While the term disruptive technology might conjure images of HiTech advancements that create new market opportunities, we use many disruptive technology examples in our everyday life without even thinking about it. Human advancement as we know it has been shaped time and time again by the introduction of new disruptive technologies.
This post will take an in-depth look at disruptive technologies, explain what this term means, and look at examples of disruptive technologies both past and present.
What is Disruptive Technology?
A simple definition of disruptive technology is an innovation that dramatically changes how consumers, businesses, or industries operate on a daily basis. A disruptive innovation replaces existing models because of its superior attributes. However, it is essential to note that in some cases, disruptive technologies do not completely eradicate the technologies they are replacing.
New technology advancements tend to be categorized in two ways, sustaining and disruptive. A technology is considered sustaining if it makes incremental improvements to an existing model or technology. For example, new mobile app development advancements would be considered sustaining technology because they improve upon existing tech and do not replace it completely.
Over time, successful innovations become the norm, and eventually, disruptive technology is replaced by newer disruptive technologies. Take, for example, the radio. When the radio was first introduced to the consumer public, it changed the way people lived their lives. The radio brought news, entertainment, sports, and other information directly into a user’s home or car.
The television was a disruptive technology that replaced the radio as the public’s primary source of information and entertainment. Television didn’t completely kill the radio, but it significantly changed the way people live their lives. Now television is an established technology, and one day, it is possible that new disruptive technology will take the place of television.
This brings us to a final point that must be made about disruptive technology. Innovations might have the potential to drastically change society, but the business model also needs to align for mass consumption. Let’s look at the car. This is arguably one of the most important technological advancements in human history.
There is no doubt that when the automobile was invented, it was drastically superior to the horse and carriage. However, the early business model of the car followed the luxury item model. This meant that most ordinary people could not afford to own a car. Thus, the automobile was not a disruptive innovation despite its capabilities until the general public could afford to buy one many years after it was first introduced.
Who Drives Disruptive Innovation?
It may surprise you to learn that, generally speaking, startups are the companies that tend to embrace and drive disruptive innovations in the early stages. This happens for several reasons. First, startups typically have less of an established customer base to cater to and please. This allows startups to innovate and target smaller, more often overlooked segments of the existing market.
Second, smaller companies, especially startups, are more likely to take a chance and try something new since they have more flexibility to adapt to rapid changes. Large, well-established companies often lack the flexibility to adopt disruptive technologies quickly.
Disruptive technologies have a lot of potential, but not all disruptive technologies will be widely adopted and successful. The key for business leaders trying to harness the power of disruptive technologies is to weigh the risks of adopting innovations into their processes and operations against the likelihood that adoption will help them capture more of the current market or new markets.
Some businesses might decide to wait until others prove the value of disruptive technology. Still, these companies risk losing their share of the existing market to their competitors that have found a way to adopt disruptive technologies.
Examples of Disruptive Apps
While many mobile apps are innovative, it takes a truly special, visionary app to be a disrupter. These apps might not necessarily be developing technological innovations, but they provide services that fundamentally change the way we live our lives. Examples of disruptive apps include:
Luna is a MedTech app that has completely shifted the way people receive physical therapy treatments. Traditionally, if you need physical therapy, you have to go see a doctor once a week or whatever your treatment plan calls for and do strengthening exercises and other activities to help heal your body.
Luna has taken an innovative approach to physical therapy. People who need a physical therapist can use the Luna app to get matched with a physical therapist in their area. When they have found a therapist that is a good match, the physical therapist comes to their home to conduct sessions. This saves people time and makes them more comfortable. This app also gives physical therapists the ability to craft their schedules and take control of their practice.
Plus, patients and doctors can stay connected between sessions through the app. Physical therapists can track progress and make exercise and activity recommendations, and patients can report their progress and how they are feeling.
You are probably familiar with Netflix, but the streaming giant disrupted the movie business long before it became the king of streaming. When Netflix first got started, it delivered movies through the mail. Netflix completely changed the way people rented movies. Once upon a time, you had to go to a store to rent a movie. There was no guarantee that the movie you wanted to rent would even be available in store.
Netflix came along and changed everything. First, they offered users the ability to rent almost any movie or television show they wanted through the mail. The popularity of this service grew tremendously, and now Netflix streams a vast range of movies and television shows directly to users. Netflix has even disrupted the traditional studio production approach by producing and distributing its own content.
