Gartner, Inc., announced its 2006 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle which assesses the maturity, impact and adoption speed of 36 key technologies and trends during the next ten years. This year’s hype cycle highlights three major themes that are experiencing significant activity and which include new or heavily hyped technologies, where organisations may be uncertain as to which will have most impact on their business.
The three key technology themes identified by Gartner, and the corresponding technologies for enterprises to examine closely within them, are:
1. Web 2.0
Web 2.0 represents a broad collection of recent trends in Internet technologies and business models. Particular focus has been given to user-created content, lightweight technology, service-based access and shared revenue models. Technologies rated by Gartner as having transformational, high or moderate impact include:
Social Network Analysis (SNA) is rated as high impact (definition: enables new ways of performing vertical applications that will result in significantly increased revenue or cost savings for an enterprise) and capable of reaching maturity in less than two years. SNA is the use of information and knowledge from many people and their personal networks. It involves collecting massive amounts of data from multiple sources, analyzing the data to identify relationships and mining it for new information. Gartner said that SNA can successfully impact a business by being used to identify target markets, create successful project teams and serendipitously identify unvoiced conclusions.
Ajax is also rated as high impact and capable of reaching maturity in less than two years. Ajax is a collection of techniques that Web developers use to deliver an enhanced, more-responsive user experience in the confines of a modern browser (for example, recent version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Mozilla, Safari or Opera). A narrow-scope use of Ajax can have a limited impact in terms of making a difficult-to-use Web application somewhat less difficult. However, Gartner said, even this limited impact is worth it, and users will appreciate incremental improvements in the usability of applications. High levels of impact and business value can only be achieved when the development process encompasses innovations in usability and reliance on complementary server-side processing (as is done in Google Maps).
Collective intelligence, rated as transformational (definition: enables new ways of doing business across industries that will result in major shifts in industry dynamics) is expected to reach mainstream adoption in five to ten years. Collective intelligence is an approach to producing intellectual content (such as code, documents, indexing and decisions) that results from individuals working together with no centralized authority. This is seen as a more cost-efficient way of producing content, metadata, software and certain services.
Mashup is rated as moderate on the Hype Cycle (definition: provides incremental improvements to established processes that will result in increased revenue or cost savings for an enterprise), but is expected to hit mainstream adoption in less than two years. A "mashup" is a lightweight tactical integration of multi-sourced applications or content into a single offering. Because mashups leverage data and services from public Web sites and Web applications, they’re lightweight in implementation and built with a minimal amount of code. Their primary business benefit is that they can quickly meet tactical needs with reduced development costs and improved user satisfaction. Gartner warns that because they combine data and logic from multiple sources, they’re vulnerable to failures in any one of those sources.
2. Real World Web
Increasingly, real-world objects will not only contain local processing capabilities—due to the falling size and cost of microprocessors—but they will also be able to interact with their surroundings through sensing and networking capabilities. The emergence of this Real World Web will bring the power of the Web, which today is perceived as a "separate" virtual place, to the user's point of need of information or transaction. Technologies rated as having particularly high impact include:
Location-aware technologies should hit maturity in less than two years. Location-aware technology is the use of GPS (global positioning system), assisted GPS (A-GPS), Enhanced Observed Time Difference (EOTD), enhanced GPS (E-GPS), and other technologies in the cellular network and handset to locate a mobile user. Users should evaluate the potential benefits to their business processes of location-enabled products such as personal navigation devices (for example, TomTom or Garmin) or Bluetooth-enabled GPS receivers, as well as WLAN location equipment that may help automate complex processes, such as logistics and maintenance. Whereas the market sees consolidation around a reduced number of high-accuracy technologies, the location service ecosystem will benefit from a number of standardized application interfaces to deploy location services and applications for a wide range of wireless devices.
