I always like looking at Gartner’s annual Hype Cycle analysis, out at the end of summer. The complete name is the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies which implies that to make it on this chart means a technology has garnered enough awareness to be noticed. The best way to leave is to gain mass adoption, or at least mainstream acceptance. The not-so-good way of leaving is to never make it to either. For some of the technologies I’m interested in, the Hype Cycle is always a measure of what’s visible outside Silicon Valley where I live.
First thing I noticed is that there was only one technology that made it through to the Plane of Enlightenment, where Gartner predicts wide adoption. This year it is Virtual Reality and I agree, this was the year that Facebook’s Oculus started sales, Google introduced its own VR platform in May and already had an extremely accessible (and cheap) version called Cardboard, Samsung is selling its own set, and Best Buy betting on VR for the 2016 holiday season, it’s safe to say that VR is definitely everywhere. Estimates for sales of VR sets for this year range from 2.5 to 9.6(!) million this holiday season, which, even on the low end, is impressive.
Another technology that is “everywhere” are drones, aka “Commercial UAVs” (unmanned aerial vehicles.) It’s interesting that they only made it on the hype cycle this year seeing as 1 million were expected to be sold during the 2015 holiday season. Not quite as much as VR sets this year but surely they should have been on the Hype Cycle before?
Autonomous vehicles are at the peak of the cycle, at Inflated Expectations. Here in the valley, I see a Google car make the rounds each afternoon, testing the suburban streets. Uber is planning to launch a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in a month and it seems that companies all over the globe are trying to make them work. One recent drawback was the crash of a Tesla in a “hands-free” mode, despite Tesla claiming that the technology is not ready to be used without human supervision. Yet all this means that the technology is on the street already and might be ready for widespread adoption sooner than the decade Gartner anticipates.
Finally, one technology conspicuously dropped of the Hype Cycle this year – Internet of Things. Last year it was expected to take another 5 to 10 years for that technology to reach the mainstream. This year has seen an explosion of “smart” devices sold in hardware stores, appliance stores, and, of course, electronic stores. Also, just looking at smart thermometers, in some ways the flagship IoT product, the unit sales for 2015 seem to rival drones, yet they are off the chart. Based on recent security and privacy challenges for IoT devices and cross-manufacturer connectivity issues, I would think that the technology is somewhere in the Trough of Disillusionment but heading out to the Plane of Enlightenment. Interestingly, Gartner puts the Connected Home at the peak of Inflated Expectations and IoT Platform , so perhaps it has lumped Internet of Things in with those two technologies?
Wearables have also left the chart, I assume to the Plateau of Productivity. This is interesting because last year Wearables were already sliding from the Peak of Inflated Expectations (AKA hype) to the Slough of Disillusionment and Gartner estimated that they would reach mainstream acceptance in 5-10 years. Here in the Valley it’s extremely common to see at least a fitness wearable on every wrist, but I hadn’t realized that adoption was this great outside our bubble. Also, the Apple Watch is commonly spotted here, but seems to be a disappointment from the product and sales perspective, and that was supposed to be the flagship wearable. Based on that, wouldn’t wearables be deep in the Slough of Disillusionment?
Till next year!