Uber was the first app to disrupt the traditional taxi service model in cities worldwide. You no longer have to wave down a cab in the pouring rain or compete with other pedestrians for the next cab. Instead, Uber allows users to find rides using an app. People who need a ride are connected to local drivers who take them to their desired destination. Uber has revolutionized the travel and hospitality industry with its expansive network of drivers.
Uber gives people more confidence that they will be able to get a ride no matter where they are or what time it is, and the platform also gives a lot of people an easy way to supplement their income or create a work schedule that works around their life. Thanks to Uber, ride-sharing apps are now commonplace.
Examples of Disruptive Technology
There are so many examples of disruptive technology. We have already highlighted a few major disruptive technologies such as the radio, television, and the automobile. Next, we will highlight examples of disruptive technology that are currently shaping our existing industries.
Recent disruptive technology examples include:
- Cloud computing
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
The cloud is a disruptive technology that has gotten very common in our daily lives. Cloud computing has given businesses the ability to store and analyze large amounts of data. It has also given consumers the ability to stream music, videos, and even video games. The cloud is one of the best examples of digital disruption.
The cloud gives users the ability to access powerful computer systems to complete complex tasks via the Internet. The cloud has also created several new opportunities for businesses to offer unique services using cloud delivery models such as Cloud Security as a Service (CSaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to their customers.
Anytime you use Netflix, Spotify, or Google Docs, you are harnessing the power of the cloud. These data storage and streaming services are simple examples of the cloud in action, but each one has uniquely disrupted the former status quo.
Internet of Things (IoT)
While IoT depends heavily on the cloud, this technology is also disruptive in its own right. The Internet of Things refers to the various things that are now connected to the Internet and capable of sending and receiving data via WiFi, LAN, or cellular networks. IoT devices include smartwatches, smart home devices, virtual assistants, etc. These devices have changed the way businesses and individuals collect data.
Consumers typically use smart home devices or wearables such as the Apple Watch. Still, IoT devices have been transforming the business world with smart sensors that help improve the manufacturing industry, make buildings more energy-efficient, and help improve all areas of a business with more detailed, real-time information. As a result, business intelligence solutions rely heavily on IoT technology.
Blockchain technology has gotten a lot of attention because it is at the core of cryptocurrency. However, blockchain technology is capable of so much, and it has already begun disrupting the financial services industry. Blockchain utilizes a decentralized network as a distributed ledger across millions of devices.
Blockchain technology is already being used to transparently record data, build apps, and securely execute financial transactions. Blockchain can completely decentralize the Internet and the traditional global payment system. This distributed ledger technology is still being adopted, but it will be a major force in the future of the Internet, app development, and financial services.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Many of the disruptive digital technologies that are easiest to point out are the ones that provide entertainment, such as the radio or television. But, of course, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have more potential than entertainment. Still, in the entertainment and gaming sectors, these technologies will be most widely used and adopted by the general public.
AR games like PokemonGo are already widely popular with mobile app users, and the Oculus is delighting users with affordable VR gaming experiences. AR and VR are both still in their infancy. You can expect both of these technologies to get more seamless, and when this happens, the possibilities they will offer will alter the world as we know it.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, a subset of AI, might sound like science fiction. Still, in reality, Artificial Intelligence is helping businesses make smarter decisions and gain valuable insights from big data. Modern AI is adept at analyzing vast amounts of information to find patterns and insights that might elude human analysts.
Machine Learning algorithms are even being used to help dermatologists spot skin cancer before the skin changes become apparent to the naked eye. These algorithms are also being used in the financial sector to help banks and other financial institutions spot fraudulent activities, offer strong fraud protection to their customers, and generate economic forecasts.
AI capabilities are steadily improving and driving the adoption of business intelligence solutions. Artificial Intelligence is poised to be the most disruptive technology to the respective industries that adopt it as its capabilities continue to improve. AI and Machine Learning have the potential to dramatically change every aspect of our daily lives.
Disruptive technologies are exciting, but it is important to invest in technology that has a future. If you need guidance, reach out to an app development partner. A partner can help you make the best technology decisions for your company’s internal operations and its digital assets. We have only touched on a few disruptive technology examples, but there are many more on the horizon that will help shape the future of the human experience.