Believing the hype: driverless cars and IoT by Juliana Kenny

05/09/2015 07:00

Research firm Gartner’s annual Hype Cycle looks at emerging technologies, how they burst onto the scene (in terms of impact for both businesses and consumers) and their respective experiences with innovation, inflation, and productive usage. As market perception of its value changes, each technology progresses along the cycle from “innovation trigger” to “plateau of productivity,” moving from a buzz-word status to actual potential realized. 2015′s cycle presents an intriguing new round of technologies along with some old favorites.

As of July 2015, autonomous vehicles had reached what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations.” They have been making their way up the hype cycle for some time; last year, they were on the upward climb from the cycle’s beginning, i.e., the innovation trigger.

Source: Gartner, August 2015

Source: Gartner, August 2015

Interestingly, the internet of things is also at the peaked hype level, though IoT was positioned there by Gartner in 2014 as well. Flanked by ”advanced analytics with self-service delivery” and “speech-to-speech translation,” both autonomous vehicles and the internet of things have been given 5 to 10  years to complete their evolution along the hype cycle towards their plateaus of productivity; however, that projection does not necessarily mean both will definitely reach the plateau.

Big data — having made its way up through the peak of inflated expectations in 2013 — was on its downward slide through the “trough of disillusionment” last year, meaning the wild buzz about what big data is or could be had passed its celebrity point and was on its way to practical application. But this year, big data is nowhere to be found on Gartner’s chart.

The research firm notes that 2015 saw the emergence of technologies that support “what Gartner defines as digital humanism — the notion that people are the central focus in the manifestation of digital businesses and digital workplaces.” Betsy Burton, vice president at Gartner, said in the company’s statement that the hype cycle features technologies that are “the focus of attention because of particularly high levels of interest, and those that Gartner believes have the potential for significant impact.” The cycle is often used as a barometer for gauging how popular a technology is and correlating it to its practical usage. For example, autonomous vehicles have been a much talked-about technology this year what with Google’s driverless car campaign and various countries opening testing for such vehicles, yet they are nowhere near mainstream use. Indeed, Gartner says that while “autonomous vehicles are still embryonic,” all major car companies are now putting them on their “near-term roadmaps.”

The internet of things’ position at the peak of inflated expectation for the second year in a row is a point of interest as it seems to be taking years for IoT to make its way into consumers’ daily lives. While it is trickling upwards — particularly with the advent of more smart home devices — obstacles like the lack of standard protocols for devices connected on an IoT network remain are likely keeping IoT from finishing its course on the hype cycle. In the same vein, Gartner says that the flourishing of connected home solutions has introduced new possibilities for both end-user and the enterprise. It remains to be seen if autonomous vehicles and the internet of things can make their way to practical use, or if they will go the way of big data — at least according to Gartner.