The blurring of the physical and digital worlds is creating new business opportunities for companies perceptive enough to embrace options including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and smart technologies.

That's the conclusion of a new report from Gartner on the hype cycle of emerging technologies. “Digital business is about more than technologies. It is about creating new business models and new ways to engage with customers, partners and suppliers in your business ecosystem,” explained Betsy Burton, co-author of the report.

Gartner defines a hype cycle as "a graphical depiction of a common pattern that arises with each new technology or other innovation.” The five phases in the hype cycle are:

  • Technology Trigger: Where the technology is introduced and starts to gain traction
  • Peak of Inflated Expectations: Highly marketed and talked about as a “must have” technology
  • Trough of Disillusionment: Where the realities of that technology come into play and organizations start looking at the positives and the negatives
  • Slope of Enlightenment: When organizations start deploying them in a constructive manner and to meet enterprise needs
  • Plateau of Productivity: Where contribute to the overall business and goals of that enterprise
The goal is to provide enterprises with a way of assessing what is happening with a given technology, what it does and when is the best time to buy a given technology.

4 Key Trends 

Burton estimates nearly 100 hype cycles will be produced over the course of this year, but noted that four major trends are dominating the technology landscape.

1. Nexus Technologies

Nexus Technologies, notably cloud, data, mobile and social, are all passing through or have already exited the Trough of Disillusionment. They are now entering a phase where they dramatically impact on people’s lives, on the way businesses communicate, on how social business and connections operate, and on global economies.

2. Digital Business

The first digital business technologies are pushing beyond the hype as organizations now assess them more realistically. This trend is dominated by the blurring of lines between physical and digital and is revolutionizing the interaction between customers and organizations.

3. New Business Models

Organizations are starting to look at the impact of new technologies on their business models and embrace new ways to engage with customers, partners and the overall business ecosystem. To push this forward, organizations needs to look at strengthening their innovation capabilities.

4. The Role of AI

The rise of AI and the use of machine learning technologies are evolving based on the information they gather and analyze. Businesses are looking at new technologies such as smart apps, conversational interfaces, predicative analytics and virtual personal assistants.

Emerging Technologies, Trends

Based on an analysis of more than 2,000 technologies, report co-author Mike J. Walker identified "a significant shift, meaning that 16 new technology profiles popped up on this year’s cycle, like next generation communication technology, or platforms enabling blockchain technology."

“When you distill the technologies in the cycle three macro technologies trends start to bubble up. Transparently immersive experiences, the perceptual smart machine age, and the platform revolution are the three overarching technology trends that profoundly create new experiences,” he said during a webinar based on the report.

1. Transparently immersive experiences

These are technologies that will become more human-centric and will provide transparency between people, business and things, as well as technologies that are becoming more intertwined, adaptive and fluid, crossing between the workplace the home.

“It’s not just the experiences, it’s the intelligence behind it and this where we see it moving into the smart machine age where context is kind. These are technologies that are embedding algorithms into everything,” Walker said.

2. Smart Machines

Walker said these are technologies will be the most disruptive over the next 10 years as growing computational power gets to work on massive and growing data sets. It will also see smart machines use data to adapt to changing business conditions and to solve problems that these new conditions produce.

3.Platform Revolution

There will also be a re-definition of what platforms are and what they will be used for. The move to ecosystem enabling platforms will create entirely new business models that will link human–technology experiences. This in turn will force organizations to redefine their starters and create new models into which the new technologies fit.

"These trends illustrate that the more organizations are able to make technology an integral part of their employees', partners' and customers' experience, the more they will be able to connect their ecosystems to platforms in new and dynamic ways," Walker said.