Aug 17, 2017 | By Benedict

As part of its 2017 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, technology research firm Gartner has identified three “megatrends” to watch over the next five to 10 years. They are: artificial intelligence everywhere, transparently immersive experiences (including 4D printing), and digital platforms.

The longest-running of Gartner’s annual “Hype Cycles,” the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies report provides what Gartner calls a “cross-industry” perspective on technological trends that businesses can use to get ahead in the game. Focusing on tech that could deliver profits over a five-to-ten-year period, the future-predicting report is probably one of the industry’s most trusted resources.

Helpfully, the report isn’t just a long list of numbers and figures. In fact, the whole thing can be more-or-less visualized in a graph that maps out the “hype” stages of current tech. These stages are, in order, the Innovation Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and Plateau of Productivity.

This year, Gartner continues its penchant for shaman-like insight into the tech world. But there’s a notable absentee, with 3D printing virtually out of the picture. Instead, we see technologies like IoT, smart robots, and machine learning riding the wave of popularity.

“Enterprise architects who are focused on technology innovation must evaluate these high-level trends and the featured technologies, as well as the potential impact on their businesses,” said Mike J. Walker, research director at Gartner.

So does this mean businesses should abandon their 3D printing ventures? Probably not. Two years ago, Gartner’s 2014 and 2015 reports remarked that “Enterprise 3D Printing” had reached the Slope of Enlightment, the period in a technology’s lifespan that follows both the Peak of Inflated Expectations and consequent Trough of Disillusionment. The 2014 report showed “Consumer 3D Printing” just slipping over the Peak of Inflated Expectations, with 3D Bioprinting rising up the Innovation Trigger.

In 2017, an established practice like 3D printing can clearly no longer be considered a rising technology. There is, however, a mention for 4D Printing, generally thought of as a form of 3D printing in which printed materials can adapt and transform after the manufacturing stage, which is included in the “Transparently Immersive Experiences” megatrend.

In the Gartner report, 4D printing finds itself right at the beginning of the Hype Cycle, sitting at the foot of the Innovation Trigger incline. Its designation suggests that “more than 10 years” will pass before mainstream adoption of the technology.

“Technology will continue to become more human-centric to the point where it will introduce transparency between people, businesses, and things,” the report says of the Transparently Immersive Experiences megatrend. “This relationship will become much more entwined as the evolution of technology becomes more adaptive, contextual, and fluid within the workplace, at home, and in interacting with businesses and other people.”

Other technologies within this megatrend besides 4D Printing include Augmented Reality (AR), Computer-Brain Interface, Connected Home, Human Augmentation, Nanotube Electronics, Virtual Reality (VR) and Volumetric Displays.

On the two other megatrends, the report states that AI “will be the most disruptive class of technologies over the next 10 years due to radical computational power, near-endless amounts of data, and unprecedented advances in deep neural networks.” Digital Platforms, on the other hand, will lay “the foundations for entirely new business models that are forming the bridge between humans and technology.”

Walker adds: “In addition to the potential impact on businesses, these trends provide a significant opportunity for enterprise architecture leaders to help senior business and IT leaders respond to digital business opportunities and threats by creating signature-ready actionable and diagnostic deliverables that guide investment decisions."



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