What’s New In the 2015 Gartner Hype Cycle Report

If you haven’t heard of Gartner’s annual Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, you may be interested in the way that it merges futurism with practicality. The first interesting point is their graph. It diagrams various emerging technologies to illustrate where they fall in the following timeline:

  • Innovation Trigger
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations
  • Trough of Disillusionment
  • Slope of Enlightenment
  • Plateau of Productivity

They also color-code the technology to indicate how many years they predict it will be before each technology reaches the final stage (the ‘Plateau of Productivity’). Some unlucky technologies will even become obsolete before that stage.

Emerging Tech

In many cases, a brief note in the report will be the first you heard of some emerging tech. For instance, this year the headliner is “smart dust,” an embryonic technology that analysts believe could be “dropped onto a forest fire to gage the wind direction or temperature in order to save lives.” Or it could be injected into “industrial systems to detect hazardous conditions in locations dangerous or impossible for human beings to visit.” Very interesting stuff. Though not immediately practicable, you can use Gartner’s research to help keep your finger on the pulse of technologies to watch.

Bubbles Bursting

The Trough of Disillusionment is also a stage to watch carefully. The Trough of Disillusionment is when the hype bubble has burst and the limitations of the technology become well understood. At this point, improvements are still occurring, but no one is as excited about them. Hybrid Cloud Computing is listed in this year’s Trough of Disillusionment (color-coded to indicate they expect it will reach its Plateau of Productivity in 2-5 years.)

Contrary to the impression given, the Trough of Disillusionment doesn’t mean that these technologies are considered out for the count. In fact, it’s likely that they’ve become relatively ubiquitous and therefore there’s nothing about them to hype up. The Trough is a necessary stage before the Slope of Enlightenment — the period where the limitations are slowly but surely overcome and mainstream adoption encourages people to apply the technology in new and exciting ways.

Trends to Watch

Many of the emerging technologies in the report are what Gartner calls “Digital Humanism”, which it defines as “technology that makes people better.” Included in this class is wearables, but also things like medical 3-D printing, human augmentation and so forth. Many more categories have indirect application to Digital Humanism but are primarily being developed for enterprise at this time.

Digital Security is shown as being nearly on top of the “Innovation Trigger” stage. This is exciting news, as digital security needs to be better understood by society as a whole.

Finally, Machine Learning continues to gain traction. Smart Robots, Natural Language Question Answering, and Autonomous Vehicles are all set to break out in the next few years.

What Do You Think of the Hype?

What emerging technologies are you watching? Are there any that you believe Gartner missed? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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