Interpreting technology hypes

Interpreting technology hypes

From trigger to hype to commercially viable. This is the life or 'hype' cycle of most emerging technologies... if they can live up to people's expectations. The Gartner Hype Cycle comes out every year with a graphic representation of the adoption and maturity of technologies and applications. It shows how those technologies evolve over time and whether they are potentially relevant in solving real (business) problems and exploiting new opportunities. According to Gartner the graph is "an evaluation of market promotion and perception of value". In making technological investments, the hype cycle could tell you whether you should make a move or wait for further maturation. With the release of Gartner Hype Cycle 2015, this blog article gives insight in the life cycles of 4, in our opinion, interesting technologies over the last 5 years (2011 - 2015): 3D printing, Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous cars, and wearable user interfaces. 

How does the Hype Cycles work?

The Hype Cycle consists of five key phases of a technology's life cycle:

1. Technology Trigger - A potential technology breakthrough and concept phase.

2. Peak of Inflated Expectations - Early adoption and a number of success stories. Can it live up to the expectations?

3. Trough of Disillusionment - Lack of interest, expectations of delivering the product drop severely. More focus and investment needed for improvement of the technology to the satisfaction of early adopters.

4. Slope of Enlightenment - Due to further experiments and implementations a broader understanding of how the technology can benefit.

5. Plateau of Productivity - Mainstream adoption. The technology has gained a broad market applicability and relevance.

Interpreting technology hypes

The video embedded below shows how the 4 technologies matured since 2011. A 5 years period is one of the indicators of time for a tech's hype cycle before reaching the plateau of productivity. In this time span we try to show the difference in development pace over the years between emerging technologies and technologies that have already been on the curve. Note that not all of these technologies start at the beginning of the graph. Some have 'just' appeared in a given moment in the graph and develop over time. Sometimes splitting into multiple new technologies (due to further expectations and implementations).

  • 3D Printing: This technology first appears in the Hype Cycle graph of 2008, predicted for a period of 5 to 10 years before reaching the plateau of productivity. Since 2011 expectations were built up more as it reaches the peak of inflated expectations in 2012. As for July 2013 a distinction is made between consumer vs. enterprise 3D printing and we see a steady maturation of the consumer product. For this year the 3D printing technology is about to enter the phase of trough of disillusionment... If we take into account the market promotion and the perception of value around this technology, how likely will it be to buy a consumer 3D printer ourselves in the next 5 years?
  • Internet of Things: Although, the IoT is a relatively new concept, the phenomenon might have existed already under the term 'ubiquitous computing'. Since 2011 this technology shows a steady development and is predicted to be more widely adopted in the next 5 to 10 years. A real technology trigger with high expectations, but not yet many practical cases of how it may be used. In the last 5 years, this technology has moved to the peak of inflated expectations phase. It has not yet entered the trough of disillusionment, so there is still room for experiments and more practical implementations. Consumers still have to discover the benefit of internet-connected devices. What will become of it in the next 5 years?
  • Autonomous Cars: Entering the curve as a high technology trigger in 2012, in the last couple of years there was a lot going on 'behind the scenes' of this technology. Different parties are trying hard to come into play. A large group of enthusiasts have come up as businesses and technical universities compete against each other for best practice on the further development of self-driving cars. Since last year it has become a hot topic as Google's first self-driving car drove around in San Francisco. For 2015 this technology ends up right at the peak, expectations are built up and autonomous cars are imagined from a public relations perspective; could transportation time in the future become leisure time or work time?
  • Wearables User Interfaces: Although entering the graph already past the peak, the wearable technology is not a new phenomenon. We see that this technology gained momentum in 2013, primarily due to the Nike Fuel band, Nike+ and Fitbit. The combination of wearables with sports and health has given it a new boost over the last couple of years. Nowadays, the main players in wearables are Fitbit, Google, Apple and Pebble. Some products did not survive, such as Google Glass, but this concept seems not gone yet. And so far, what we hear and see from the Hololens looks already promising.