Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Gartner Hype Cycle: An Interesting Way To Think About The "Next Big Thing" In Tech (

Every year I look forward to seeing the latest editions of a number of regularly published analytic reports. The DNI's Annual Threat Assessment and Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index fall into this category. Even the Aon Terrorism Threat Map, while not an annual publication, satisfies my itch for a regular update on the state of affairs within that functional area.

When it comes to technology trends, however, the best such product I know of is Gartner's annual "Hype Cycle" chart. Gartner is a large and well respected research company that tracks all sorts of technologies.

Their experience has been that new technologies follow a more or less predictable pattern over time that is best measured by the amount of "hype" (i.e. inflated expectations) associated with a particular technology. You can see the current version of the hype cycle below (and can get more detailed information about the cycle, the methodology and additional findings at Gartner's website):

For example, if you look at the image above you can see that biometric identification has exited the "trough of disillusionment" and has entered the "slope of enlightenment". For many inside the intel community, biometric devices are old hat but what the hype cycle seems to be saying is that these technologies are about to become old hat for all of us...

One of the surprises for me was to see predictive analytics so far out on the hype cycle. Of course, then I think about Hunch's Predict-o-matic (available only to Facebook users, unfortunately, and which scared the be-jeesus out of me...) or articles like this one and I understand exactly what they mean.

Even more interesting are those items at the top of the hype cycle; stuff like cloud computing, 3D flat panel displays and augmented reality. If Gartner is right, then, in the very near future, we should start to see mainstream news articles trashing these technologies not as the "next big thing" but as the most recent tech flop.

My favorite part of the hype cycle is the stuff entering in from the left hand side, the technologies that are just beginning to climb the first steep curve of unreasonable expectations. Here we find the way-out technologies -- autonomous vehicles and computer-brain interfaces.

I like to point out to students that these are the technologies that they will have to deal with over the course of their careers; that they will fight with their children not over whether they get earrings in their ears but whether they will get chips in their brains.
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1 comment:

Andrew Miller said...

excellent synthesis. many thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.