Summary: Technology trends can be tricky. Some receive a massive amount of publicity, and live up to the hype. Others receive a lot of hype, yet don’t go anywhere. How can you identify which trends are worth your time, and which are overhyped? In this article, we explore 4 tech trends that are currently receiving more hype than they deserve.
Then, the season starts and we quickly learn who was overhyped. (I’m looking at you, Cleveland Browns.)
The same thing happens with technology trends. Certain trends receive a lot of press. Everyone starts making predictions on how these trends will change everything. Soon, the buzz grows to the point where business leaders feel like they need to adopt these technologies or risk falling behind.
The problem: Many of these trends are overhyped.
What do I mean by “overhyped?” An overhyped tech trend is one that’s receiving more hype than it deserves at this moment in time. For instance, maybe it’s just not ready for primetime. Maybe it doesn’t provide the expected value or requires too many resources to get up and running. Whatever the reason, these are trends that offer little value relative to the hype they’re receiving.
Now, this doesn’t mean that these trends will never provide value. If you recall, cloud computing was certainly overhyped for a few years before it really caught on. If you look back in time, you’ll find many such trends that received too much early publicity.
The big question: Which trends are currently overhyped? In this article, we’ll explore 4 such trends and explain why you should be cautious with each one.
1. BlockchainExperts predict blockchain will transform everything from digital currency to voting processes to entire economies. But, it’s been “the next big thing” for a few years running and we haven’t seen it take off in the business world. According to a recent survey from Gartner, only 1% of CIOs indicated any kind of blockchain adoption and only 8% planned to experiment with it.
Does blockchain have potential? Yes. But, it’s just not practical for the average business right now.
Why? Here are a few reasons:
One of blockchain’s huge advantages is its ability to track financial transactions and other data. The problem is, blockchain can’t currently come close to the processing speed of current tracking systems.
According to Deloitte, current transaction processing systems can process tens of thousands of transactions per second. Ethereum blockchain currently clocks in around 15 transactions per second. As a result, many don’t consider blockchain as a viable solution for large-scale applications.
“Blockchain (the technology behind cryptocurrencies) is one of the most overhyped technologies ever,” says Hamna Amjad, Tech Expert at GX. “One of its main attractions was that it was supposed to be faster. However, it is often slower than traditional processes as it requires all transactions to be verified cryptographically.”
It requires massive changes
Legacy systems still exist in businesses across the globe. Why? They’re difficult to replace. Oftentimes, these legacy applications and systems are mission-critical to the business. Replacing them is a major undertaking.
This is the problem faced by those hoping to adopt blockchain. They have systems and processes in place that already work. As explained below, implementing blockchain requires massive changes to current systems and processes.
“It is hard to implement Blockchain in the existing systems used by banks for transactions and in other finance systems, such as insecuritization or supply-chain monitoring,” explains Amjad. “The reason being that intermediaries are generally required in inevitable circumstances that demand discretion or in case of unexpected contingencies. Implementing Blockchain means the whole banking system needs to be changed.”
It requires new skills
Blockchain implementation requires a skill set that very few businesses currently possess. Because the technology is so new, the average businesses will have trouble hiring employees who understand blockchain. Until the skills catch up with the trend, adoption will suffer.
“Businesses first need to fully understand the concept of Blockchain and what it really means to make a shift to this technology,” says Amjad. “Moreover,it is hard to find people skilled in this technology area making it difficult for businesses to actually convert.”
2. Artificial IntelligenceIn terms of hype and excitement around a trend, Artificial Intelligence is probably at the top of the list right now. I’ve read articles claiming that AI is outperforming humans and is poised to transform the business world.
The big problem: Much of this hype is built on shaky ground. Here are a few reasons to be skeptical:
AI hype is largely driven by clickbait
Where does AI hype come from? As explained by this expert, much of the hype originates from press releases (from companies trying to sell an AI solution).
For instance, he gives an example of a press release that claims AI is reading better than humans. The press embellishes this claim with an article subject like, “AI has surpassed humans and millions of jobs are at stake!” However, when you really dig into the facts, you’ll find that the AI can only read as well as humans in one specific area.
The problem is, most people don’t dig into the facts. They just read the clickbait.
Another AI expert sums it up nicely in this article: “Policymakers don’t read the scientific literature, but they do read the clickbait that goes around. The media business is complicit here because it’s not doing a good enough job of distinguishing between real advances in the field and PR fluff.”
It’s hard to know what’s real AI and what’s not
AI is a hard concept to define. The problem is, many software vendors are capitalizing on that fact–offering “AI” capabilities when they shouldn’t. If most business leaders don’t really understand what true AI looks like, how can they tell which is real and which is fake?
