In all the talk of emerging technologies, there is often the suspicion that much of it is just hype. Gartner has been observing these technologies and since 1995 measuring the level of hype against the reality of those technologies. Among the fast moving technologies in this year’s studies are cloud computing, Big Data and media tablets.

Technology Cycles

To avoid indulging in the hype that Gartner has set out to identify in its Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2012 report, it needs to be clear what Gartner is actually measuring.

According to Gartner researchers Jackie Fenn and Hung LeHong, what they are doing is measuring the ‘hype’ around technologies and comparing that with what has actually been delivered.

For this year and for information management professionals, Big Data and Cloud Computing have moved further along the graph than most other technologies. By moving along the graph they are referring to the Hype Cycle graphic which highlights the pattern of over-enthusiasm, disillusionment and finally realism that accompanies new technologies and innovation.

The Cycle Report is updated every year and provides technology planners with an assessment of the maturity, business benefit and future direction of more than 1,900 technologies, grouped into 92 areas.

It highlights a set of technologies that will have a broad-ranging impact across business, or those that Gartner believes have the potential for significant impact on business.

New to the Hype Cycle this year is Big Data, the Internet of Things, in-memory computing and strategic business capabilities -- all of which are running through the cycle at an astounding rate.

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Gartner: Hype Cycle

Consumerization of Technology

One of the notable things about this year’s selection, Gartner says, is that the consumerization of technologies is expected to happen within two to five years of the emergence of a technology,  down from an expected five to ten years noted in the 2011 report. In other words, the consumerization of technologies is also speeding up rapidly.

This year, Gartner says we are at a particularly interesting point in the development of technologies, where scenarios that have been sketched out in the past are beginning to become a reality. We are, LeHong says, at a tipping point.

The smarter smartphone is a case in point. It's now possible to look at a smartphone and unlock it via facial recognition, and then talk to it to ask it to find the nearest bank ATM. However, at the same time, we see that the technology is not quite there yet. We might have to remove our glasses for the facial recognition to work, our smartphones don't always understand us when we speak, and the location-sensing technology sometimes has trouble finding us."

While the Hype Cycle presents technologies individually, Gartner says it would be better for enterprises to consider the technologies in groups as so many new capabilities and trends involve multiple technologies working together.

Within those groups of technology there are what Gartner describes as tipping point technologies- - technologies that have not quite matured yet and are limiting the potential of what is really possible. Once they do mature, though, a whole technology trend will mature with them.

Included in those tipping technologies are:

1. Bring Your Own Everything

An extension of the Bring Your Own Device (BOYD) trend, this postulates a time in the near future where users will be able to access any function, on any device and anywhere. The trend is being fueled by enterprises that are open to BOYD strategies, but as yet they are still not the norm. Technologies included in this space are hosted virtual desktops, HTML5, cloud computing, silicon anode batteries and media tablets. Tipping point candidates here include HTML5, hosted virtual networks and silicon anode batteries.

2. Smarter Things

This describes a world -- again in the near future -- where everyone and everything will be connected via the Internet. Once connected through the internet it will be used by people in every facet of their lives. Among the technologies listed in this section -- leaving aside the more exotic technologies like mobile robots -- are Big Data, wireless, Internet TV and activity streams. Big Data, complex-event processing and activity streams are all in the tipping point technologies here.

3. Big Data

Big Data on its own will not be enough. Vendors are going to have to provide Big Data processing cheaply. Once this becomes a reality -- and we’re very close to this already -- enterprises will have a new list of technologies. Here, Gartner lists customer understanding and better fraud detection as important. Tipping technologies include all the different forms of cloud computing, big data, social analytics, in-memory database management systems and predictive analytics.

4. Human – Technology Interaction

This describes a world where people interact with technology on a daily basis and include natural-language recognition, automatic content recognition, gamification, virtual worlds and speech recognition technologies. Many of these technologies have been "emerging" for many years, Gartner says, but are starting to become common place now.

5. Virtual Payments

These are the group of technologies that will see us doing away with cash and will provide enterprises with traceability and interaction with consumers and convenience and security. Some of these technologies are already available and include mobile payments and mobile over the air payments. Near Field Communication payments (NFC) -- a set of standards for smartphones to establish radio communication with each other at close range -- and OTA payments are the tipping points in these technologies.

6. Voice of the Customer

These are technologies that will store customer voices in the cloud and will enable enterprises to access individual customers in the cloud through voice recognition. Voices will also be analyzed to provide better insight into customers. Technologies here include automatic content recognition, crowdsourcing, Big Data, social analytics and cloud computing.

From the report, you can see that many of the rapidly emerging technologies offer better access by enterprises to consumer information thus providing a better customer experience. If you’re interested in more on these technologies, Gartner is offering complimentary copies of the report here.