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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

Technology Adoption

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Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

Technology adoption is accelerating. The telegraph was first adopted by the Great Western Railway for signaling between London Paddington station and West Drayton in July 1839, but took nearly 80 years to peak (1920).a The landline telephone took 60 years to reach 80% adoption, electric power 33 years, color television 15 years, and social media 12 years.b The time to adoption is rapidly decreasing with advances in technology.

When we develop new technology, we would dearly like to predict its future adoption. For most technologies, total adoptions follow an S curve that features exponential growth in number of adopters to an inflection point, and then exponential flattening to market saturation. Is there any way to predict the S curve, given initial data on sales?


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