Themes from Gartner's 'Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle' this year include interest and activity in social media, cloud computing and mobiles.
In social media, social analytics, activity streams and a new entry for group buying are close to a peak, showing the era of sky-high valuations for Web 2.0 start-ups is not yet over. Private cloud computing has taken over from general cloud computing, while cloud/web platforms have fallen to the 'Trough of Disillusionment'. Mobile technologies continue to be part of most clients' short- and long-term plans and are present on the hype cycle as media tablets, near-field communications payments, quick response/colour codes, mobile application stores and location-aware applications.
Transformational technologies that would hit the mainstream in less than five years include highly visible areas like media tablets and cloud computing, as well as more IT-specific ones like in-memory database management systems, big data, and extreme information processing and management. In the long term (beyond the five-year horizon), 3D printing, context-enriched services, the 'Internet of Things' (called the 'real-world Web' in an earlier Gartner research), internet TV and natural language question answering would be major technology forces. Looking beyond 10 years, 3D bioprinting, human augmentation, mobile robots and quantum computing would also drive transformational change in IT.
Advances in embedded sensors, processing and wireless connectivity are bringing the power of the digital world to objects and places in the physical world. This is a slow-moving segment, but one that is now accelerating with the growing pervasiveness of low-cost, embedded sensors and cameras. User interfaces is another slow-moving area, with significant recent activity. Speech recognition was on the original 1995 hype cycle and has still not attained maturity, and computer-brain interfaces would evolve for at least another 10 years before moving out of research and the niche status.
However, a new entry for natural language question-answering recognises the impressive and highly visible achievement of IBM's Watson computer in winning TV's Jeopardy! general knowledge quiz against human opponents. Gesture recognition has also been launched into the mainstream through Microsoft's Kinect gaming systems, under hacker attacks by third parties to create a range of application interfaces. Other areas continue to progress more slowly, including speech-to-speech translation, augmented reality and virtual assistants, while virtual worlds remain in the trough after peaking in 2007.
Predictive analytics is approaching maturity, but researchers and developers continue to apply and improve the core techniques for new data sources. Image recognition is driving new capabilities in search, retail and social media, and also contributes to advances in other areas, such as augmented reality and video analytics, for customer service. Social analytics continue to take advantage of new sources and types of social information. Computational advances, such as in-memory database management systems and big data, take the scope and scale to new levels.
Crossing the traditional boundaries of IT, new capabilities are reaching the levels of performance and pricing that would fundamentally reshape processes and even industries. Examples on this year's hype cycle include 3D printing, bioprinting (of human tissue) and mobile robots.