Health passports, distancing tools among COVID-19 tech climbing Gartner Hype Cycle

Gartner research’s famous hype curve looks like a steep roller coaster leading to a launch pad. Beginning with the necessity-is-the-mother-of-innovation “Innovation Trigger,” it predictively tracks new technologies as they might evolve over the next years and decades: a long, slow climb the Peak of Inflated Expectations, then falling with a reality check into the Trough of Disillusionment, before slowly, with tweaks and refinements, clawing back up the Slope of Enlightenment toward, eventually, the Plateau of Productivity.

With most technologies it can take five years or more to trace that bumpy path, from shiny-object to indispensable tool (or, in many cases, obsolete fad).

And, indeed, plenty of the innovations on the most recent Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, published this week, will take plenty of time to evolve and either prove their worth or lose steam, whether two-way brain-machine interface, generative adversarial networks or responsible AI.

But at least a couple species of emerging tech are charting their course on the hype curve much faster than usual, and it probably won’t be a surprise that they emerged in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

So-called health passports and new social distancing technologies “are taking the fast track through the Hype Cycle and have high impact,” according to Gartner.

“Technologies rarely enter the Hype Cycle at the point where social distancing technologies have entered it, but this technology has received extraordinary attention in the media, mainly because of privacy concerns.”

Health passports, also called immunity passports or immunity certificates, offer digital proof – via a QR code, for instances – that a person is free of COVID-19 and allowed. They’re controversial, given the privacy implications, and their accuracy and efficiency may be questionable, considering how little is still known about lasting post-infection immunity. But they’re already in use in places like China and India, and some say they’ll be key to a safe reopening.

Social distancing technologies – contact tracing apps and other tools to indicate where and with whom a person has been – have similar privacy concerns, of course, but also similar promise to enable a faster lifting of quarantine rules.

Given those potential society-wide benefits, it’s perhaps unsurprising that, even with relatively modest uptake so far, both of these technologies are already outpacing others on the hype curve.

“Health passports are also unusual as technologies with market penetration of 5-20% are rarely introduced, but this technology, required for access to public spaces and transportation in China (Health Code) and India (Aarogya Setu), is being used by hundreds of millions of people in those countries,” according to Gartner. “Both technologies are expected to reach the plateau of productivity in less than two years.”

Other leading-edge technologies on the new Hype Cycle include AI-assisted design, biodegradable sensors and private 5G – all of which could take five to  10 years or more to become commonplace.

Another, that could prove especially useful for healthcare, is the concept of Digital Twins – which, as Healthcare IT News explained earlier this year, use data from wearable sensors, such (Apple Watch, Fitbit) to collect baseline health information – essentially creating a backup of a patient’s physical state so providers and patients can detect deviations from the norm and know what to work toward for better health.

“Emerging technologies are disruptive by nature, but the competitive advantage they provide is not yet well known or proven in the market. Most will take more than five years, and some more than 10 years, to reach the Plateau of Productivity. But some technologies on the Hype Cycle will mature in the near term and technology innovation leaders must understand the opportunities for these technologies, particularly those with transformational or high impact,” said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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