Don't believe the hype (cycle) - part 3

Posted by Phil Whitehouse on 12 October
Phil Whitehouse
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Following on from part 1 (AI everywhereand part 2 (Transparently Immersive Experiences) in this series, it’s time to take a look at the remaining group of technologies in the 2017 Gartner Hype Cycle - “Digital Platforms”.

This catch all includes several game-changers, such as:

5G (maybe 10x faster than 4G, and much more reliable)
Digital Twin (digital replicas of physical assets, processes and systems, providing people with more powerful monitoring, analytical, and predictive capabilities)
Edge Computing (data processing at the edge of the network, such as on people’s laptops)
Blockchain (“federated ledgers” - devices allowing decentralised management of transactions. Not just crypto currency!)
IoT Platforms (joins the dots between IoT devices)
Neuromorphic Hardware (an AI chip that can operate on your personal device)
Quantum Computing (next level computing speeds)
Serverless PaaS (bit of a misnomer - you still need servers, but less work is required to optimise them for demand)
Software-Defined Security (reducing the human intervention in security)

And here’s where they all sit on the cycle:

Emerging-Technology-Hype-Cycle-for-2017_Infographic_R6A-1024x866-1.jpg

Picking through that list, it’s interesting how almost all of them represent incremental improvements over what we’ve already got.

Some appear on the surface to simply help us do what we can already do, but more quickly or more effectively.

Others are still very much in R&D (Quantum Computing), with the true value and implications of these technologies difficult to understand. For example the security implications of Quantum Computing is likely to be quite asounding, and not in a positive way. What the value of Quantum Computing will be for everyday people is hard to fathom, it's an exponential change in processing power, and it's very hard for humans to think in terms of exponentials.

Admittedly many of these improvements will be exponential in nature, and there’s no denying that they’ll have a impact far greater than we can imagine.

Here at Bilue we focus on building “inspired experiences on intelligent platforms”, and so we take the time to consider these emerging technologies alongside some which we use already - think Google Actions, Apple HealthKit, Amazon Web Services and the like. What’s interesting for us is that the barriers to participation for these existing platforms are incredibly low. At the risk of blowing our trumpet, our talented iOS and Android developers have no trouble turning their hand to Apple HealthKit, Google Actions, TensorFlow or AWS Lambda. So when we look at this list, we wonder both how easy they’ll be to put to use, and when they're likely to be ready for production.

It’s also interesting to think about how some of these platforms might be combined to create new value as they become available. For example, we’re willing to bet that the current usage of IoT devices is trivial compared to where we’re going. Connected sensors sitting on an Intelligent IoT platform would be revolutionised with Neuromorphic hardware, with distributed, contextually aware intelligence creating something more akin to Skynet than turning lights bulbs on and off. It's no surprise that we're observing a doubling down on ethical AI; with Elon Musk already making great strides in this area, and a lot more work to come.

So…onto Blockchain. A good place to finish as this is arguably the buzziest technology on the whole hype cycle, and it’s remarkable that it hasn’t really captured the public imagination yet. The obvious reason is that it isn’t the easiest concept to grasp - the notion of a secure, de-centralised, distributed ledger is sufficiently unique to resist simple comparisons. Over simplified explanations might be doing more harm than good (we think this explanation from Business Insider is a decent starting point, and there’s enough opportunity that Gartner has developed its own readiness tool). Nevertheless, there’s enough activity in this space to claim that we’re past the tipping point, with an eye-popping $100 billion and climbing tied up in cryptocurrency managed without banks involved. The genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

Given that most of the Blockchain buzz has focused on crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, newcomers might be forgiven for thinking this is Blockchains sole purpose. But the utility of Blockchain goes much further than this. For example, in this Huffington Post article they’ve highlighted five other uses including contract management, digital identity, cloud storage, digital voting and timestamped notaries. One of our clients is using it for agricultural exchanges, to reduce the time between providing grain and getting paid for it (long and complex supply chain). A vast number of start ups are starting to leverage this technology, and the possibilities are endless. Well worth staying close to, and we would argue that Blockchain is past the trough of disillusion, well beyond where they’ve placed it on the graph.

That concludes our assessment of the technologies on the 2017 hype cycle! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it. If you want to have a chat about any of the technologies on the hype cycle and how they could help you to grow your business, please feel free to get in touch. And if you disagree with our assessment, feel free to add your comments below - we love a good debate!

Topics: Gartner, Future, AR, VR, Interface, quantam computing, 5G, mobility, blockchain