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What's the Hype (Cycle) All About?

10.10.2017
Previously, we wrote about how technology is changing the office and the way we do business. This week we are delving in to the latest Gartner Research report about technologies that will have an effect on several industries for years to come.

The Technology Hype Cycle in 2017
Technology strategy and market research firm,Gartner, recently released its annual Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies for 2017, which focuses on “technologies that show promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage.”



Compared to 2016’s Cycle, three technologies have made a significant jump in practical realization and utilization – Blockchain, Commercial UAVs (Drones), and Software-Defined-Security.

Blockchain
A key premise behind blockchain is that individual and institutional contracts and transactions – “the defining structures in our economic, legal, and political systems”  – and the intermediaries who facilitate them (think lawyers, accountants, bankers) have not kept pace with the digital transformation of the 21st century.

At its core, blockchain is “an open distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” The promise of this technology is the automation and facilitation of contractual interactions:
 
Every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction.
 
Blockchain has been compared to the TCP/IP technology that transformed computer networking capability, resulting in the advent of the Internet. But as such, the major paradigm-shifting applications of the technology would be years following, down the road – similar to the Amazons, Googles, and Facebooks that arrived 30 years after TCP/IP began to take hold.

Commercial UAVs (Drones)
A more tangible and prevalent technology today are Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as drones. Sales for drones across all industry segments were $8.5 billion in 2016, and are forecast to hit $12 billion in 2021.

Following the issuance by the FAA in 2015 of hundreds of exemptions for companies to operate drones in the US, the drone market more than doubled in 2016, with current forecasts of 29 million consumer drones and 805,000 commercial drones forecast to be in operation by 2021.

Today, the primary commercial uses for drones are in video and photography, though other Jetsons-esque applications are on the way. Amazon announced their first customer delivery via drone (13 minutes from “click to delivery” for a customer in Cambridge, England) , and has filed a patent for the construction of beehive-like towers that would serve as drone hangar/delivery hubs, blending into an urban backdrop, and more fancifully, technology to base drones out of floating blimp warehouses, circling the Earth at 45,000 feet.

Other potential applications – including some established in various levels of scale today – range from disaster recovery and access to areas not navigable by humans, agricultural monitoring and AI-driven “crop dusting,” and advanced engineering surveys.

Software-Defined-Security
The integration of artificial intelligence across business platforms has extended to the mission-critical areas of information technology security, with Software-Defined-Security (SDS) quickly becoming the industry standard. Think of it as a shift from a hardware/people focus (where security protocols live on – and can vary from – device to device, or the level of particular training an individual undergoes) to a software/enterprise system focus, where all the activities that occur in a given network, need to adhere to the security rules and policies of that network, and are governed with a high degree of automation and limited human-driven management.

SDS requires more investment and time on the front-end, developing overall, holistic information security governance models and policies, but theoretically will save time and money in the long run, as specialized individual device security (and its costly maintenance) is no longer required. With Gartner estimating that more than 85 percent of data center workloads are now virtualized, the trend toward universal SDS adoption is more than underway. And though previous device-based information security did have the advantage in potentially limiting the extent of breaches (based on the data accessibility of the targeted device), the ubiquity today of “the cloud” has necessitated the dramatic growth of SDS implementation.     

Further Down the Road
Other revolutionary technologies such as Smart Dust – microscopic robots capable of sensing, monitoring, and performing mechanical functions in hordes of millions – and 4-D printing are in far earlier stages of conceptualization and theoretical advancement. But just as one day, in 2020, when home delivery via drone is a routine occurrence, facilitated via an automated blockchain purchase, and protected by state-of-the-art SDS, those emerging technologies will soon become conventional reality. 
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