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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Here's what not to miss at the first all-virtual CERAWeek by IHS Markit. Screenshot via virtual.ceraweek.com

While usually hundreds of energy experts, C-level executives, diplomats, members of royal families, and more descend upon Houston for the the annual CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, this year will be a little different. Canceled last year due to COVID-19, CERAWeek is returning — completely virtually.

The Agora track is back and focused on innovation within the energy sector. The Agora track's events — thought-provoking panels, intimate pods, and corporate-hosted "houses" — can be accessed through a virtual atrium.

Undoubtedly, many of the panels will have Houston representatives considering Houston's dominance in the industry, but here are five innovation-focused events you can't miss during CERAWeek that feature Houstonians.

Monday — New Horizons for Energy & Climate Research

The COVID-19 pandemic has made vivid and real the risks of an uncontrolled virus. Risks posed by climate change are also becoming more palpable every day. At the forefront of understanding these risks, universities are developing solutions by connecting science, engineering, business, and public policy disciplines. Along with industry and governments, universities are critical to developing affordable and sustainable solutions to meet the world's energy needs and achieve net-zero emission goals. Can the dual challenge of more energy and lower emissions be met? What is some of the most promising energy and climate research at universities? Beyond research, what are the roles and responsibilities of universities in the energy transition?

Featuring: Kenneth B. Medlock, III, James A. Baker, III, and Susan G. Baker Fellow In Energy And Resource Economics, Baker Institute and Senior Director, Center For Energy Studies at Rice University

Catch the panel at 1 pm on Monday, March 1. Learn more.

Tuesday — Conversations in Cleantech: Powering the energy transition

With renewables investment outperforming oil and gas investment for the first time ever in the middle of a pandemic, 2020 was a tipping point in the Energy Transition. Low oil prices intensified energy majors' attention on diversification and expansion into mature and emerging clean technologies such as battery storage, low-carbon hydrogen, and carbon removal technologies. Yet, the magnitude of the Energy Transition challenge requires an acceleration of strategic decisions on the technologies needed to make it happen, policy frameworks to promote public-private partnerships, and innovative investment schemes.

Three Cleantech leaders share their challenges, successes, and lessons learned at the forefront of the Energy Transition. What is their vision and strategy to accelerate lowering emissions and confronting climate change? Can companies develop clear strategies for cleantech investments that balance sustainability goals and corporate returns? What is the value of increasing leadership diversity for energy corporations? Can the Energy Transition be truly transformational without an inclusive workforce and a diverse leadership?

Featuring: Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, which is opening a location in Houston this year.

The event takes place at 11:30 am on Tuesday, March 2. Learn more.

Wednesday — Rice Alliance Venture Day at CERAWeek

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship pitch event will showcase 20 technology companies with new solutions for the energy industry. Each presentation will be followed by questions from a panel of industry experts.

Presenting Companies: Acoustic Wells, ALLY ENERGY, Bluefield Technologies, Cemvita Factory, Connectus Global, Damorphe, Ovopod Ltd., DrillDocs, GreenFire Energy, inerG, Locus Bio-Energy Solutions, Nesh, Pythias Analytics, REVOLUTION Turbine Technologies, Revterra, ROCSOLE, Senslytics, Subsea Micropiles, Syzygy Plasmonics, Transitional Energy, and Universal Subsea.

The event takes place at 9 am on Wednesday, March 3. Learn more.

Thursday — How Will the Energy Innovation Ecosystem Evolve?

Although the cleantech innovation ecosystem—research institutions, entrepreneurs, financiers, and support institutions—is diverse and productive, converting cleantech discoveries and research breakthroughs into commercially viable, transformative energy systems has proven difficult. With incumbent energy systems economically efficient and deeply entrenched, cleantech innovation faces a fundamental dilemma—the scale economies necessary to compete require a large customer base that does not yet exist. How is our clean energy innovation ecosystem equipped to be transformative? What needs to be strengthened? Is it profitable to focus on individual elements, or should we consider the system holistically, and reframe our expectations?

Featuring: Barbara Burger, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president at Chevron Technology Ventures

The event takes place at 7:30 am on Thursday, March 4. Learn more.

Friday — Cities: Managing crises & the future of energy

Houston is the capital of global energy and for the past four decades the home of CERAWeek. Mayor Sylvester Turner will share lessons from the city's experience with the pandemic, discuss leadership strategies during times of crisis, and explore Houston's evolving role in the new map of energy.

The event takes place at 8 am on Friday, March 5. Learn more.

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