In Silicon Valley and in Boston, there’s not a day we don’t hear about a disruptive invention, a new gadget that will change the world for the better. We sometimes get lost and cannot distinguish valid ideas from the noise. Once in a while, it is useful to take a step back and try to understand which technologies are driving the innovation market and what meta-trends are emerging. While it’s too early to publish “a year in review” for 2015, Gartner has published its 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

This hype cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle* to break down the hype and temporize our expectations.

The five key phases of a technology’s life cycle* to break down the hype and temporize our expectations

At the top of the “peak of inflated expectations”, we find the Internet of Things and Autonomous Vehicles. For the latter, beyond the recent announcements of Apple, Google, and incumbent carmakers, it is the whole automotive sector that is going through tremendous changes.

As for the IoT, it is such a broad category that it is hard to put everything at the same phase. Wearables are on the verge of becoming mass-products while IoT platforms still have to define their functions and formats. And let’s not forget about the disruptive combo of IoT services in the car industry. From insurers to Tier-1 suppliers, everyone is expected to jump on the bandwagon of connected cars.

Further in the hype cycle, enterprise 3D printing and Virtual Reality have both succeeded in proving their benefits. 3D printing has validated many business applications from healthcare to aeronautics. Contrary to what was thought a couple of years ago, the consumer market will be harder to convert. As seen at E3 2015, Virtual Reality is now entering the same phase with various companies betting on it. Oculus Rift is no longer the only VR headset available; FOVE, Razer and others are making some developments. Companies also invest in VR content from games to new kinds of videos, like the ones created by VideoStitch.

Cryptocurrencies remain a question mark. While the blockchain technology offers promising opportunities, both consumers and enterprises are cautious about it, unsure to which extent they should trust this new system. But even if it does not come from Bitcoin, FinTech players will be more and more challenged in the coming years.

To conclude, even if the hype surrounding these technologies may disperse in the next months, we can be sure that at least some of them will truly impact the way we live, work and interact. So don’t trust the hype blindly, but go beyond and follow the next developments.

* Gartner explains the 5 phases as follows:

  1. Technology Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
  2. Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  3. Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
  4. Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  5. Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.