Top 6 Deloitte telecommunications predictions for 2012

Demand for consumer technology will continue to grow in 2012 particularly in emerging markets, whilst sales of smartphones and tablets will spiral upwards, reaching record levels, says Deloitte.

“The tablet is set to take the mantle of the most rapid ‘multi-anything’ market penetration in history". (image: Mobile Broadband)

According to Sharoda Rapeti of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) practice at Deloitte, the tablet ‘explosion’ has shown little sign of slowing down since the format hit consumer markets in 2010.

“The tablet is set to take the mantle of the most rapid ‘multi-anything’ market penetration in history. About five million tablets will be sold in 2012 to people who already own one, generating about US $2 billion in revenue,” said Sharoda Rapeti.

“In stark contrast, it took several decades for one household to have more than one car, phone, radio or television. It took ten years for a similar landmark to be reached in the computing and mobile phone markets,” Sharoda Rapeti said.

However, the tablet market will diversify around size, processing power, price and operating system in 2012 as was the case with smart phones. Corporations are also likely to require tablets with greater security and ruggedness. That presents a challenge for content owners, network operators and retailers that need to prepare to respond to the rise in the multi-tablet household.

Other significant predictions are that:

Consumer tech demand will defy economic headwinds

Although sales of smartphones, tablets and lower-cost televisions and computers will climb, the dollar value of the market may prove to be flat as lower prices and the ‘bang for your buck’ value of technology becomes more paramount.

The cost of technology has plummeted over the past three decades and the use of a tablet and a television, compared to a car, overseas holiday or sporting event, proves that consumer electronics fare well in terms of value. Compared to the cost of buying a car or a house, the traditional rite of passage for families, an investment in consumer electronics could become an alternative status symbol for consumers with constrained budgets. Buyers may even sacrifice holidays and rather upgrade to a new computer and television.

Billions and billions: big data becomes a big deal

Big data projects had a total industry revenue of only $100 million in 2009. However, 2012 will see 90 % of Fortune 500 companies kick off a big data initiative which will  trigger industry revenue of between $1 billion and 1.5 billion.

Big data is still in its infancy, mostly used for meteorology and physics simulations, but interest is gaining pace as data warehouses start to overflow and the need for ‘real-time’ analysis puts strain on traditional analytics tools. Internet companies have led the way with exploring big data but fast follower sectors are likely to include the public sector, financial services, retail, entertainment and media.

This could trigger a talent shortage with up to 190,000 skilled professionals needed to cope with demand in the US alone over the next five years. Meanwhile companies launching initiatives need to take a disciplined and targeted approach to big data.

Hard times for the hard drive: solid state storage

The storage technology used for the world’s consumer devices is mostly taken for granted by consumers by the increasing desire for smaller, lighter gadgets and the advent of the cloud could provide a boost for the solid-state drive providers.

By the end of 2012, solid state storage for small devices such as MP3 players, smartphones and tablets will likely account for 90 % of the market, compared to 20 per cent in 2006, and a sixth of the laptop segment. Even data centred markets could turn to smaller, cooler, power-sipping solid state drives as an alternative to more traditional hard drives.

The technology, which builds storage onto silicon chips, should benefit from the more discerning consumer, who will begin to pay more attention to how much storage they actually need on specific devices, particularly as more cloud-based storage services become available.

Ambient Radio Frequency Power Harvesting: A Drop in the Bucket

Wireless power transmission – where TV towers and mobile phone masts could be used to create a sea of ambient Radio Frequency energy to power devices – has been a dream since the age of Nikola Tesla. However, power harvesting products based on RF will remain a niche market during 2012 due to significant technical challenges.

One issue is the scarcity of ambient RF energy with solar a much more plentiful resource. Another problem is that the amount of power density from a RF source varies dramatically depending on the distance and location of the user. Interference from other environmental factors and the conversion process also add hurdles. Charging a tablet in this manner would be like filling a swimming pool with a shot glass. There are a few applications – such as ceiling sensors and remote controls – that may be tuned to RF but the sector will remain niche with moderate growth potential in 2012.

3D printing is here – but the factory in every home isn’t here yet!

3D printing has caught the attention of the public but the hype around the technology does not recognise the severe limitations of the concept. The ability to download designs for anything imaginable and create the product on the spot will become a viable segment in several niche markets over the coming years, such as the US  $22 billion global power tools market, the biomedical sector and the after-sales service industries such as car repair.

It is likely that several ‘do-it-yourself’ enthusiasts will invest in 3D printers as prices drop below US  $1,000 in 2012 but the cost of the materials needed to create a product as prosaic as a running shoe remains specialised and expensive. Sales in 2012 will likely remain below US $200 million and anyone expecting the era of the Star Trek “replicator” may have to wait awhile yet.

Staff writer


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