Technology “Hype” Cycle

Technology “Hype” Cycle

Source: adapted from Gartner Inc.

Technology has the potential to disrupt markets, a fact underlined since the industrial revolution, where several key technologies created new markets and new economic opportunities. This is also the case of the transport sector. However, the impacts of technological innovation are usually not a linear process. On several occasions, a new technology goes through a set of stages before its potential can be realized. Two major phases can be identified:

  • Hype phase. Once a new technology (or product) is introduced, its real potential is fairly unknown and subject to much speculation and exaggerations. There are thus many expectations, and the corporation introducing a new technology will obviously do its utmost to ensure it receives the highest visibility possible and even promotes the “hype”. The utility of the technology has not yet been formally demonstrated. What often happens is after a stage of inflated expectations (e.g. “world-changing / disruptive” technology), the realization comes about that those expectations cannot be reconciled with the reality (low utility and market potential). In some cases, the new technology can be abandoned altogether.
  • Realization phase. Once the hype phase is over, then the real potential of the technology can be realized after a learning and adaptation period. The utility of the technology improves greatly as a larger number of applications are found (sometimes different from those believed to be possible during the hype phase). At some point, the technology has reached its potential (maximum utility).