Sony Betamax ... the Apple Newton... push technology... Web TV... electric vehicles.... What do all these things have in common? They were all heavily promoted technologies that didn't live up to the hype surrounding them. And they are not alone.
Indeed, all too often, today's "next big thing" is tomorrow's overhyped tech trend that never took off or lived up to its potential.
So what recent technologies have (to date, at least) failed to live up to the hype surrounding their release? CIO.com asked dozens of IT professionals, marketing experts and business owners and managers to find out. Here are their top 12 nominees for the most overhyped technology of the last few years.
1. Big Data. "Big data has been overhyped in two ways," says Betsy Bilhorn, vice president of Product Management at Scribe Software, a provider of data integration and data migration software. "First, by companies trying to 'live the dream' of stitching every piece of customer data together to create a 'holistic view,'" she says.
"This overabundance of data ultimately distracts -- companies need comprehensive, actionable customer data, but attempting to gain insight on every detail overshadows the important information," Bilhorn says.
"Second,"Bilhorn says, "big data' has been used to describe anything data related. Depending on whom you ask, Big Data can be the technical infrastructure (Hadoop), unstructured data/noSQL or combining data from more than two sources. Without a standard definition, Big Data doesn't mean anything. It's like calling everything 'cloud'."
"Even though much has been talked about big data, the level of adoption has yet to reach a critical mass so as to sustain the hype," adds Frank Palermo, senior vice president, Global Technical Solutions Group, Virtusa, a global IT services company.
"Customers understanding of what big data can do for them is still very hazy, and it will be sometime before the full impact of big data would settle in," Palermo says. Indeed, "according to Gartner, big data is in the 'peak of inflated expectations' zone, and organizations will only consider its adoption when the technology is on the verge of or in to the 'plateau of productivity' zone of a hype cycle," he says.
2. QR Codes. "Everyone talks about them, but most people still don't know what [QR codes] are. And those who do aren't scanning them," says ecommerce consultant Ron Rule. "QR codes are a great convenience factor if you're seeing an offer in print and want to buy it online. But when they were hyped as an alternative to coupons... they missed the mark," he says.
The problem with QR codes is that "not many consumers use them at the moment because most don't even know how to start," says Ian Aronovich, cofounder & CEO, GovernmentAuctions.org. "While many businesses are adopting QR codes into their advertising and marketing campaigns, it may not help as much as going the conventional and reliable routes like social media and traditional email marketing," he says.
3. 3D Printing. "If you listen to the claims of the various manufacturers, it sounds like [3D printers] are a useful tool for just about anything that you might need," says JR Rodrigues, CEO, NetCablesPlus. "The reality that I hear from users, however, revolves around jammed nozzles, uneven printing due to the printing bed, software glitches and... [how long it] takes to get from concept to finished product, including the brutally slow generation of the data files."
"We've seen a lot of news about how 3D printing will change the world -- and maybe it will," says Todd Emerson, CEO, Kikata, a solutions integrator. "Schools and companies are asking for 3D printers and consumer models of 3D printers are starting to hit the market. But the tools to actually build 3D models are still relatively complex," he says. "The result is that these 3D printers are already collecting dust. There are possibilities that other overhyped tech like Leap could unlock 3D rendering to allow even the youngest and least technical users to create 3D models, but we haven't seen this happen yet."
4. Gamification. "Gamification is really overdone right now," says Alex Genadinik, founder, Problemio mobile business apps. "It rarely adds a lot of value to a product, and it often makes the usability a little slower."
5. Fingerprint Identification. "A fingerprint scanner still won't prevent your iPhone from being stolen," says Matthew Standart, director of threat intelligence at HBGary, a cybersecurity firm. "It may deter a thief to some degree -- but how many thieves are actually going to stop to check the authentication mechanism prior to or during their heist?" he asks. "A thief with the device could still access the data if it is being stored without encryption."
6. Siri. "Walking down the street, do you ever see anyone using Siri? Is it faster than manual entry? What percentage of what you ask her to do does she really understand?" asks Kerry Lebel, senior director of Product Management and Marketing, Automic, which provides a comprehensive platform for automating businesses.
"Siri gets confused on business names with more than one word, gets stuck waiting for better reception and most of the time replies with 'I'm sorry, I don't understand,'" he says. While people were at first impressed with the novelty and "cool factor" of Siri, he continues, that quickly wore off as they became frustrated -- and went back to entering data manually, which yielded faster, better results.
7. Near Field Communication (NFC). "It was widely predicted that near field communication (NFC) would revolutionize the way we pay for things and communicate with one another seemingly overnight," says Ryan Phelan, director of technology, Phenomblue, a brand experience agency. "While there are now quite a few NFC-enabled devices out there, we have yet to see much adoption," he says. (Though he notes that NFC may still deliver on its promise.)
"There was a lot of hope that NFC would enable the mobile wallet and replace credit cards," adds Palermo. "But the lack of standards, shortage of compliant point of sale terminals and the fact that devices like the iPhone don't support NFC have caused this technology not too take off," he says.
"NFC was supposed to be the future of mobile payments," says Matthew Talbot, SAP senior vice president of mCommerce. "In June, however, Gartner reduced its NFC payment volume forecast by 40 percent, because of lackluster results from Google Wallet and ISIS. NFC isn't dead, but for all the attention it's received, it's only expected to comprise 2 percent of transactions by the end of 2013 and 5 percent by 2017."
8. Digital/Mobile Wallets. "[Mobile wallets, also known as digital wallets] have been hyped nonstop for the last two years but have not passed the tipping point because there is a real 'chicken-and-egg' problem," says Phillip Parker, CEO and president, CardPaymentOptions.com.
"Merchants must invest in new equipment to support the tech, but won't do so unless customers are demanding it," Parker says. "Customers are not adopting them because merchants do not support the tech. On top of this is fragmentation of services requiring the merchant and customer to have compatible accounts. It's too complicated at the moment."
9. Augmented Reality (AR). "The most recent advance in augmented reality (AR) was the release of Google Glass amidst great fanfare," says Phelan. "However, the device is cumbersome and has very limited functionality," he notes. The problem: "Augmented reality has not yet made it past the novelty stage. It also doesn't yet exist in a form that's practical and truly useful to consumers."
10. Wearable Tech. "In the consumer space, we're experiencing a lot of hype associated with wearable technology such as 'smart' watches and Google Glass," says Nicko van Someren, chief technology officer, Good Technology, a provider of secure mobility solutions.
"From an enterprise point of view, there's pretty limited scope for benefit from devices that have such minimal user interaction capability," he says. "In addition, user authentication is challenging with such a limited UI, but because these devices are easy to lose, it is more critical than ever... so there is a real risk to enterprise data."
11. Real-Time Marketing. "Most brands who are doing or trying [real-time marketing] come off as totally forced and unnatural -- and it's actually causing blowback on social [sites]," states Tom Siebert, vice president and Minister of Propaganda at digital agency Digitaria.
"Moreover, nobody gets a 'real-time marketing' bump out of the blue; you've got to spend months if not years developing a list of followers and fans," Siebert says. "By the time your opportunity to market in 'real time' hits, it's actually the product of years of development."
12. Daily Deal Websites. "Not long ago, Groupon was turning down a hefty acquisition offer from Google and heading for an IPO," notes Matthew David, chief digital strategist at Compuware Professional Services.
"Today, the future of Groupon, LivingSocial and other daily deal sites is not so bright. Aside from the claims that working with these sites can be detrimental for businesses, couponing technologies are simple to replicate and improve," David says. "The daily deal fad misses the mark because it's a service that should be part of a larger entity, like a social networking site."
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.