Emerging technologies: experiment to learn, embrace to thrive!


Autonomous Vehicles: A Pandora’s Box of Safety Issues?’. It is the title and the main question of an article published by Forbes in March 2019 and a topic that fits right into the hyper relevant discussion about emerging technologies. We find ourselves in a time period where technological innovations are growing fast and evolve from daily-life facilitators to daily-life dictators. Not only are these technologies emerging quicker than ever, but they are also more impactful than ever. However, lots of these innovations are still in the development phase and few of them are already tangible. This brings up a lot of questions for companies: which of these technologies have real potential and are worth investing in, which ones will die out as quickly as they were hyped?

We want to facilitate business leaders’ search for answers by providing them with the right tools and insights to develop the framework within they are operating. Instead of going back and forth and losing themselves in the discussion about the next big thing, marketers need to venture further in the chaotic world of emerging technologies. With Gartner as the leading source of where emerging technologies are at in today’s world and the experience of the digital product studio In The Pocket, we want to enable marketers and business leaders to embrace the chaos.  


The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, an indicator of new technologies


As new technologies emerge, new questions show up and other innovations disappear. A lot of marketing and research agencies try to summarize trends and innovations into different models and claim to predict which technologies will have an important influence. Today, nobody knows for sure but there are some leading frameworks and tools that can provide insight and guidance for business leaders to embrace the chaos concerning the next big technology.

According to the Hype Cycle, the technological developments on this curve go through a life cycle consisting of five key phases. The duration of the life cycle differs for each technology, but successful technologies will eventually reach the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ stage. Looking at the specific innovations, the model indicates that Augmented Reality (AR) already went through the first two phases. This is characterized by early proof-of-concept and success stories, leading to significant (media) publicity. At the moment, AR is located in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ phase, which can be described as the stage of truth: it is the stage where technologies mostly make it or break depending on the success (or fail) of the experiments and implementations. If the innovation wants to pass this stage and survive, the product has to be improved in function of the needs and satisfaction of the early adopters. For AR, this is the moment of truth. At least according to the Gartner cycle.


The innovation’s life cycle is an S-curve


In The Pocket, a Ghent based Digital Product Studio, recently gave a lecture during the Master course of ‘Marketing in the Digital Age’ (led by Prof. dr. and founding partner of Callebaut Collective, Sarah Steenhaut), on how companies should deal with emerging tech. In The Pocket chooses to represent emerging technology life cycles on an S-curve. According to them, technology innovation generally happens through an S-shaped curve.

But what is remarkable is that the curves of emerging technologies are continuously becoming smaller and steeper. This means that the life cycle of new technologies has shortened in comparison to previous technologies.

What’s the situation today according to In the Pocket? Mobile technology finds itself at the top of the S-curve: adoption is stagnating, the market is saturated and innovation seems mostly incremental. Innovation in the coming years will however continue to come from successfully leveraging the scale and reach these technologies currently have.

At the same time Augmented & Virtual Reality, Voice & Chat(bots), Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are the key emerging technologies that form the beginning of the next S-curves. All of these technologies will move through their own ‘hype cycle’ before they start climbing the S-curve. Innovation at the bottom of the S-curve is more radical and disruptive. There is a high need for rapid experimentation and a willingness to fail, in order to find the valuable use cases of these technologies. Take blockchain as an example: after the inflated hype around cryptocurrencies, the technology has now seemingly disappeared from the general crowd’s attention. However, this does not at all mean that blockchain is dead. As new applications of the blockchain technology will start to take shape, blockchain itself will slowly resurface in a more mature and valuable way.


Experiment to learn, embrace to thrive


There is still a lot to learn today when it comes to these emerging technologies. Instead of waiting for proven positive use cases, companies should start experimenting with these new technologies themselves. Explore the value of Augmented & Virtual Reality, Voice & Chat(bots), Artificial Intelligence and blockchain on a small scale, in close collaboration with customers.

Through this approach, companies will be able to gather concrete learnings which will help them to be ready to embrace the chaos of these new technologies once the market, the technology and the customers are ready. Experiment to learn, embrace to thrive.