Evaluating Disruptive Technology Hype

Everyone in business wants to be an early adopter when it comes to a serious disruptive technology in their market vertical. Correctly identifying not only the technology but the correct time to adopt can bring incredible returns in no time at all.

In looking at these technologies, however, we run into a bit of a problem. As they become expected to cause disruption, pundits and industry commentators rush to position themselves as authorities, often playing up existing user scenarios and the potential disruption to market segments that are so tenuous as to be ridiculous. Unfortunately, this isn’t always obvious, especially once you’ve been primed by hype from usually reliable sources.

It is important, therefore, to carefully consider these emerging technologies for yourself, by looking at the fundamentals of the technology and whether it really is a better solution than the status quo.

Think: Where Have We Seen This Before?

Very occasionally, someone develops a genuinely novel technology or method; a technological leap caused by a completely new understanding. Quantum computing, if it eventually comes, would be one such leap.

However, in the vast majority of cases, these emerging technologies are incremental, iterative improvements on an existing technology and can, therefore, be evaluated based upon a known entity. If the current ‘generation’ of the technology has no impact in your industry, will this change really cause it to be adopted?

Classic examples of this gradual change are the heavily touted AI assistants and conversational AI. Certainly, there have been substantial improvements in machine learning and the ability of these bots to interact with data, but at a fundamental level, they have been around for decades. Speech recognition software has been standard at least since Windows XP and shares functionality with AI assistants fairly closely. Conversational AI precursors exist in voice recognition telephone systems and internet chatbots. They are doubtlessly improved, but have they come far enough?

Evaluate: Is This A Better Way To Do Things?

New solutions aren’t always better solutions. Just look at 3DTV and cinema, pushed hard for a few years only to disappear almost without a trace. Nominally disruptive technologies are similar: certainly, there are some segments they will disrupt and many things they ‘could’ be used for, but are they actually better in every case?

For this, consider Blockchain, which is touted as a solution for supply chain management, identity verification, transactions and just about anything else you can imagine. Certainly, decentralised tamper-resistant ledgers will be valuable to a number of industries, but at its core, blockchain is what it says in the common title: a ledger. For supply chain tracking and other simple database applications, is running multiple servers consecutively to verify an ever-growing blockchain hash really a better solution than a literal signed ledger? Is identifying yourself with a unique hash via a blockchain system really better than public key encryption or a password? For some applications, certainly, but most technologies aren’t ‘strictly better.’

If you take heavily hyped technologies at face value, you are risking putting your business through entirely unnecessary paradigm shifts. Take the time to evaluate technology at a more fundamental level before jumping on the bandwagon.

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