“One trend that’s been seriously overhyped is artificial intelligence,” says Carsten Schaefer, founder and CEO at crowdy.ai. “Lots of companies and marketers throw it around without the faintest clue of what it means, just to impress their target audience. In reality, their idea of AI is basically large amounts of data and an algorithm to process it. Unfortunately, many companies get away without ever explaining what the term means and what their customers can benefit from it. I think we’re still a few years away from AI actually breaking into the realm of everyday use. Until then, it’s a bogus marketing term in most cases.”
Very few companies can afford AI
Perhaps the biggest issue boils down to the fact that most companies don’t have the resources to get into AI. This article sums up the problem nicely: “AI engineers are expensive — their total compensation packages can go into the millions of dollars. It does not seem likely that large companies with limited AI capabilities will be willing or able to attract and retain such talent.”
Additionally, AI isn’t a magic formula that can automatically spit out answers. Machine learning models typically require vast amounts of data. They require a significant amount of resources before they can deliver answers. As of now, the required investment puts AI out of reach for most small or mid-size companies.
So…does AI hold any potential value?
I believe AI does hold amazing potential in the future, but is currently receiving more hype than it deserves. It’s being sold as the next big thing, yet the average company doesn’t have the resources to even adopt AI.
3. Quantum computingI hesitate to mention quantum computing. While it’s received a fair amount of hype, I feel that most CIOs and IT leaders realize that it’s a long way off.
However, I’d like to mention it as the buzz recently spiked thanks to Google’s announcement. Google just reported that their quantum computer solved a problem considered virtually impossible for normal machines. Specifically, it solved a complex computation in 200 seconds that would take about 10,000 years for even the most powerful supercomputers.
Of course, that’s an impressive feat. It shows the amazing power of quantum computing. The problem is, quantum computing is still a long way off for the average business.
When can we expect it to go mainstream? A recent report concluded that we’re at least a decade away from powerful quantum computers that will definitively run laps around conventional supercomputers. The report highlighted a couple of key challenges that need to be resolved:
Qubits (the basic unit of quantum information) are sensitive and error-prone. As explained in the article, “To get the right answer from a quantum computer, researchers either have to repeat a calculation an unreasonable number of times, or build a quantum computer with millions of qubits. Even tens of qubits nestled together in one array start interfering with one another, causing errors.”
It requires significant funding
Research and development for quantum computing requires a significant amount of both time and money. The recent report highlights this fact as a major challenge going forward: “If these early, error-prone quantum computers do not gain footing in the market over the next few years, private companies will not be able to sustain R&D in quantum computing,” states the report.
The bottom line: Quantum computing holds major promise, but is still a long way off. As explained below, it’s currently a trend that only the biggest companies can explore.
“Quantum computing is one of the most exciting technologies of the modern era, the ability to calculate at that level with less size is a game-changer,” says Alexander M. Kehoe, Co-Founder & Operations Director of Caveni Digital Solutions. “However, it should be fairly telling that the only people who are doing it successfully are Google and NASA. It will be no surprise when startups and products start showing up talking about their quantum computing capabilities. Business owners should be aware that any quantum computing products are at least ten years away from market viability and 20 years is even more likely. Don’t fall into the hype on quantum computing, wait until real small scale applications for the technology show up.”
4. Virtual and Augmented RealityVirtual Reality and Augmented Reality have been “hot trends” for a few years running. But, they’re not really catching on. Sure, it’s caught on in several niche industries, but VR/AR has yet to see widespread business or consumer adoption.
A recent survey found that IT professionals view VR/AR as overhyped tech trends. Analyst firm IDC found that shipments of AR and VR headsets are on the decline. What’s holding it back? There are two big issues:
A lack of good experiences
According to Gartner, “The biggest barrier to wide adoption of immersive technologies is the lack of good user experience design. 3D interface design is difficult and expensive, and there are few people with the necessary design skills to overcome these issues.”
Availability and access
As of now, consumers have limited options when choosing AR/VR hardware. On top of that, the hardware is clunky and expensive. Consumers haven’t yet bought into the value vs. cost.
“As concepts, both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) hold a lot of promise,” says Damien Mason, Tech Expert at ProPrivacy.com. “VR can help build entire worlds, while AR enhances our very own to bring us hit video games like Pokémon Go. Despite the success and development we’ve seen over the years, it’s fair to say that both are still in their infancy and haven’t yet achieved anywhere near their full potential.
The problem with VR is the continuous struggle of power versus portability, which Oculus, HTC, and other companies are working on as we speak. Innovative offerings have emerged but come at a staggering cost to the end-user. For companies like Gaunt Francis Architects, the wince-worthy $1,000+ cost of a single HTC Vive Pro with accessories is of little consequence because it offers new ways to communicate with clients in much higher resolution, but those price tags are certain to turn away other markets and customers.”
Now, these are just a few overhyped tech trends, but the list could go on. If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.