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What tech advances will change our lives in the next 5 years?

Posting in Energy

Will we see commercial mind reading, an end to the digital divide and junk mail becoming priority mail in the next five years?

IBM has released its annual tech predictions, suggesting radical changes in security, mobility and energy will alter our lives by 2017. This year, the business solutions firm believes that social and market trends will result in a number of technological innovations that will change our daily lives. A run-down of the 2012 multi-year trends are below:

1.) Energy: People power will come to life. IBM predicts that not only may Kinect technology explode, and potentially "The Internet of Things" -- the connection of the world around you to online networks -- increase, but energy generation will be boosted worldwide. From using the water in your plumbing to attaching devices to bicycles for energy generation, finding renewable sources of energy will become a distinct area for innovation.

See also: Toyota's Smart Insect car adapts, 'learns' and says helloMan hacks Kinect to assist stroke victimHow a $5 gravity-powered LED could revolutionize cheap lighting

2.) Security: You will never need a password again. "Multifactor biometrics" might sound like something out of Star Trek, but in reality, the biometrics field is developing at a rapid rate. It may be something of an inaccurate art at the moment, but the ability to use retina scans, fingerprints and voice verification may end up replacing the humble password in years to come.

See also: Top 25 common, hackable passwords: 'qwerty', 'ninja', 'jesus'The $1 billion opportunity in cyber securityWhy nothing is private: How the FBI can read your emailsFTC creates guidelines for facial recognition technology use

3.) Mind reading: no longer science fiction. Hand-written letters and the typewriter have fallen from grace, and speaking on the telephone may be heading in the same direction. However, rather than keying in a number or using voice-activated assistants on your smartphone, what if you could simply "think" about calling someone and it happens? IBM thinks this is not only could become a factor in our daily lives, but such technology could be used to help understand brain disorders including autism.

See also: Brain implant improves thinking in monkeys. Are humans next?Shock yourself with electricity to find your inner savantOnline security with the rhythm of your heart

4.) Mobile: The digital divide will cease to exist. The use of mobile phones in the information-accessibility gap in disadvantaged areas -- restrained by economic woes or remote locations -- may be eradicated once and for all. Cheap communications technology, remote healthcare and recorded messages to deliver information to those who are illiterate are some of the steps innovation may take in the next five years.

See also: Confronting the end of 'offline'How many homeless youth use social networks?Can you read this? You're one of the lucky ones

5.) Analytics: Junk mail will become priority mail. Can we really imagine a future where junk mail, phishing scams and the latest message about a prince in Africa who needs you to accept $1 million into your bank account have any use? Apparently so. The use of analytics technology to proactively separate the junk and emails you have no interest in could potentially be used to present only the information you want -- and nothing else.

See also: Spam: How does it affect carbon emissions?

What do you think we'll see in the next five years?

Image credit: Andrew Basterfield

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— By on December 12, 2012, 7:21 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure