These Are the Most Hyped Technologies of 2018

What's got the hype? And what's losing it? The 2018 Gartner Hype Cycle report outlines the current maturity and adoption of technologies and gives predictions of what's on the horizon for AI, Blockchain, IoT, VR/AR, and even battery technologies.
  • Widespread artificial intelligence and a rise in do-it-yourself biohacking are among the trends we should see gathering big momentum sometime in the next decade. That's according to the 2018 Hype Cycle report released by global research and advisory firm Gartner. For its latest report, Gartner analyzed over 2,000 emerging technologies and came up with a list of 35 that it believes are “must-watch” technologies for the coming years.

    What Is the Hype Cycle?

    Gartner designed the Hype Cycle to provide businesses with a graphic representation of how technologies move from conception to possible ubiquity. The idea is that if you understand where a technology is on the Hype Cycle, you can get a sense of the risk and rewards associated with adopting it at a given time. Gartner has never released a full methodology on how it compiles its listings, and the Hype Cycle has been criticized as being unscientific and, at times, vague. But that hasn't stopped numerous technology companies from seeking it as a source of guidance over the decades since the first Hype Cycle was published in 1995.

    The Hype Cycle is based on a simple premise, first outlined by futurist Ray Amara: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

    To that end, the cycle features five stages:

    Innovation Trigger: The kick-off point for a new innovation. This is about the time a technology leaves the lab or university and starts being noticed by media, but has no commercial product behind it yet.

    Peak of Inflated Expectations: Hype builds as stories of success and failure with the technology begin to emerge. This is when early adopters will really start to jump on the train.

    Trough of Disillusionment: The honeymoon phase is over. Failures of use cases and failures of expectation begin to emerge that can steer risk-adverse companies away from a technology.

    Slope of Enlightenment: Now that disillusionment has set in, a technology starts to find its real place and footing. You start to see fewer “novel” applications of a technology and more iterations on proven use cases.

    Plateau of Productivity: The technology goes mainstream and its value and relevance to the market is clear and taking off. If you're an early adopter or the type to be ahead of the curve, this will be about the time your parents and grandparents start asking if you've heard of a technology.

    So which technologies are the ones to watch? Which ones are peaking in their hype and what others are facing disillusionment and a possible fade-out before they reach mass adoption? Click through the slideshow to find out.

  • AI for Everyone

    The top identified trend by Gartner was “Democratized AI”—essentially, artificial intelligence made widely available. Advancements in robotics, cloud computing, AI Platform as a Service (PaaS), and of course autonomous driving are all driving this trend. According to Mike J. Walker, research vice president at Gartner, “Technologies representing democratized AI populate three out of five sections on the Hype Cycle, and some of them, such as deep neural nets and virtual assistants, will reach mainstream adoption in the next two to five years...Other emerging technologies of that category, such as smart robots or AI PaaS, are also moving rapidly through the Hype Cycle, approaching the peak, and will soon have crossed it.” No doubt the emergence of dedicated processors optimized for AI applications, such as the Titan GPUs offered by Nvidia (shown), is playing a big role here.

    (Image source: Nvidia)

  • Digitalized Ecosystems

    Blockchain is driving the second major trend identified by Gartner. “Digitalized ecosystem technologies are making their way to the Hype Cycle fast,” Walker said. “Blockchain and IoT platforms have crossed the peak by now, and we believe that they will reach maturity in the next five to ten years, with digital twins and knowledge graphs on their heels.”

    As more and more IoT systems and products produce more and more data, it's becoming increasingly important to not only manage and automate all of this data flow, but to keep it secure as well. Blockchain offers great potential on both of these fronts for its high level of encryption as well as its ability to automate transactions via secure, verifiable “smart contracts.” “The shift from compartmentalized technical infrastructure to ecosystem-enabling platforms is laying the foundation for entirely new business models that are forming the bridge between humans and technology,” Walker said.  

    (Image source: Public Domain)

  • DIY Biohacking

    Gartner is calling 2018 “the beginning of a trans-human age, where hacking biology and extending humans will increase in popularity and availability.” So you may want to brush up on your Bruce Sterling and William Gibson novels, as we may be heading for a cyberpunk future. Biohacking has existed as an Internet subculture for quite some time, with brave enthusiasts (called “grinders”) creating their own medical implants and surgically inserting them into themselves.

    Gartner identifies grinders as one of the driving forces behind Biohacking's hype as well as the following: technology augmentation, nutrigenomics (the study of how nutrition impacts genetics), and experimental biology. In addition, biochips capable of detecting disease, artificial tissues, brain-computer interfaces like the VR-based interface being developed by Neurable (shown), and augmented and mixed reality (AR and MR) are all expected to contribute to this trend.

    (Image source: Neurable)

  • Smarter, and More Interactive, Homes and Workspaces

    Chips such as Google's new Edge TPU (shown), which allow for edge processing of artificial intelligence as well as various IoT-enabled sensor technologies, are creating smart work and living spaces that are transparent with people. They are constantly interacting with and learning from them. There's a growing feedback loop between humans and the technologies we use that is going to augment our living and work experience.

    “Emerging technologies representing transparently immersive experiences are mostly on their way to the peak or—in the case of silicon anode batteries—just crossed it,” said Walker. “The smart workspace has moved along quite a bit and is about to peak in the near future.”

    (Image source: Google)

  • Infrastructure Everywhere

    Emerging connectivity technologies, such as 5G, neuromorphic computing, quantum computing, and carbon nanotubes, are creating what Gartner calls an “Ubiquitous Infrastructure” that is enabling a growing “always-on, available, and limitless infrastructure compute environment.” Gartner predicts that 5G and deep neural network ASICs, in particular, will reach the Plateau of Productivity in the next two to five years.

    Shown: Loihi, the prototype neuromorphic chip from Intel that promises to process AI on the edge that can learn and adapt on the fly. (Image source: Intel)

  • Where Is Disillusionment Setting In?

    Not every technology makes it through the entire Hype Cycle. Each stage is filled with pitfalls that can send any potentially groundbreaking technology the way of the Microsoft Zune or the Apple Newton.

    As of August 2018, Gartner isn't predicting that any emerging technologies will be obsolete before they reach the Plateau of Productivity. However, here are several notable technologies deep into or approaching the Trough of Disillusionment. 

    (Image source: Gartner)

  • Augmented and Mixed Reality

    Mixed reality and augmented reality are deep in the trough, with Gartner predicting that each will reach its plateau in about five to ten years. To those that follow the VR/AR/MR/XR space, this isn't surprising (just look at all those acronyms). While enterprise and commercial adoption of VR and AR has risen, thanks to enterprise-centric products from companies like Vuzix (shown) and VRgineers, neither technology has come through with a killer app or piece of hardware to push it toward widespread adoption. Perhaps Apple's planned headset will do for VR/AR what the iPhone did for smartphones?

    (Image source: Vuzix)

  • Connected Homes

    Connected homes—a favorite topic of those in the IoT space—is also sinking into the trough, according to Gartner. While you can walk into any Best Buy and get yourself a Roomba, Nest thermostat (shown), or Ring doorbell, the connected home has yet to see widespread, mainstream adoption.

    However, that could change in the near future. ResearchAndMarkets predicts that the global smart home market will reach an estimated $107.4 billion by 2023 with a CAGR of 9.5% from 2018 to 2023. A report by Orbis Research is a bit more optimistic, but with similar projections. The market research firm estimated the global smart homes market to be at $35.7 billion USD In 2017 and expects it to reach a value of $150.6 billion by 2023 at a CAGR Of 26.9% from 2018 to 2023.

    “The threat of climate change, fluctuating energy prices, and energy security and supply concerns have necessitated new ways of producing, delivering, and consuming energy. In this regard, smart homes have gained increased attention in both policies and government regulations across the globe,” the Orbis report states.

    (Image source: Nest Labs)

  • Blockchain

    Despite driving one of the key emerging trends this year, Blockchain is finding itself leaving the Peak of Inflated Expectations and headed into the Trough. The great Bitcoin bubble of 2018 probably has something to do with this, as Blockchain and cryptocurrency have become synonymous. But until your grocery store starts taking Bitcoins, don't expect to see them on everyone's debit cards anytime soon.

    While no application has gathered the hype that crytocurrency has, Blockchain is still finding a place in other applications, including enterprise, IoT, and even energy production. Facilities like the Hornsdale Power Reserve in Australia (shown above) could be part of a Blockchain energy network.

    (Image source: Tesla)

  • Silicon Anode Batteries

    Silicon has emerged as a hot new material for improving the lithium-ion batteries that permeate our daily lives. By replacing the carbon graphite that makes up a typical Li-ion anode with silicon, researchers have dramatically improved the performance of batteries. When Jeff Norris, CEO of Paraclete Energy—a company developing silicon-based battery technology—spoke with Design News, he said, “High capacity, cycle stable silicon in an anode enables greater range for an EV, the longer time between the need to recharge one’s phone, tablet, power tool, or other devices.”

    Sila Nanotechnologies—another company developing silicon-based anodes—recently announced a partnership with BMW to potentially implement silicon anode batteries into future electric vehicles (EVs) from the automaker. If EVs with silicon anode batteries hit the roads and are shown to outperform their counterparts, it could be the tipping point the technology needs to break out of the trough. Right now, Gartner is predicting that the technology will reach its plateau in the next five to ten years.

    (Image source: BMW Group)

What technologies do you see peaking or failing in the next two to five years? Do you think there's anything the Hype Cycle missed? Let us know in the comments!

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

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