When Gartner published its 2014 Gartner IoT Hype Cycle, it precipitated a headline in the Guardian: ‘Internet of things’ is the most over-hyped technology, say analysts. The article justified the headline by saying: “Gartner highlights a lack of standardisation in the area, as well as the changing nature of the technology itself, as part of the reason why widespread adoption is further than its promoters think.
The Hype Cycle showed a plethora of IoT technologies spread right across the cycle. Rather confusingly, right at the peak of inflated expectations in its own hype cycle was IoT itself. Hence the Guardian headline.
However, that assessment of IoT was a bit unfair. The Hype Cycle report opened on a very positive note — “The Internet of Things has the potential to transform industries and the way we live and work” — and most of the 110 page report was devoted to assessments of the multiple facets of IoT along the Hype Cycle.
IoT “squarely at the top of the hype cycle”
The only statement justifying the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ position was rather more qualified. Gartner said that the position of IoT as a single concept “squarely at the very top of the cycle” reflected “hype created by the large demand in, and interest from, enterprises and technology vendors — contrasted against modest actual investment in the IoT.”
“Right now, the spending and investment in IoT is not evenly dispersed,” Gartner said. “Many of the investments are being made by the technology vendor community to acquire, partner, market and prepare themselves for enterprise, public-sector and consumer adoption.” Gartner said that maturity levels in the IoT space were sector specific. “Utilities, industrial sectors, connected car, healthcare and smart city remain the forefront areas of investment.”
Fast forward one year. Gartner has just released its 2015 Hype Cycle for the Internet of Things. It still shows IoT at the peak of inflated expectations and it opens with exactly the same statement as the 2014 edition: “The Internet of Things has the potential to transform industries and the way we live and work.”
IoT Hype Cycle 2014 v 2015
So what difference, in Gartner’s view, has a year made to the world of IoT? Gartner justifies IoT remaining at the peak of inflated expectations by saying: “The hype has continued to build even higher than last year… Even as end users are not only building proof-of-concept projects, but encountering issues related to immature technologies, ecosystems and standards.”
It says there remain formidable challenges to IoT implementations. “No one just ‘buys’ IoT. Rather, an IoT deployment is a daunting array of components and software with few standards, requiring extensive set-up services. It will take time for the expected information flows to materialise and be integrated into business processes and the organisation’s culture.”
Apart from these introductory statements the most noticeable difference between the 2014 and 2015 editions is one of size: the 110 pages of 2014 have shrunk to 69 pages in 2015. Gartner explains the differences thus: “We have changed some of the technology profiles to highlight building block technologies, software platforms and security solutions, while removing some technologies that are either too narrowly focused in niche technologies, standards or use cases or are appropriate for other areas.”
It says that many of these technology profiles can still be found on other Hype Cycles, given their focus on specific industries or technology segments,” and presents a list of over 20.
A lack of maturing IoT technologies
The result of these changes is that it’s difficult to make comparisons between the two hype cycles and thus get any sense of overall progress, as assessed by Gartner. However, the 2015 edition would suggest that IoT is heavily over-hyped. There is only one technology (enterprise manufacturing intelligence) that is on its way to the plateau of productivity (less than two years) and a whole crowd jostling for the dubious distinction of being at the peak of inflated expectations. A similar number are plunging headlong into the trough of disillusionment and none are expected to reach maturity in less than two years.
In my experience of talking to people about IoT, it has a bad name: many people seem to view it as a fairly meaningless buzz phrase for a whole bunch of technologies and applications that don’t really merit being lumped together and that are, in many cases, far from maturity. Perhaps they are right. In being such a very broad umbrella term IoT is perhaps it’s own worst enemy for amongst the many nascent technologies and the prototype applications that are giving IoT a bad name are some very successful and mature implementations. As Gartner says: “maturity levels in the IoT space are sector specific.”