Although the term disruptive technology may remind people of the advancement of high technology, we use many examples of disruptive technology every day without even thinking about it. Human progress 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.
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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 important 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 is making 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 disruptive 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 a new disruptive technology will take the place of television.
This brings us to a final point that must be made about disruptive technology. New 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. This happens for several reasons. First, startups typically have less of an established customer base that they have 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, established companies often lack the flexibility necessary for the quick adoption of disruptive technologies.
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 innovations is to weigh the risks of adopting new technologies into their processes and operations against the likelihood adoption will help them capture more of the existing market.
Some businesses might decide to wait until others prove the value of a 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 new technologies, but they are providing services that are fundamentally changing 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 own 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 the way they are feeling.
You are probably familiar with Netflix, but the streaming giant was disrupting the movie business long before they became the king of streaming. When Netflix first got started, they 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. 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 movies and television shows directly to users. Netflix has even disrupted the traditional studio production approach as well by producing and distributing its own content.
Uber was the first app to disrupt the traditional taxi service model in cities all over the world. You no longer have to wave down a cab in the pouring rain or compete with other pedestrians for the next cab. 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 not only gives people more confidence that they will be able to get a ride no matter where they are or what time it is, but 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.
Examples of Disruptive Technology
There are so many examples of disruptive technology. We have already highlighted a few major disruptive innovations such as the radio, television, and the automobile. We’re going to highlight examples of disruptive technology that are currently shaping our world.
Recent examples of disruptive technologies include:
- Cloud computing
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
The cloud is a disruptive technology that has gotten very common in our daily lives. Not only has cloud computing given businesses the ability to store and analyze large amounts of data, but it has also given consumers the ability to stream music, videos, and even video games.
The cloud gives users the ability to access powerful computer systems to complete complex tasks all via the Internet. Cloud computing has also created a number of 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 services are simple examples of cloud computing, 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 all of 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, and more.
Consumers typically use smart home devices or wearables such as the Apple Watch, but IoT devices have been transforming the business world with smart sensors that help improve the manufacturing process, make buildings more energy-efficient, and help improve all areas of a business with more detailed, real-time information.
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 execute financial transactions in a secure manner. Blockchain has the capability to completely decentralize the Internet. This technology is still being adopted, but it is clear that it will be a major force in the future of the Internet, app development, and financial services.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
Many of the disruptive technologies that are easiest to point out are the ones that provide entertainment, such as the radio or television. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have a lot more potential than entertainment, but it is in the entertainment and gaming sectors that 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 Virtual Reality 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.
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 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.