Location-aware applications will hit mainsteam adoption in the next two to five years. An increasing number of organizations have deployed location-aware mobile business applications, mostly based on GPS-enabled devices, to support queue business processes and activities, such as field force management, fleet management, logistics and good transportation. The market is in an early adoption phase, and Europe is slightly ahead of the United States, due to the higher maturity of mobile networks, their availability and standardization.
Sensor Mesh Networks are ad hoc networks formed by dynamic meshes of peer nodes, each of which includes simple networking, computing and sensing capabilities. Some implementations offer low-power operation and multi-year battery life. Technologically aggressive organizations looking for low-cost sensing and robust self-organizing networks with small data transmission volumes should explore sensor networking. The market is still immature and fragmented, and there are few standards, so suppliers will evolve and equipment could become obsolete relatively rapidly. Therefore, this area should be seen as a tactical investment, as mainstream adoption is not expected for more than ten years.
3. Applications Architecture
The software infrastructure that provides the foundation for modern business applications continues to mirror business requirements more directly. The modularity and agility offered by service oriented architecture at the technology level and business process management at the business level will continue to evolve through high impact shifts such as model-driven and event-driven architectures, and corporate semantic Web. Technologies rated as having particularly high impact include:
Event-driven Architecture (EDA) is an architectural style for distributed applications, in which certain discrete functions are packaged into modular, encapsulated, shareable components, some of which are triggered by the arrival of one or more event objects. Event objects may be generated directly by an application, or they may be generated by an adapter or agent that operates non-invasively (for example, by examining message headers and message contents).EDA has an impact on every industry. Although mainstream adoption of all forms of EDA is still five to ten years away, complex-event processing EDA is now being used in financial trading, energy trading, supply chain, fraud detection, homeland security, telecommunications, customer contact center management, logistics and sensor networks, such as those based on RFID.
Model-driven Architecture is a registered trademark of the Object Management Group (OMG). It describes OMG's proposed approach to separating business-level functionality from the technical nuances of its implementation The premise behind OMG's Model-Driven Architecture and the broader family of model-driven approaches (MDAs) is to enable business-level functionality to be modeled by standards, such as Unified Modeling Language (UML) in OMG's case; allow the models to exist independently of platform-induced constraints and requirements; and then instantiate those models into specific runtime implementations, based on the target platform of choice. MDAs reinforce the focus on business first and technology second. The concepts focus attention on modeling the business: business rules, business roles, business interactions and so on. The instantiation of these business models in specific software applications or components flows from the business model. By reinforcing the business-level focus and coupling MDAs with SOA concepts, you end up with a system that is inherently more flexible and adaptable.
Corporate Semantic Web applies semantic Web technologies, aka semantic markup languages (for example, Resource Description Framework, Web Ontology Language and topic maps), to corporate Web content. Although mainstream adoption is still five to ten years away, many corporate IT areas are starting to engage in semantic Web technologies. Early adopters are in the areas of enterprise information integration, content management, life sciences and government. Corporate Semantic Web will reduce costs and improve the quality of content management, information access, system interoperability, database integration and data quality.
“The emerging technologies hype cycle covers the entire IT spectrum but we aim to highlight technologies that are worth adopting early because of their potentially high business impact,” said Jackie Fenn, Gartner Fellow and inventor of the first hype cycle. One of the features highlighted in the 2006 Hype Cycle is the growing consumerisation of IT. “Many of the Web 2.0 phenomenon have already reshaped the Web in the consumer world”, said Ms Fenn. “Companies need to establish how to incorporate consumer technologies in a secure and effective manner for employee productivity, and also how to transform them into business value for the enterprise”.
The benefit of a particular technology varies significantly across industries, so planners must determine which opportunities relate most closely to their organisational requirements. To make this easier, a new feature in Gartner’s 2006 hype cycle is a ‘priority matrix’ which clarifies a technology’s potential impact - from transformational to low – and the number of years it will take before it reaches mainstream adoption. “The pairing of each Hype Cycle with a Priority Matrix will help organisations to better determine the importance and timing of potential investments based on benefit rather than just hype,” said Ms Fenn.