Tuesday 12 November 2019

John McGee: 'It's wise not to always buy into the hype of the next big thing'

Spark Foundry, part of Core, was the overall winner of the annual Power of Planning competition which is run by NewsBrands Ireland.
Spark Foundry, part of Core, was the overall winner of the annual Power of Planning competition which is run by NewsBrands Ireland.

John McGee

Anyone who has been following emerging trends in the technology world over the past 10 years will probably have stumbled upon the Gartner Hype Cycle, a graphic representation of the different stages a new technology passes through before it becomes mainstream.

Developed by the US consultancy and research company of the same name, the Gartner Hype Cycle pinpoints where a particular technology or application is at each stage of its life cycle.

Starting with the so-called Innovation Trigger - the very early days of a new technology - it then passes through four other stages: the Peak of Inflated Expectations, the Trough of Disillusionment, the Slope of Enlightenment, and finally the Plateau of Productivity, which generally means that it is ready to be embraced by the wider marketplace and has a commercial future.

All the technologies that we know and use on a daily basis, whether we know it or not, have passed through the Hype Cycle. Others have not been so fortunate and fall off the Gartner radar when they hit the Trough of Disillusionment, usually when investors are no longer willing to bankroll it or founders realise they can't scale it to make a viable business. Or, indeed, both.

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Anyone who has been following the recent announcements about the rollout of 5G mobile bandwidth in the Irish market will be all too familiar with the publicity and hype surrounding it.

Vodafone was first out of the traps, with its test launch toward the end of 2018. Then Eir recently announced that its rollout of 5G had begun, while Three is expected to announce its offering before the end of the year.

For those people struggling in parts of the country to get a half-decent 3G signal, all of this might seem far-fetched and a tad annoying, but like it or not, expect to hear a lot about 5G over the coming months as the competing telcos launch new plans and 5G-compatible handsets.

To be fair, some of the hype is justified, as 5G will indeed deliver device speeds up to 200 times those of existing 4G-enabled handsets, meaning response times of a couple of milliseconds, with little, if any, latency. This paves the way for buffer-free content like video, augmented and virtual reality and, who knows, some form of content or application that hasn't even been created yet.

It also takes us another few steps closer to the so-called Internet of Things, where all the smart devices we use talk to each other and are connected to the cloud. Somewhere in between, brands will be vying for our business.

For advertisers and marketers, it opens up many possibilities in terms of their creative output - better advertising would be most welcome - as well as the all-important customer experience, something which looms large on the agenda of many marketers.

A brief history of mobile telecommunications shows us how transformative every 'G' has been.

In 1984, 1G allowed us to make and receive calls on mobile devices; 2G moved this technology from analogue to digital, then 3G introduced the internet and millions of apps to our handsets.

With 4G, phones became smarter and faster, allowing us to watch and download videos, engage in seamless online shopping, and connect to other smart devices and other people through social media platforms like Facebook. So what might 5G look like?

"The first wave of a new technology tends to mimic that which it replaces and add some functionality," says Alan Coleman, managing director of the Dublin-based agency Wolfgang Digital. Coleman believes that 5G is just what the marketing industry needs at the moment.

"The lives we lead in 10 years' time will be dramatically different from now. The internet-induced changes we've seen over the last 10 years are only the beginning of the information revolution. In digitising our lives, we've unwittingly laid the tracks for the AI (artificial intelligence) revolution. Data is oxygen to AI, and processing speed is power. The advent of 5G will be the dawn of the era of AI-optimised smart living," he says.

He may be right, and he is by no means a lone voice in the industry. But as we have seen before with other new technologies tracked by Gartner, a note of caution should be sounded.

Apart from issues like the availability of compatible handsets and the ongoing rollout of a physical national 5G network, consumer demand will ultimately be a key consideration.

As Gartner itself noted recently, 5G is still five to 10 years away from the Plateau of Productivity, when its true benefits will be finally felt and accepted as the norm by both consumers and businesses.

Yes, by 2024, 5G coverage will be as widespread as 4G is now. But, in the meantime, let's not get too carried away by the hype and the weight of expectation.


Spark Foundry, part of Core, was the overall winner of the annual Power of Planning competition which is run by NewsBrands Ireland.

The winning team of Francois Vieu, Rachel McCloskey, Shauna Barry and Victoria Price, above, saw off stiff competition from other media agencies, including runner-up Mindshare. They devised a strategy to showcase the effectiveness of the various print and online platforms run by members of NewsBrands Ireland, the trade organisation for Ireland's news media.


With the all-important annual renewal period for health insurance under way, Vhi Healthcare is the latest insurer to launch a new campaign to highlight its offerings.

Called 'Beyond Insurance', the campaign was created by Publicis Dublin and highlights the depth and breadth of the Vhi specialist clinics, which are open to members.

The campaign will run across TV, radio, digital and cinema, as well as out-of-home.

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