2012's 'Tipping Point' Technologies: Unlocking Long-Awaited Technology Scenarios

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In this scenario, 3D printing allows consumers to print physical objects, such as toys or housewares, at home, just as they print digital photos today. Combined with 3D scanning, it may be possible to scan certain objects with a smartphone and print a near-duplicate. Analysts predict that 3D printing will take more than five years to mature beyond the niche market.

Big Data, 3D printing, activity streams, Internet TV, Near Field Communication (NFC) payment, cloud computing and media tablets are some of the fastest-moving technologies identified in Gartner Inc.'s 2012 hype cycle for emerging technologies.

Gartner analysts said that these technologies have moved noticeably along the hype cycle since 2011, while consumerization is now expected to reach the plateau of productivity in two to five years, down from five to 10 years in 2011. Bring your own device (BYOD), 3D printing and social analytics are some of the technologies identified at the peak of inflated expectations in this year's emerging technologies hype cycle.

"The theme of this year's hype cycle is the concept of 'tipping points.' We are at an interesting moment, a time when many of the scenarios we've been talking about for a long time are almost becoming reality," said Hung LeHong, research vice president at Gartner. "The smarter smartphone is a case in point. It's now possible to look at a smartphone and unlock it via facial recognition, and then talk to it to ask it to find the nearest bank ATM. However, at the same time, we see that the technology is not quite there yet. We might have to remove our glasses for the facial recognition to work, our smartphones don't always understand us when we speak, and the location-sensing technology sometimes has trouble finding us."

Although the hype cycle presents technologies individually, Gartner encourages enterprises to consider the technologies in sets or groupings, because so many new capabilities and trends involve multiple technologies working together. Often, one or two technologies that are not quite ready can limit the true potential of what is possible. Gartner refers to these technologies as "tipping point technologies" because, once they mature, the scenario can come together from a technology perspective.


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