Emerging technologies vs. disruptive technologies

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Recently, there's been buzz surrounding disruptive and emerging technologies. Businesses should therefore learn how to prepare for the next big thing.

Jeremy Dunn
Jeremy Dunn
October 18, 20197 mins
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Recently, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding emerging and disruptive technologies. Many of these innovations involve modern technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robots, blockchain, internet of things (IoT), 3D printing and biometrics, just to name a few. The term "emerging technology" is pretty self-explanatory, but an emerging technology doesn't always become a disruptive technology. So what's the difference, and where do they intersect?

Emerging technologies are innovative technologies that have been recently developed, are under development or will be developed within the next few years. Disruptive technologies, however, are innovations that drastically change the way organizations and industries function. They force businesses to alter the way they manage operations, so they do not lose market shares or fall into irrelevancy.

Examples of Emerging Technologies

4D Printing

4D printing, also referred to as self-assembly, is an emerging technology that could become an alternative to the currently trending 3D printing (also an emerging technology). 4D printing includes the added dimension of transformation over time, because 4D-printed objects have the capacity to advance their assets throughout changing circumstances. For example, a product may react with elements in a particular setting — such as water, temperature or humidity — and alter its form accordingly.

5G Telecommunications

Could 5G technology soon replace the less-than-decade-old 4G? Eventually it will. Like IoT, 5G supports the millions of sensors that experts expect to see implemented in smart homes, buildings and cities. In order for this to occur, 5G must support a larger number of connected devices. 5G will likely require more connected antennas to power much of the internet.

Edge Computing Technology

Edge computing is joining hardware into software on undersized devices that connect through various procedures and run smarter analytics in lesser memory footmarks.


Robots have been featured in movies for decades, but they are just now emerging as a useful technology. They are machines with enhanced sensing, control and intelligence used to simulate, increase or assist human activities.

Examples of Disruptive Technologies

Web-based TV

Streaming TV, such as Netflix, has disrupted the cable industry. Not only is it cheaper, but it has allowed customers to skip commercials and watch programs on their own time. Netflix is not the only game in town, though — cable companies also compete with platforms like Hulu and Sling TV.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is not only for gamers; it could disrupt how business is conducted. While gaming and entertainment are expected to prompt much of the virtual reality growth, automobile manufacturers, retail outlets and interior designers will benefit from this technology.


Popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and BitGold have disrupted the banking and payment services systems industry. Many feel that blockchain currency will eventually replace the traditional currency and banking institutes.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI describes machines or computers that emulate the human brain's cognitive functions to learn and solve problems. These machines are becoming increasingly capable, which means they could replace humans in certain industries.

Some of these technologies, such as cryptocurrency and web-based TV, are already mainstream, but are expected to evolve. Other technologies are in development and will eventually enter the mainstream world, but it's unclear exactly when. Regardless, businesses should be prepared and become educated on new technologies. No one wants to be the next Blockbuster who failed to implement new technologies and became irrelevant as Netflix flourished.


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