01/29/2014 09:31 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2015

Five Ways Our Lives Could Change Drastically In The Next 5 Years

Right now, at the beginning of 2014, we collectively know more than any generation did at any other time. Our world is now wired to create and collect mountains of data: through our publications, social network updates, video uploads, and tweets, the sensors surrounding us, and the supply chains that make our economy run.

We have come to appreciate that all of this data is a gold mine of possibilities, a new natural resource that can potentially be taken advantage of by all of us. We also know that we need new tools to help us and that today's computing systems can't keep up with and make sense of all this information.

In five years, though, things will undoubtedly be very different. Our scientific and technical communities are making significant advances in the fields of artificial intelligence, natural language processing and highly interactive systems. As a result, we are beginning to see a new class of cognitive systems that are capable of learning and getting smarter over time by drawing insights as they interact with us and our data. In the near future, these cognitive systems will be seen as our partners in helping us make better decisions in an increasingly complex world.

We at IBM Research have put our heads together to anticipate which 5 innovations will be put in place to improve our lives within the next 5 years. Check out our predictions:

  • The classroom will learn you: No student is alike. So why should we be taught as if one size fits all? Advancements in cognitive systems will give teachers the insights and tools to understand a student's development throughout their learning careers -- and tailor the curriculum to how each student learns. The systems, powered by sophisticated analytics delivered via the cloud, will draw on everything from test scores to teachers' notes. Teachers, for instance, could predict which students are most at risk and provide options on how to help them master critical skills.
  • Doctors will use your DNA to keep you well: Big data, analytics and cognitive computing will transform healthcare. They will help doctors quickly parse through the avalanche of medical information they deal with and tap into new sources, such as genomics, to diagnose and treat illnesses more quickly and effectively. For instance, computers could help doctors understand how a cancer tumor affects a patient down to the DNA level and present a collective set of medications proven to best attack the cancer. Also, the time it takes to pinpoint the right treatment could be slashed from weeks to minutes.
  • The city will help you live in it: Using sensors, smart devices, social media and cloud computing, cities will track billions of events. Whether it's tracking water system usage, traffic patterns, or looming snow storms to anticipate issues or crafting responses before problems develop, cities will learn to be proactive about reaching out and meeting their citizens' needs. For instance, mobile devices and social engagement will enable citizens to strike up relationships with city leaders so their voices will be heard not only on election day, but every day.
  • A digital guardian will protect you online: All the different IDs and devices we have make us that much more vulnerable to hacks and fraud. In five years, each of us will have our own virtual guardian that, by learning about us, will know how we use different devices. This will help our "guardian" automatically spot patterns that could be precursors to a cyber attack or a stolen identity and advise us right away -- all while safeguarding the privacy of our personal information.
  • Buying local will beat online: Savvy retailers will use what makes brick-and-mortar stores so compelling -- the ability to try on a dress, hold a mixing bowl, or ask a sales person's advice -- to turn the tables on online-only stores. Using cognitive systems and augmented reality, merchants will equip salespeople and stores with the devices and equipment they need to anticipate individual customers' needs while also helping consumers consult with their social media connections about purchases. This innovation will magnify the digital experience by bringing the web right to where the shopper can physically touch it.

To read more, check out The IBM 5 in 5, based on market and societal trends as well as emerging technologies from IBM's Research labs around the world that can make these transformations possible.