This might not be the best time to invest in Internet TV. It could also be time to take a long, cold look before putting money into NFC swipe payments. The 2011 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle is out, and both of those are at what Gartner calls the Peak of Inflated Expectations.

Don’t misunderstand: these technologies are still on their way to mainstream adoption and widespread success. It’s just that emotional responses to their promise have lowered their value as investment opportunities.

Gartner has been issuing this Hype Cycle report annually since 1995 to quantify what it describes as the common pattern of overenthusiasm, disillusionment and eventual realism that accompanies each new technology and innovation.

On the social media side, group buying still has a little way to go before reaching that peak, as do social analytics and activity streams. Jackie Fenn, vice president and Gartner fellow, said this indicates “the era of sky-high valuations for Web 2.0 startups is not yet over.”

Looking at the downward side of the Bell curve, cloud/web platforms in what Gartner calls the Trough of Disillusionment, where companies are realizing that their overinflated expectations aren’t going to be met. Again, that’s only a bad thing for investors looking to get in early, since it means these technologies are about to enter the mainstream.

Along with cloud computer, other transformational technologies that will hit the mainstream in less than five years include media tablets, in-memory database management systems, big data, and extreme information processing and management.

Taking a longer view, 3D printing, context-enriched services, the “Internet of Things” – devices and products that communicate directly with each other, Internet TV and natural language question answering will be major world-changing technology forces.

The Hype Cycle report “targets strategic planning, innovation and emerging technology professionals by highlighting a set of technologies that will have broad-ranging impact across the business,” Fenn said.

Photo by flickr user Tom Purves, used under Creative Commons license

Graph source: Gartner (July 2011)

To view the graph larger, click here