What is a technology trends analysis?

Technology over supply

A technology trend analysis uses data about historical performance and extrapolates it to make an estimate of future capability of a technology.  

The trend analysis on the right was drawn in 1998, when there was much speculation about the need for the "information super highway" to be supported by fibre optic bandwidth to the home.  A simple trend analysis shows the consumer demand for bandwidth as a dashed line.  The red line indicates the ability to supply that demand by copper.  The green one of the lower capability fibre optic technologies.  This analysis showed that consumer needs would be met by copper for the next thirty years or so.

An interesting observation was the WiFi could also meet the need, possibly with a less intrusive infrastructure, and this has happened in some places.

Twelve years on there is more data available to update the diagram.  Understanding the statistical implications of working with log-linear scales takes some careful thought, but in principle, huge changes in data points are needed to make significant differences to the regression lines.  The technique is therefore fairly robust in the situations where data exists to make its application feasible.

There is much more to be said about the statistical interpretation of regression lines, but such detail is really only of interest to those who wish to make use of the technique.  When coupled with an analysis of market demand it is possible to draw compelling visual diagrams that can help define future strategies.

From a company perspective, an interesting approach is to map company technical capability on to a diagram of the market demand trend and overall technology provider capability.  Such a view provides an interesting perspective on R&D targets.  One such analysis resulted in us being falsely accused of having access to commercially sensitive information as it was such a close estimate of the capability of a soon to be released product!