I don't generally trust most of the reports that comes out of the big research groups. Having been interviewed by numerous analysts over the past decade and a half, I know all too well how easy it is to get false information published, forever turning it into "fact." However, I do love the graphs, charts and infographics that the companies put out. Not because they're useful -- in fact, more often than not, they aren't. But they can be entertaining. To wit, Gartner just recently published their annual tech hype curve:
I've blogged on multiple versions of this curve over the years, mostly to point out how ridiculous some of their predictions have been. I thought this year's was interesting for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being that Gartner apparently thinks that IoT can't possibly be much more hyped than it already is.
To some extent, this makes sense. It's hard to imagine too many more news articles, conferences and breathless company press releases devoted to the Internet of Things, M2M, gee-whiz telemetry, smart cities, smart home, and just plain "smart." I personally think that the prediction is a bit off, and we still have a few years before we truly reach "peak hype" for the industry. However, that's the least of Gartner's transgressions when it comes to this chart.
While it's easy to dismiss "smart dust" and other far-off technologies that even Gartner agrees will take more than ten years to commercialize, tech that we have, see and use today ought to be better judged, and to me there are two big misses on this year's chart. First of all "machine learning" is up near peak-hype level and has yet to go through the "trough of disillusionment," which is frankly ridiculous. Do you use Siri? Google Now? Amazon Echo? Maps with live traffic? Major-retailer loyalty programs? If so, you're using machine learning, and in the past few years it has gotten pretty damned good. What's more, we hardly ever hear about it, because in its biggest and best implementations, it just works. It's mature, but still has lots of room for improvement.
On the flip side, Gartner pegs virtual reality as coming out of the trough and emerging a mature technology. This is, of course, total nonsense. If there's a more hyped consumer technology than VR, I can't think of it. And the tech demos we see from companies like Occulus and teased by Microsoft and others are just that -- demos. We're at least 5 years away from truly immersive hardware, and probably further than that out from considerable commercial adoption.
In all it's an exciting time to be in the tech business, and it's pretty clear that technology is going to continue to have a significant impact on the way we live work and play for decades to come. Some of the improvements on Gartner's hype curve have the potential to be truly disruptive. But even with all of the promise that IoT brings, I have to wonder whether it will ever live up to the hype.