How Do You Identify Disruptive Technology?

There are many reasons why a business might be successful, but innovation is the most important one. Innovation drastically changes current trends and technologies; it may disrupt current technologies.  

What is disruptive technology?

Disruptive technologies are those that radically change the market or create a new market. It makes an existing technology obsolete. Though we say disruptive technology, the technology itself may not be disruptive. It may have been in the world for years, but because of the lack of an appropriate business model, it may have remained hidden from the market. Finding technologies that could change the way businesses work can be a big part of doing well in the business world. 

Sustaining technology vs. Disruptive technology

Sustaining technology grows incrementally. For example, the reduction in the size of ICs over the years is a sustaining technology; everybody expects it. However, the technology of integrated circuits was  disruptive. It significantly reduced the use of transistors. 

For example, IC size reduction is a sustaining evolutionary technology; however, you can also have a revolutionary sustaining technology. Such technologies create an entirely different market and never before seen use case. But they don’t disrupt existing technologies. For example, the invention of the airplane did not disrupt any other technologies. People could do something they couldn’t do at all; however, the creation of the car was disruptive to the carts driven by animals.

While pursuing a disruptive technology may attract a lot of attention, you may get little encouragement. That is because it would take a lot of work to get investors. But you might get the money if you could find the disruptive technology and explain it to potential investors. So the first step in innovation is to find and identify a disruptive technology. If you know how to tell the difference between sustaining and disruptive technologies, you may be better able to spot them.

Characteristics of Disruptive Technologies 

The following characteristics may be general to all disruptive technologies.

  1. Pursued by relatively few people: Even though change is attractive, people must be courageous enough to follow or adapt to the change. Only a few enthusiasts may be working on it and improving it, and they may not be doing it to make profits.
  1. Attracts a lot of criticism: Disruptive technologies may attract lots of criticism. You always need to understand disruptive technology and its pros and cons fully. The technology may have unforeseen disastrous consequences, and many people will criticize such innovation.
  1. The slow growth of popularity: If you are seeing a slow evolution of interest among people, you might have stumbled upon a disruptive technology. Usually, a technology that is not disruptive may lose popularity if it turns out to be unsuccessful or impractical. Or the technology may explode in favor if it is practical and sustaining but not disruptive.
  1. May need an excellent business model: Sometimes, the initial enthusiasts use ineffective business models. The ineffectiveness could be not using advanced technologies or not trying to reach more feasible demographics.

You can track the above criteria to find disruptive technologies around you. First, however, you must have an open mind. Never discourage people from pursuing any new technology, even if you don’t think it will be successful. Only tracking them will make you sure of the technology’s impact. 

Understanding past examples of disruptive technology may also give you an idea of where to look. The situation when those technologies become disruptive can help you identify similar scenarios and create new ones. A few technologies that have been disruptive in the past are listed below.

  • Netflix: This top video streaming service started as a DVD rental service with a unique subscription-based business model. In the 2000s, it disrupted the then No.1 traditional rental service, Blockbuster.
  • Amazon: This online book-selling company disrupted the traditional way of buying books without owning a physical bookstore. The CEO, Jeff Bezos, also identified ebooks as being disruptive and invested in them, giving rise to the successful Kindle e-reader. This success exemplifies how you can benefit from identifying disruptive technologies.
  • Google: The website, synonymous with internet surfing, had a disruptive search engine algorithm. Larry Page and Sergey tried to sell Google to Yahoo for 1 million USD in 1998, but Yahoo refused. Yahoo did not identify Google as a disruptive technology, an example of how not identifying such technologies can be catastrophic.

How to measure the disruptiveness of a technology?

The disruptiveness of a technology can be used to identify a disruptive technology. You can do this by calculating the various numbers listed below.

  • Scalability: You can calculate the current and estimated market share to get an idea of the scalability of the technology. The more scalable a technology is, the more it is likely to be disruptive.
  • Cost: The expense of implementing and maintaining newer technology will determine its disruptiveness. The greater the difference between the two, the less disruptive the technology will be.
  • Time to the Market: The less time required for delivering the new technology, the more likely it will be disruptive. 

Top Disruptive technologies

Internet of Things: Currently, there are almost 7.74 billion IoT devices; this number may grow by a factor of three by 2030. By 2023, the global investment in IoT technologies may reach $1.01 trillion. 

Augmented reality: AR can disrupt several markets, including retail. 72% of customers say that they would purchase more from AR-integrated sites. By 2024, the AR market could be worth $50 billion.

Virtual Reality: Over 170 million VR users exist worldwide, and 23 percent of them are between 23 and 34. The current VR market volume is 12.3 billion USD  and may grow to 26 billion USD by 2027.

Blockchain: This market may grow to 1.4 trillion USD and increase the global GDP to 1.76 trillion USD by 2030. The number of people using cryptocurrency may rise to 1 billion USD by 2030.

AI: The AI market is worth about 136 billion USD worldwide in 2022, and it could grow by eight times in the next eight years. By 2026, the US AI market may reach around 300 billion USD.

3D Printing: According to Hubs’ Trend Report, the 3D printing market will grow to around 37 billion USD by 2026. Grand View Research 3D Printing reports a CAGR of 21.5 percent until 2028.

Drones: The popularity of drones has been increasing, both for commercial and recreational purposes. Commercial drones are uncommon, accounting for only 37% of all drones in the United States. 536,183 out of 855,860 drones in the US are for recreational purposes; the annual growth rate in the US is around 6.7 percent, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Robots: With innovation in AI, the use of robots for various commercial and personal purposes will increase. By 2025, around 34% of the robots sold will be cobots, or collaborative robots. And by 2028, the industry may generate an income of 20 billion USD.


Identifying disruptive technologies requires an open mind and observance. You need to find less popular technologies that are slowly gaining popularity. Moreover, the technology should be easier and more cost-effective than the existing one.

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