experiences while still achieving the instant gratification of receiving purchased items instantaneously.
“Local shops will make online-only stores looking downright quaint,” Big Blue said. “As consumers share more personal information, they’ll see retail stores transform into immersive shopping destinations personalized just for them.”
From robots that can now conduct surgery to online medical records, technological advancements have already helped to modernize healthcare. But IBM believes doctors will soon be able to do much more using their patient’s DNA.
“In five years cancer will be treated down to a DNA level with treatment plans that will be more personalized and accurate,” it said.
Today, it may take several months to crunch a patient’s full DNA and formulate a targeted treatment. But soon sequencing DNA may take just hours or seconds, becoming the standard for treatment, IBM says.
Meanwhile, the cloud will enable smarter healthcare, helping doctors to access more information, faster, with fewer resources. That will enable them to create DNA-specific treatments for anything from strokes to heart disease.
With predictive analytics, crowdsourcing and other emerging technologies, cities will be able to actually adapt to the wants and needs of its citizens.
“As we speak to our cities, they will listen and become a direct reflection of all of us who live there,” the computer maker said.
Instead of fixed bus schedules, for example, monitoring systems that predict storms during rush hour will be able to dispatch more buses to meet an expected influx in demand.
Traffic, accidents and potholes would be reported immediately through traveler's mobile devices -- something already seen through the app Waze, which Google (GOOG) acquired this year for about $1.0 billion.
“Systems will connect billions of events in real time to anticipate movement and react to human preferences, patterns and demand,” IBM said. “By engaging citizens, city leaders will be able to respond directly to our needs and dynamically allocate resources.”
With cyber security becoming an unflinching threat (just take a look at the Black Friday Target (TGT) debacle), advanced security systems will be able to use powerful cloud-based analytics to create personalized defense systems.
With 12.6 million victims of identity fraud in the U.S. last year alone, this so-called guardian will be able to spot unusual patterns that could be precursors to cyber attacks, fraud or identity theft.
“Security is evolving from being based on rules like passwords to being automatic and based on who we are,” IBM said. “In time, security will be less a barrier than an enabler, made stronger by us just being us.”
This comes as many security experts begin questioning the traditional username/password mechanism, with hackers and fraudsters increasingly advancing their tactics.
Other solutions to this are biometrics, such as using a person's physical body -- eyeball scans, for instance -- or voices to unlock data.