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5 Innovations to Help Change Our Lives in the Next 5 Years Resizeimage 4 1

Every year IBM announces “5 in 5” technology predictions which will be important to the world within 5 years.  This year IBM researchers  reviewed them at at IBM Think 2019 on 2/13/2019.  The presenters were:

  • Geraud Dubois, DGM Science to Solutions, IBM Research – Almaden
  • Arvind Krishna, SVP, Cloud and Cognitive Software, IBM
  • Jeannette M. Garcia, Global Lead for Quantam Applications in Quantum Chemestry & Science
  • Donna N. Dillenberger, IBM Fellow, Enterprise Solutions
  • Juliet Mutahi, Software Engineer IBM Research Africa
  • Sriram Raghavan, VP IBM Research-India @ Singapore, CTO IBM India, IBM Research

Summary and background

This year’s 5 in 5 focuses on food.  The world’s food supply faces dire problems.

  • The population is growing fast and the farming footprint is getting smaller.  The food supply must be sustained and increased.
  • Climate events such as droughts, fires, floods etc affect the food supply chain in many ways.
  • 45% of all food goes to waste today.  The USA alone wastes 150 tons per day.

Melissa King, Top Chef Finalist, introduced the five IBM reseachers.  The predictions follow:
Digital technologies in agriculture will contribute to feeding a growing population using fewer resources
Juliet Mutahi

  • Farming’s digital doubles will help feed a growing population using less resources.  This is essentially a virtual model allowing farmers to socialize, share and act on data.
  • Farmers band together to form cooperatives to share information today but technology can make that instantaneous and on a global scale.
  • IoT can and will provide predictive fleet maintenance.
  • Sensors on tractors can digitize a farm.
    • AI can analyze information from farm and crop data across the planet.
    • Example: a digital card is available that can analyze soil composition and then a mobile app reads the card and analyzes results.
    • AI can track and predict yields.
  • Technology ultimately helps farmers make better decisions.

Blockchain will prevent more food from going to waste
Arvind Krishna

  • 1/3 of all food and half of fruit and vegetables go to waste.
  • 150 billion oranges are wasted every year.
  • This isn’t just food waste: it wastes water, energy, land, effort etc.
  • This happens because supply chain is complex and chaotic.
  • Blockchain, IoT and AI within 5 years will drastically reduce food waste.
    • Blockchain – it visibility to distribution.
    • I0T will track the food.
    • AI will optimize food distribution and increase freshness.
  • Example – Orange distributor in Florida
    • Today, mostly guesswork on quantity, amount and time of a shipment are used to determine what to send.
    • For example, what if oranges are flying off the shelves in Atlanta but not Chicago.  By the time this is known, it is too late to route shipments.
    • Blockchain can securely share distribution data points.
    • IoT can capture data everywhere, e.g. weather, traffic, consumption etc.
    • AI makes intelligent decisions.
  • Sending the right food to the right place at the right time is the key to reducing waste.

Mapping the microbiome will protect us from bad bacteria
Geraud Dubois

  • 2008 more than 50,000 babies in china were infected with an infant formula contaminated with Metaline .
  • Microbes are everywhere – the human body has as many microbes as cells.  Some are good and some are bad.
  • Food-borne illnesses cost $9 billion in medical expenses and  $75 billion in food loss each year.
  • Many microbes are good.
  • Microbes can be mapped with DNA and RNA sequencing and analyzed for changes
    • Sudden changes are signs of a problem
    • Big data is important to it.
    • Created a database containing all microbiomes the world produced in the last 10 years.
    • Team has generated 500 terabytes of data.
  • This technology can detect outbreaks before they happen through data, AI and analytics

AI sensors will detect foodborne pathogens at home
Donna N Dillenberger

  • In 2018 food made 76 million people sick from food and killed 5,000.
  • What if there were a technology that could scan food and tell if it is ok?
  • IBM Verifier
    • It is an optical device connected to a phone that captures wavelengths at the micron level such as detecting bacteria.
    • AI software can take the data and determine what is safe.
    • It can also detect counterfeit food products.
    • It can also authenticate drugs, labels, food, wines, oils, etc.
  • The Verifier can be attached to other things such as cutting boards, containers cutlery, cooking utensils etc.
  • It could be in trucks shipping food, conveyor belts moving food and in supermarket isles.
  • Today it takes 2 days or more to test food.  Within 5 years testing for pathogens will take seconds instead of days.

A radical new recycling process will breathe new life into old plastic
Jeanette M. Garcia

  • The US recycles less than 10% of plastic waste.
  • We have produced over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic.
  • 1/2 of all manufactured plastics wind up trash.
  • Projections that by 2050 predict the ocean will contain more plastic than fish.
  • IBM just announced a breakthrough called VolCat
    • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)  is the core product in virtually every plastic.
    • PET can be 100% recyclable using a process called VolCat(volatile Catalyst)
    • The Volcat process can extract the PET from plastics and use it to remake the same material or something completely different.
    • Cleaning plastics prior to the VolCat process is not needed because of filtering.
  • Breakthroughs like VolCat will create a true plastic circular technology.

IBM has published the full predictions here.

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Glenn Kline

Area Vice President, Custom Development and Mobile Solutions

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