Deloitte Global forecasts smart speakers will be worth $7 billion in 2019, becoming the fastest-growing connected device category. Photo: (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

DURBAN – Deloitte Global forecasts smart speakers will be worth $7 billion (R97bn) in 2019, becoming the fastest-growing connected device category. This is according to Deloitte’s 18th edition of Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions.

The democratisation of AI

Deloitte also predicts that in 2019 companies will further accelerate usage of cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) software and services. Among companies using AI, 70 percent will obtain AI capabilities through cloud-based enterprise software, 65 percent will create AI applications using cloud-based development services, and by 2020, the penetration rate of enterprise software with AI built in, and cloud-based AI development services will reach an estimated 87 and 83 percent respectively.

“So far, AI’s initial benefits have been predominantly accrued by ‘tech giants’ with extensive financial resources, strong IT infrastructure, and highly-specialized human capital,” says Paul Lee, Head of Global TMT Research.

The new network arrives

5G wireless networks are expected to arrive in scale, providing faster connections for consumers and enterprises, and opening revenue opportunities for telecommunication companies.

Wireless operators have been pouring resources into 5G network development – in fact, 72 operators are currently testing this offering – and Deloitte forecasts that in 2019, 25 wireless operators will launch 5G service, a figure that will likely double by 2020.

“Wide-scale adoption of 5G devices will take time, but we believe 2019 will be the starting point for sweeping change for the wireless industry,” says Lee. “5G can provide hundredfold increases in traffic capacity and network efficiency over 4G, and this has transformative potential on the future of connectivity worldwide.”

Additional topics from Deloitte's 2019 TMT Predictions include:

China’s connectivity nurtures new digital business models

Deloitte predicts China will have world-leading telecommunications networks in 2019 and most likely in the medium term. Its communications infrastructure will provide a foundation for at least three significant new industries, each of which could generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue annually by 2023.

Betting on sports broadcasting

Deloitte predicts that 60 percent of North American men ages 18-34 who watch sports on TV will also bet on sports. As a result, about 40 percent of all US-based TV watching by men 25-34 years old will be driven by sports betting.

3D printing breaks through 

Sales of enterprise 3D printers, materials, and services from large public companies will surpass $2.7 billion in 2019 and top $3 billion in 2020, growing 12.5 percent annually each year. The list of possible 3D-printable materials has more than doubled in the last five years, which (along with other improvements) has led to a rebound in the industry’s growth potential. 

eSports continue to surge 

The North American eSports market will expand by 35 percent powered by advertising, broadcast licensing, and franchise sales. North American eSports franchise leagues will expand into specific cities, following the professional sports model.

Radio remains relevant 

Deloitte predicts that over 85 percent of the adult population will listen to the radio at least weekly in the developed world (the same proportion as in 2018), although reach will vary in the developing world. Combined, nearly 3 billion people worldwide will listen to radio weekly. In the US, Deloitte expects that more than 90 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds will listen to the radio at least weekly in 2019 and will likely spend more time listening to radio than watching traditional TV by 2025.

Evaluating quantum computing 

Quantum computing will emerge as one of the largest new technology revenue opportunities over the next decade but is unlikely to replace classical computers. The future quantum computing market is expected to be comparable to that the supercomputer market – around $50 billion per year by the 2030s.

China expands technological prowess 

Revenues for Chinese-manufactured semiconductors will grow by 25 percent to $120 billion, solidifying China as a globally-significant player in manufacturing and AI development. China will also have world-leading telecommunications in 2019, expanding possibilities for enterprise capabilities and interpersonal communication.

“2019 will be defined by how new technologies steadily reshape how we live and work,” says Mark Casey, Deloitte Global Telecommunications, Media & Entertainment sector leader. “From smart speakers to 5G networks, and everywhere in between, accessibility to advanced technologies is quickly improving. As the barriers continue to fall, the potential for greater connectivity and further innovation will increase exponentially.”

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE