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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Building Houston

 
 

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

The country's largest climatetech startup incubator has made a strategic new hire.

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"Lara brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to our team from her dynamic leadership role at the City of Houston," says Reichert in a news release. "Her breadth of knowledge in sustainability, climate, and the energy transition, and her expertise in regulatory and stakeholder aspects of the energy industry, will be incredibly valuable to our team and community."

Under her leadership at the city of Houston, Cottingham was the chief author of Houston's Climate Action Plan, an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, and getting the city to a point where it meets the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Cottingham helped the city move to 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the release, and helped turn a 240-acre landfill into the nation's largest urban solar farm.

"In leading the Climate Action Plan, Lara helped spark Houston's leadership in what has become a global energy transition and was a passionate advocate for climate action in Houston," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "While she will be missed, this new role will only strengthen our partnership with Greentown. I look forward to working with Emily, Lara, and the Greentown team to meet our climate goals and make Houston the energy capital of the future."

Before her work at the city, Cottingham worked at Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Houston office range of clients across the energy sector. Earlier in her career, she served as communications director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. She began her work with the city in 2014.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals."

Greentown Labs first announced its entrance into the Houston market last summer. The new 40,000-square-foot facility in Midtown across the street from The Ion opened its prototyping and wet lab space, offices, and community gathering areas for about 50 startup companies opened in April. Greentown was founded in 2011 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and has supported more than 400 startups, which have raised more than $1.5 billion in funding.

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