Tech watch update

I’ve just come off one of Gartner’s ocacasional complimentary webinars with Jackie Fen and her team: Prepare for Disruptive Emerging Technologies Through 2020.

Jackie is a consummate professional and her webcasts are always well worth the time. Her aim was to illustrate a few of the areas where she and her team believe disruptive technologies are on the march: already deployed in some specialist areas, and likely to make considerable impact as they spread.

And the keyword is: disruptive. So, not just new ways of doing what we already do, but  ways of replacing what we do now. And it doesn’t necessarily mean novel; some of these technologies have been around for a while. Jackie showed the first-ever Hype Cycle chart and, fifteen years on, Speech Recognition is still climbing to plateau!

You’ll be able, I believe, to get access to the webinar replay shortly. So, just a couple of examples. Recent years have spent a lot of energy automating the fetch-and-pick process in warehouses. Fine, if you’re moving complete pallets. For individual items the human being is much more effective at picking – but much less efficient at getting rapidly from place to place! Solution: use the robots to bring the shelf unit to the picker, and take it back afterwards.

Then there are mobile phone companies using location data, via advanced data mining, to identify communities within their user populations. They already capture all the data … so they can target services (or marketing!) at the group who come into the city in the morning and go home in the evening: differently from those who come into the city in the evening, go to the smart restaurants and the theatre district: differently from those who also come into the city in the evening but go clubbing.

And 3-D “printing”, that is, sending the instructions to “print” (manufacture) a part to the remote location rather than the part itself. Not so much for manufacturing supply chains; more for repair shops that need any given part rather infrequently. They stock raw material instead. And costs are tumbling by orders of magnitude.

Gartner clients should watch out for an update to the STREET emerging technology management process, due out shortly. Jackie spent the last few minutes discussing processes around the technology agenda, with some interesting statistics. A few technologies (like 3-D printers) are well down the list when it comes to widespread adoption; but where they have been brought in, the value delivered is very high.

Jackie also read out the verse I added to something posted on their Hype Cycle blog a little while ago, reproduced below. Thanks!

Footnote: for a different review of the tech horizon: Bill Chamberlin at Horizon Watching has just published a most useful list of links to his own blog coverage of tech trends papers from 70 or so sources, and thence back to the originals where possible. If you can follow the train of content described in that sentence! Well worth a look; great piece of work.

• Gartner webinar replays (I’ll update this link when today’s replay is posted)
• HorizonWatching: Index to 2010 Trends and Prediction Lists, 23 Feb 2010
• Mastering the Hype Cycle (Gartner blog, Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino)

Here’s my verse. The original was in response to a post by Nick Jones (I think it was) on the Hype Cycle blog, but I don’t think it’s still there.

The strategists won’t allow hype to dictate:
It’s a servant to them, not a master.
They let it inform, and they factor the risk
Twixt competitive edge and disaster.

Or they hold for a while, till it’s over the peak –
Or even invest in the trough –
When the prices are low, and there’s knowledge around
To ensure the return is enough.

Hype can be a snare: but provides a great guide
If your buyer’s informed and is practical,
And knows when investment is for the long haul
Or when it’s short term, and is tactical.

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