Guest column

Expert: What’s in store this year for the technology, media, and telecom industries in Houston

Trends in the TMT industry were largely driven by the disruptions related to COVID-19, but disruption also brings innovation and opportunity. Photo via Getty Images

As the new year begins, the impact of the pandemic and what it means for the future remains top-of-mind. COVID-19 has been a catalyst that has fostered change in many industries, including technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT). It's accelerated several trends such as the adoption of cloud technology, telehealth, and remote healthcare, and the intelligent edge.

In Deloitte's 2021 TMT predictions report, we highlight how worldwide trends could affect stakeholders and consumers across the globe. Here in Houston, we see the below trends as especially relevant for the year ahead.

Cloud technology and AI’s significant role

The evolution of instrumentation, automation and connectivity have led us to the "intelligent edge" – a new stage where the combination of advanced wireless connectivity, compact processing power and artificial intelligence have converged. Cloud computing, data analytics and AI are physically closer in the intelligent edge so that data can be rapidly analyzed and acted upon.

In 2021, Deloitte predicts the global market for the intelligent edge will expand to 12 billion, continuing a compound annual growth rate of around 35 percent. With this in mind, this type of technology can play a significant role across the industrial sector in terms of efficiencies and emissions reductions; many Houston companies are already leading in this space.

Additionally, Deloitte predicts that revenue growth will remain at or above 2019 levels (greater than 30 percent) for 2021 through 2025, largely driven by companies that are moving to the cloud in an effort to save money, become more agile and drive innovation. The maturation of the cloud industry during the pandemic has demonstrated resilience and we expect companies to continue to rely more heavily on the cloud in 2021.

Athletes by the numbers

Houstonians are some of the country's biggest sports fans, and in this era of the hyper-quantified athlete, data collection in sports is more prominent than ever.

The digital transformation of sports is in full swing and with it comes the explosion of data. Data collection – through video analytics, wearables, and smart fabrics – and how it is used raises new questions about data privacy for athletes. Deloitte predicts that by the end of 2021, multiple professional sports leagues will establish new formal policies around the collection, use and commercialization of player data.

Additionally, as seen in recent years, the use of high tech will also force teams to be more competitive, which may push boundaries and challenge our ideas about traditional sports.

Our new virtual reality

Last year, the pandemic halted in-person teaching and learning for many local educators and students. In addition, some Houston-based companies had to rethink their approach to onboarding new employees and skills training.

Some companies relied on virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality solutions. These digital reality experiences helped simulate an in-person environment, which created a 50 percent spending increase on AR and VR headsets, software, and services. In 2021, sales for enterprise and educational use of wearable headsets for VR, AR, and MR could grow by 100 percent over 2019 levels.

COVID-19 also brought many industries online, including medicine. Deloitte projects the percentage of total virtual doctors' visits will rise to 5 percent globally in 2021. This means more potential business for the companies providing technologies to support virtual visits. We can also expect that the market for pure-play telehealth virtual visit solutions will reach $8 billion this year. And, we predict that more than $3 billion of medical-grade home health care technology will be sold in 2021, which represents an increase of almost 20 percent over 2019. Houston is already home to the world's largest medical center (Texas Medical Center) and we will likely see its footprint soar in 2021.

These trends in the TMT industry were largely driven by the disruptions related to COVID-19, but disruption also brings innovation and opportunity. As the world continues to wrestle in the grip of a global pandemic, there will likely be further implications that may affect TMT businesses and consumers worldwide and here in our hometown, Houston. To keep apprised of the latest trends, follow us on Twitter @DeloitteTMT.

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Nate Clark is the U.S. Oil, Gas & Chemicals Digital Practice Leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP. This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services.

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The $2.23 million deal means a growing presence Texas for Octopus Energy. Photo via octopusenergy.com

A renewable energy retailer based in the United Kingdom is once again expanding its presence in Texas with another strategic acquisition.

Octopus Energy US, which is based in Houston, announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Houston-based energy provider Brilliant Energy LLC in a $2.23 million deal. With the acquisition, Octopus Energy will take on the 9,000 residential customers currently supplied by Brilliant Energy. These users will be transitioned onto Octopus Energy's technology platform Kraken.

"Brilliant Energy is a company that has always stood for quality and unique brand experiences. It complements our strong dedication to bringing unparalleled customer experience to our users," says Michael Lee, CEO of Octopus Energy US, in a press release. "This is a major moment for us, as we work to bring our 100% renewable energy supply and outstanding technology to more Texans and their homes."

The acquisition is the latest move from Octopus Energy's plans to invest $100 million into the U.S. energy market and target 25 million U.S. energy accounts by 2027, according to the release.

Last fall, Octopus acquired Houston-based Evolve Energy in a $5 million deal. Evolve was founded by Lee, and he transitioned into his role as Octopus CEO following the deal.

Octopus Energy, which was founded around five years ago, reached Unicorn status with a $1 billion valuation in April 2020.

Michael Lee is CEO of Octopus Energy US. Photo via LinkedIn

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