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Gartner recently published its 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. Many technologies on the curve are linked to mobile, communications and telecom industries. Of course, it is only one opinion about the future of new technology, but it normally helps to predict how long we must wait for new commercial products, as well as which technologies are still too unclear to make real applications. This year it is especially interesting to see the positions of Speech Recognition, Augmented Reality, Machine-to-machine (M2M) Services, Big Data, Internet of things (IoT), Wearable User Interfaces, and Virtual Personal Assistant.
According to Gartner, Speech Recognition is really approaching the productive phase and we should expect commercial applications in a larger scale soon. Of course, we already have it e.g. in Google’s and Apple’s products, but I still have some doubts with it. It might work well for people who speak English with a standard accent, but solutions still have a lot of work to do with different languages and accents, really smooth user experience and background noise.
Augmented Reality is approaching the valley after the hype peak and we should still wait for 5 to 10 years for real solutions to emerge. It is true that augmented reality apps are still quite useless demos in real life. At the same time we have good reasons to believe that applications such as navigation and games can have augmented reality solutions quite soon.
M2M Services and IoT also belong to the 5-to-10-year category. M2M Services are approaching the valley and IoT is on the top of the hype curve. I think one issue is that M2M and IoT are still unclear terms. We can say M2M is already a reality in sectors such as the automobile industry and many factories. I believe we will see M2M and IoT first in industry and business applications, not directly as a consumer application. It is also questionable whether we really have IoT hype now. I’m not sure if we have really seen high expectations, over-sized investments and public interest in IoT.
Big data is on the way from the top of the hype curve to the valley. Big data has probably been the best-known hype area most recently. As with many other hype areas, big data is an unclear term. Data and data analytics are important, and it has many real applications. The hype is coming more from companies and people who really don’t know data analytics and its applications, but have a lot of ideas relating to it. The challenge of big data and analytics is that it creates a lot of ideas, but it is much harder to implement solutions that really bring business value.
Wearable User Interfaces and Virtual Personal Assistant are still strongly in the hype area and we should wait 5 to 10 years for them, according to Gartner. Wearables have definitely had hype, and we haven’t yet seen products that really offer good usability or bring value. But is it really so that we must wait over 5 years for them? Mobile phone and web services also offer small case virtual assistant services. Will it take 5 to 10 years to see real larger scale useful solutions?
I often say it is not difficult to predict the future, but it is very difficult to predict timing. It is often possible to see that certain solutions and technologies will sooner or later make a big breakthrough. But will it take 2, 5 or 10 years? It is often the billion-dollar question in the industry, and among investors and startups. I dare to disagree with some of Gartner's predictions. I’m more pessimistic over Speech Recognition and Big Data than Gartner. And I’m more optimistic than Gartner on M2M Services, Wearable User Interfaces and Virtual Personal Assistants. Time will show who has the most accurate predictions.