Trend No. 1: Easy to go green
Given the heightened interest in clean tech this year and all the activity in this field, IBM's "easy to be green" prediction is hardly bold. Nevertheless, the company makes a strong case that as data begins to run through electrical wires, all household appliances will eventually be directly connected to a "smart grid," which will allow consumers to better control and limit energy use. IBM is clearly positioned to benefit from this trend; but so, too, are companies such as EnerNOC
Trend No. 2: A safer way to drive
IBM believes continued advances in GPS, sensor, and computer technology will help traffic flow, reduce congestion, cut down on pollution, and curb accidents. While this is undoubtedly true, the automotive industry might go even further. Recently, General Motors unveiled some really cool advances in the field of shape-shifting materials, and Toyota
Combine these advances with the startling progress companies such as Oshkosh Truck
Trend No. 3: Know what you eat
Dole Food Company used RFID technology to successfully limit the distribution of lettuce tainted by E. coli. As RFID technology continues to advance, you can expect IBM's global consulting business to work more closely with its customers to better understand and utilize this data. The company will also continue to work with RFID manufacturers such as Impinj to lower the cost of RFID technology as well as find new ways to collect even more information about where and how our food is grown, processed, transported, and stored.
Trend No. 4: Cell phone as personal assistant
In the near future, IBM predicts your phone will be used to do everything from buying items in a grocery store to snapping a photo of shoes you see someone wearing on the street and then searching the Internet for the nearest store selling those shoes.
Like the trend about energy, this vision is already happening. Consumers in Japan now regularly use their cell phones to scan the wrappers of McDonald's hamburgers for health information, and earlier this year, Google
Trend No. 5: "Super senses" to better diagnose and treat you
IBM has already made progress in creating a "personal avatar" -- a digital representation of a person's health-care information. The system is designed to allow medical professionals to review a patient's complete health history on a portable computer and in a single glance. The company is right to believe this is just the beginning for this field, because Intel
Beyond five years
Investing is a long-term game, and unless you're planning to retire in the next five years, each of IBM's five trends offers some food for thought. Big Blue itself is a safe, conservative way to play these opportunities. But if you dive into each area, there are plenty of other companies also poised to exploit these trends.
Interested in staying abreast of advances in these areas? Consider a free 30-day trial to the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter. Sign up here.
Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is the author of the forthcoming book, Jump the Curve: 50 Strategies for Helping Companies Deal with Emerging Technologies. Nintendo is a Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft and Intel are Inside Value picks. Jack owns stock in IBM, EnerNoc, Intel, and Microsoft. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.