In late October, IBM announced a significant breakthrough in carbon nanotube technology.  They have been working in the nanotech field for years.  And just last week IBM scientists published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology their new method whereby carbon nanotubes (CNTs) place themselves alone or in pairs between electrical contacts.  This means that ultimately, CNTs can replace silicon as a core component of integrated circuits, and everything will shrink while processing power will explode.  Think tiny smart devices in your body, think voice activated everything, the touch screen becomes a relic and the world of technology marches on.

The implications for retail and personalized shopping could be off the charts.  For instance, your Nordstrom credit card goes away.  In its place you have a tiny bead on a necklace.  That bead keeps all of your purchase information, your size, your credit balance and your geo-location in one spot.  The minute you cross the threshold of a Nordstrom store wearing that necklace (and who knows – it could store all of your purchase information, for everything!), it knows all there is to know about you.  So you walk in take what you want and leave – the transaction is automatically posted to your account. On your way home, you voice activate your bank account and send a payment from your checking account to your Nordstrom account while you sit at a stop light.

And while we struggle today to understand the promise of big data, we cringe at the infrastructure required to make big data meaningful.  Take that room full of servers or that big cloud license and shrink it down to the size of a laptop – Ahhh, my capital budget feels better already.

There may be no end to where CNTs take us.  While it continues to take time, I have no doubt; they are in our future, even if they are too small to actually see.