IBM releases fifth annual “Next Five in Five“ list of near-term significant innovations; personalized routing for commuting/transportation makes the cut
IBM unveiled the fifth 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. Of the five, only one is directly transportation-related: Commuters will be able to quickly access personalized recommendations that help them avoid the congestion issues they routinely face and help them get where they need to go in the fastest time.
Also on the list of five is the arrival of advanced batteries, including air batteries (e.g., Lithium air), but targeted initially at small devices. IBM and its partners have launched a multi-year research initiative exploring rechargeable Li-air systems for transportation—The Battery 500 Project (earlier post)—but are viewing it in terms of a multi-decade development cycle. (Earlier post.)
The Next Five in Five is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible. The full list of five is:
- Your commute will be personalized
- Batteries will breathe air to power our devices
- You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D
- You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet
- Computers will help energize your city
Personalized routing. In the next five years, IBM says, commuters will be able to quickly access personalized recommendations that help them avoid the congestion issues they routinely face and help them get where they need to go in the fastest time. Transportation agencies and city planners will be able to proactively design, manage and optimize transportation systems to more seamlessly handle ever-increasing traffic.
As examples of efforts to improve commuting by analyzing patterns in traffic, IBM cites:
The “Smarter Traveler” research initiative is exploring how to build personalized, congestion-free travel routes for commuters and help transportation agencies better understand and manage traffic, ultimately creating safer roads with less gridlock and reducing carbon emissions. More than just monitoring data collected from sensors in roads, toll booths, bridges and intersections, IBM scientists are using new mathematical models and predictive analytics technologies to analyze and understand all of the possible scenarios that can affect commuters, developing adaptive traffic systems that will intuitively learn traveler patterns and behavior to provide more dynamic travel safety and route information to travelers than is available today.
Researchers have developed a first-of-its-kind predictive analytics tool called the IBM Traffic Prediction Tool (TPT) that analyzes and combines multiple possible scenarios such as traffic accidents, commuter locations and expected travel start times that can affect commuters on highways, rail lines and urban roads. The TPT offers future traffic forecasts for up to 60 minutes in advance, giving transportation operations the ability to quickly respond to potential issues and solve issues before commuters get stuck in a traffic jam.
In collaboration with Chinese universities, scientists at IBM Research-China are using advanced analytics, network optimization and simulation technologies to understand the flows of current traffic patterns and model the best actions to take to resolve the increasing burdens on travelers and urban transportation systems. Combining data from a variety of transportation sources—road networks, cars, buses and trains, road construction and accidents, on-board devices, mobile phones—with different traffic models helps the researchers better understand constantly fluctuating amounts of vehicles on the road and the optimal travel routes are. This will result in implementing policies that can help mitigate the congestion that commuters encounter every day.
In the Chinese province of Liaoning, officials are challenged by a rapid growth of automobile use and mixed road use that includes pedestrian and bicycle traffic alongside cars. Scientists from IBM Research - China and other experts across IBM are developing new insights into traffic and predictions that will serve as the foundation for new transportation services to deal with this complex environment. These advances—such as bus arrival prediction and dynamic route guidance—can help lower commuting time, improve service across their public transportation system and decrease carbon emissions.
Because the software in cars is becoming more sophisticated, the car is becoming a moving sensor on the road. Combining that with the sensor networks often found in roads and highways could mean that drivers can seamlessly avoid the accident and traffic jam that is just a few miles and minutes ahead with minimal or no delay. Researchers have patented a method that combines information from roads and current traffic conditions with a commuter’s regular driving patterns to automatically recalculate your route and give several alternatives to get to a destination for on time arrival. In the future, the sensor networks in the roads and the sensors in your car will communicate with each other and, through an algorithm on the fly, automatically give drivers several alternatives through their in-car GPS, smart phone or opt-in service to get to work on time.
Kyoto University and IBM Research - Tokyo have developed a system that can simulate a broad range of urban transport situations involving millions of vehicles. It can show modification of existing traffic laws or a minor alteration in the timing or frequency of traffic signals and signs. These large-scale, high-speed simulations provide real-time analysis of traffic status, levels of carbon dioxide emission, traffic volume and travel time throughout a metropolitan area. It can also help urban planners predict what will happen and how to address congestion when a new office building, sports arena or other major facility is built.
IBM and Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the largest university-based transportation research agency in the US, are collaborating on research and development of intelligent transportation projects in Texas and beyond. Together, the collaboration will provide the opportunity for proofs-of-concept and extensive pilot deployments at the state and regional level to solve common commuter headaches.
Batteries will breathe air. In the next five years, scientific advances in transistors and battery technology will allow devices to last about 10 times longer than they do today, IBM says. In some cases, batteries may disappear altogether in smaller devices.
Batteries today have a number of problems, chiefly, the heavy metal-oxides used inside the battery greatly limit the amount of energy it can store, IBM notes. Instead of the heavy lithium-ion batteries used today, scientists are working on batteries that use the air to react with energy-dense metal, eliminating a key inhibitor to longer lasting batteries. If successful, the result will be a lightweight, powerful and rechargeable battery capable of powering for everything from electric cars to consumer devices.
However, in some devices, batteries might be eliminated completely. The European Union is investing $5.5 million in a project that is rethinking the basic building block of electronic devices: the transistor. The three-year project is called Steeper and the goal is to reduce the amount of energy per transistor to less than 0.5v. With energy demands this low, some devices such as mobile phones or e-readers might be able to avoid using a battery at all.
In today’s transistor, energy is constantly leaking or being lost or wasted in the off-state. For the first time, IBM scientists will use III-V semiconducting nanowires to stop this leak.
The result would be battery-free electronic devices that can be charged using a technique called energy scavenging. Some wrist watches use this today—they require no winding and charge based on the movement of the wearer’s arm. The same concept could be used to charge mobile phones for example—i.e., shake and dial.
You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D. In the next five years, 3-D interfaces will let users interact with 3-D holograms of their friends in real time. Movies and TVs are already moving to 3-D, IBM says, and as 3-D and holographic cameras get more sophisticated and miniaturized to fit into cell phones, users will be able to interact with photos, browse the Web and chat with friends in entirely new ways.
Scientists at IBM Research are working on new ways to visualize 3-D data, working on technology that would allow engineers to step inside designs of everything from buildings to software programs, running simulations of how diseases spread across interactive 3-D globes, and visualizing trends happening around the world on Twitter—all in real time and with little to no distortion.
You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet. People are becoming walking sensors. In five years, sensors in phones, cars, wallets and even tweets will collect data that will give scientists a real-time picture of the environment. In the next five years, IBM says, a whole class of “citizen scientists” will emerge, using simple sensors that already exist to create massive data sets for research.
Computers will help energize your city. Innovations in computers and data centers are enabling the excessive heat and energy that they give off to be used to heat buildings in the winter and power air conditioning in the summer.
Up to 50% of the energy consumed by a modern data center goes toward air cooling. Most of the heat is then wasted because it is just dumped into the atmosphere. New technologies, such as novel on-chip water-cooling systems developed by IBM, the thermal energy from a cluster of computer processors can be efficiently recycled to provide hot water for an office or houses.
A pilot project in Switzerland involving a computer system fitted with the technology is expected to save up to 30 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the equivalent of an 85% carbon footprint reduction. A novel network of microfluidic capillaries inside a heat sink is attached to the surface of each chip in the computer cluster, which allows water to be piped to within microns of the semiconductor material itself. By having water flow so close to each chip, heat can be removed more efficiently. Water heated to 60 °C is then passed through a heat exchanger to provide heat that is delivered elsewhere.