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IBM Tech Growth Predictions: Energy, Biometrics, Mind Reading, Mobile, Junk Mail | ABC News

Who would have guessed, five years ago, that by 2011 we would have mobile phones that would, in a rudimentary way, listen to our questions and give us useful answers? Or ways for doctors to get help to people in the most remote corners of the world?

Crystal-ball forecasts, fanciful or otherwise, are a staple of year-end conversations, but IBM, the computer-services giant, has a research arm that makes them as a matter of course. Every December, it puts out a "5 in 5" list -- five predictions for the next five years. The company says it is a way to solve major societal problems, identify business opportunities, and, while they're at it, get people talking.

"It's a very good test of our ability to see forward in a holistic way," said Bernard Meyerson, IBM's vice president of innovation, who talked about how engineers, economists, marketers and others may all be involved in a multi-billion-dollar project. "You cannot survive long-term if you just concentrate on just one part of a problem. You'll get run over."

How good have their past predictions been? IBM says two of its five predictions from five years ago -- telemedicine and nanotechnology for environmental needs -- panned out, others less so (you still drive your car the same way, for instance).

"Not everything will work," said Meyerson, "but you'll be astounded how well you do if you work at it."

Keeping score, though, is a little beside the point; setting goals for the future is more like it. So here is IBM's list of "the next 5 in 5."

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