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Companies rise or fall based not only on their ability to deliver quality products and services to customers but also on how adept they are at predicting trends. In the past five years we've seen the demise of maps to more sophisticated, even sometimes talking, navigation systems, VCRs collecting dust to their new cousin the digital video recorder, and we are no longer tasked with writing checks each month, instead relying on our banks' online bill paying systems.

Bold predictions can often spur competition and help ideas reach the market faster. To that end, here are some predictions for five innovations that have the potential to change the way we work, live and play.

Cloud computing

One of the hottest technologies will be "cloud computing." 2009 could be the year when the real potential of its functionality begins to be realized. The concept is simple enough: apply the old adage that many hands make light work by breaking up the tidal wave of data from many different web applications into little chunks that can be processed by hundreds or thousands of computers connected to the Internet, simultaneously.

This so-called "cloud computing" model will dramatically expand the quality and capabilities of what the Web can provide, allowing corporate data centers to operate more like the Internet by enabling computing resources to be accessed and shared as virtual resources in a secure and scalable manner. The winner: businesses and consumers who will see dramatic changes over the next decade as separate systems become connected to shared IT infrastructure in which large pools of systems are linked together to provide IT services.

Over the next five years, IDC expects spending on IT cloud services to grow almost threefold, reaching $42 billion by 2012. Spending on cloud computing will accelerate throughout the next five years, capturing 25 percent of IT spending growth in 2012 and nearly a third of growth the following year, according to IDC.

Smarter planet

The world needs a "smarter planet". Another trend we see is how interconnected technologies are changing the way the world works. This includes how systems and processes enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold, as well as how services are to be delivered, energy consumption can be reduced, and the environment can be protected.


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