Moving Beyond the Hype Cycle

Every year, business and IT consulting firm Gartner releases its Hype Cycle for emerging technologies. The chart maps technology innovation and offers a reality check on which technologies are likely to make an impact, as well as when significant changes might take place.

Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of hype these days. It’s difficult to make it through a day without hearing something about the digital workplace, connected homes, enterprise mobile security, 3D printing, smart robots, autonomous vehicles and other smart machines—often operating as part of the Internet of things. This year’s Gartner report identified more than 2,000 technologies and grouped them into 119 areas.

However, hype doesn’t necessarily mean that a concept isn’t valid—or that it won’t have a significant impact and provide real value at some point in the future. In addition to the areas mentioned above, Gartner has identified a number of technologies that could directly impact the enterprise, including data science, quantum computing and software defined anything (SDA). All of these technologies and trends are currently in what the consulting firm describes as the “Innovation Trigger” phase.

On the other hand, the Internet of things, big data, gamification, content analytics, machine-to-machine communication, natural-language question answering, in-memory database management systems, and hybrid cloud computing are either at the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” or heading into the inevitable “Trough of Disillusionment.”

At the same time, virtual reality, gesture controls, enterprise 3D printing and 3D scanners have hit the “Slope of Enlightenment,” while consumer telematics and speech recognition are in the “Plateau of Productivity.”

What’s particularly notable about this report is that all hype is not created equal. Inflated expectations or not, Gartner sees data science, in-memory database management, content analytics, hybrid clouds and a number of other technologies hitting the productivity plateau within two to five years. Meanwhile, it predicts that SDA, smart robots, digital security, wearable user interfaces, consumer 3D printing and the IoT will take shape in five to 10 years.

Don’t expect quantum computing and holographic displays anytime soon. These technologies are more than a decade away from any widespread use.

Gartner’s advice? “Enterprises should not limit themselves” to particular technology groups, but it is wise to keep an eye on the big picture, according to Hung LeHong, a vice president and fellow for the consulting firm. What’s more, as these technologies, services and trends advance, organizations that learn to blend and combine them effectively are poised for bigger overall gains.