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Accounting and consulting firm Deloitte has announced its predictions for tech, media, and communications in 2021. Prognostications include that the number of online video visits to doctors will rise to 400 million next year.

With 2020 being so full of upheavals, it’s a good time to ponder how the pandemic and other changes this year have shaken up our future. Deloitte’s predictions in this space are worth watching since the company has been making them for 20 years now.

Telemedicine will be a clear winner from the changes being forced upon us by the pandemic. COVID-19 has made it risky to show up in doctors’ offices in person. The global pandemic has eliminated regulatory barriers to online visits, and it also helped consumers better understand and leverage video calling apps, especially consumers over the age of 65. Deloitte predicts that the percentage of virtual video visits to in-person doctor visits in 2021 will rise to 5% globally, up from an estimated 1% in 2019. Even single-digit growth is significant. In 2019, there were 8.5 billion doctor visits, worth a total of approximately $500 billion in 36 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. Around 60% of all visits were video telehealth during April in Ohio, according to data from Wexler.

Deloitte vice chairman Kevin Westcott said in an email that the pandemic will continue to shape business strategies in 2021, and consumers will expect faster, more reliable, and safer user experiences. The tech, media, and communications companies that can do that will emerge as leaders.

Deloitte also said the pandemic will drive cloud growth. The cloud market grew even faster in 2020 than in 2019. According to Deloitte, COVID-19, lockdowns, and the work-from-anywhere business environment drove the growth of the cloud. Deloitte predicts that revenue growth will remain greater than 30% for 2021 through 2025 as companies migrate to the cloud to save money, become more agile, and drive innovation.

The intelligent edge

Above: Devices at the intelligent edge will grow in 2021.

Image Credit: Deloitte

The intelligent edge is bringing processing into the devices that are collecting data at the edge. The combination of advanced wireless connectivity, compact processing power, and AI is driving the growth at the edge. Sensors are collecting a huge amount of data, but instead of sending all that data to clog up the networks and datacenters, edge devices positioned where the data originates can process the data and reduce the network load. Deloitte predicts that in 2021, the global market for the intelligent edge will reach $12 billion, continuing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 35%. That increase is being driven primarily by telecommunications companies and their expanding 5G networks, along with hyperscale cloud providers. These highly capitalized leaders may make it easier for companies across multiple industries to build out the intelligent edge.

On another front, Deloitte expects more upheavals in sports. While the number of sporting events slowed during 2020, the potential for growth ultimately did not. Deloitte predicts that two major trends in sports — the increased monetization of women’s sports and the use of digital to create a hyper-quantified athlete — will continue their upward trajectory. Women’s sports are now on track to be worth more than a billion dollars in the years ahead. Its ability to generate substantial TV audiences, deliver value to sponsors, and draw fans has been demonstrated over the past decade.

Another ongoing shift in sports involves the use of athlete data collection and analysis. Analytics devices can collect the data in real time. And it is now possible to measure indicators inside as well as outside the body, creating hundreds of new metrics to feed into decision-making for the digital athlete. With the hyper-quantified athlete offering such strong potential, 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.

Virtual reality rides on education and the enterprise

Volvo is using Varjo headsets to design cars.

Above: Kia is using Varjo headsets to design cars.

Image Credit: Varjo

While consumer markets have been slower to adopt VR than expected, the market for VR headgear is growing as immersive technologies gain popularity in the enterprise and for education. Deloitte predicts that, led by purchases by corporations and educational institutions, sales for enterprise and educational use of wearable headsets for virtual, augmented and mixed reality — collectively known as XR or digital reality — will grow by 100% in 2021 over 2019 levels. Market growth for these types of headsets has already accelerated in some markets due to the risk of COVID-19 infection driving the use of virtual education and training for employees and students.

Like 3D printing, VR may not be a huge consumer market but may be a very useful enterprise and educational tool, potentially worth billions of dollars per year. In enterprise, there are some important nuances for what Deloitte is seeing with VR. While a consumer with a VR headset may only use it themselves or with their household, enterprises often share a headset with potentially thousands of users. Some of the big enterprise and government buyers have done that, for example buying 17,000 VR headsets to train 1 million employees.

Deloitte said it expects the 8K TV wave will begin next year. Sales of 8K TVs are likely to reach $5 billion in 2021, with equipment and services for producing 8K content generating hundreds of millions of dollars more. 8K TVs have four times as many pixels as 4K TVs and 16 times more than high-definition (HD) TVs. 8K TV sets will cost $5,500 this year and about $3,300 in 2021, Deloitte said. But some offerings are as low as $1,600. Deloitte estimates the 8K TV market will be a million units worth $3.3 billion in 2021. That’s just half a percent of the $120 billion U.S. market, with 220 million TV sets expected to sell at an average price of $550.

And lastly, the 5G health myth will get busted. Concerns about 5G’s health risks have no factual basis, Deloitte said. The company predicted that in 2021 it is very unlikely that the radiation from 5G mobile networks and 5G phones will affect the health of any individual. However, if education about 5G is to be effective in curbing popular fears, it should be compelling, consistent, and pervasive, and it should begin now.

To some extent, all of Deloitte’s 2021 predictions were shaped by the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19. Some, however, like video telehealth, cloud migration, intelligent edge, enterprise, and educational use of VR headsets were particularly accelerated by the pandemic. Of course, the very fluid nature of the path through the pandemic makes it especially challenging to predict how it will unfold for so many industries, Deloitte said.

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