A new Amazon Echo is displayed during a program announcing several new Amazon products by the company, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

JOHANNESBURG - Smart speakers will be worth US$7 billion in 2019, becoming the fastest-growing connected device category, audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management company Deloitte Global said on Monday.

In its latest Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions report, Deloitte said companies would further accelerate use of cloud-based artificial intelligence software and services, while fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks were expected to arrive in scale, providing faster connections and opening revenue opportunities for telecommunication companies.

"Smart speakers are continuing to fly off shelves, selling 164 million units at an average selling price of US$43 per unit," it said.

"Total industry revenues will be up 63 percent, compared to $4.3 billion in 2018. However, the industry will have to overcome looming obstacles to reach its full growth potential. Speech recognition technologies continue to improve, but wider language support will need to be developed for the technology to be inclusive and experience global adoption."

Deloitte said among companies using AI, 70 percent would obtain AI capabilities through cloud-based enterprise software, 65 percent would 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 would reach an estimated 87 and 83 percent respectively.

Wireless operators have been pouring resources into 5G network development, and Deloitte forecast that in 2019, 25 wireless operators would launch 5G service, likely doubling by 2020.

In total, over one million 5G handsets were expected to be sold in 2019, expanding to 15-20 million units 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,”  said Paul Lee, head of global TMT Research.

“5G can provide hundredfold increases in traffic capacity and network efficiency over 4G, and this has transformative potential on the future of connectivity worldwide.”

Now in its 18th year, Deloitte Global’s annual TMT Predictions report provides an outlook on key trends in the technology, media, and telecommunications industry sectors worldwide.

- African News Agency (ANA)