If there’s one constant in more than a decade of producing the Signal conference and Signal360, it’s that the world of technology moves in cycles. The famous Gartner Hype Cycle tracks how business leaders and the broader public respond to innovations in technology – and it’s fair to say that we’re near the peak of one right now.

At the center of this year’s cycle is “the metaverse” – that hard to define but seemingly omnipresent new set of technologies that boosters promise will change everything, from consumer experience to how brands will go to market. Here at Signal, our initial response to the metaverse hype was a bit reserved – it’s not easy to pick technology winners and losers. We remember all the hype around virtual reality in the era of Second Life, but we also remember the hype around the early Web. One turned out poorly for brands who invested early, but the Web? That was another story.

Further complicating a layman’s understanding of the metaverse is how blockchain and cryptocurrencies play into how the metaverse works. “Crypto” is going through its own hype cycle at the moment – it’s well past the “peak of inflated expectations,” and deep in its own “trough of disillusionment.” How should we think about these new technologies, and when might be the right time to test, lean, and build inside them? These are the questions we address in this month’s lead story, The Metaverse: What Is It, and Should You Invest?

Our second feature focuses on another key pillar of Signal’s ongoing coverage: The Supply Chain. In particular, we survey the landscape of e-commerce shipping, where speed, accuracy, and customer satisfaction are paramount. The article includes insights from executives at Shippo, the fast growing, at-scale software solution that has brought hundreds of thousands of businesses Amazon-level customer experiences in e-commerce. It’s a great introduction to an important theme of this year’s Signal conference, which will feature Shippo CEO Laura Behrens Wu.

Speaking of e-commerce, don’t miss our interview with the founder of Pilot44, who gives us an overview of his company’s fascinating scenarios on the future of commerce. Rounding out our coverage is an encouraging vision of plastics recycling from entrepreneur John Layman, and a deep cut from the Signal archives featuring best selling author Malcolm Gladwell.

Next month Signal360 will pull the curtain back on the 11th annual P&G Signal conference, which – as always! – promises to be our best yet! We look forward to seeing many of you there!

Stan Joosten & John Battelle,
Editors-in-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G