7 Trends Defining Telecommunications, Media and Technology in a Digital World

For the past three decades, the telecommunications, media, and technology (TMT) industries have been at the center of the revolution in how consumers and businesses react, interact and transact with each other and the world. Following are 7 trends that TMT organizations need to be focused on not just to reach the full potential of Industry 4.0 but to constantly be prepared for what comes next.

For the past three decades, the telecommunications, media, and technology (TMT) industries have been at the center of the revolution in how consumers and businesses react, interact and transact with each other and the world. The models of society, work, and value creation developed post-World War II and prevalent through the Third Industrial Revolution are being challenged and replaced by the new models brought forth by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In Industry 4.0, traditional manufacturing and industrial practices are being automated. The network replaces the hierarchy, decentralization and autonomy replace centralization and agility, and information replaces process and material as the source of value creation.

As the pace of change only accelerates in this new age, businesses and consumers are both adapting. The introduction of new technologies, the lasting impact of the global pandemic, and the change in the dynamics between brands and customers are forcing the companies that make up the TMT industries to seek new ways to create value and attract and retain customers. Following are 7 trends that TMT organizations need to be focused on not just to reach the full potential of Industry 4.0 but to constantly be prepared for what comes next.

Focus 5G on Businesses, Not Consumers

5G continues to have a lack of compelling use cases for consumers, despite the aggressive marketing done by North American telcos to drive awareness. But in the business world, there are a significant number of compelling use cases that span the needs of small businesses, like managing remote workforces, to enterprises, like industrial manufacturing and automated agriculture.

These examples can drive growth and profits for the telcos that can monetize these opportunities. One key use case in the immediate future will be supporting companies as they establish what the future of their work environments will look like.

This will help companies determine the connectivity and technology stacks to make working in the office and working from home productive and how switching or working in a hybrid environment can be seamless. Another opportunity lies in the re-emergence of small businesses post-pandemic. Small businesses will want more agility and less overhead in their solutions, and 5G-based solutions catering to their specific needs will draw an expected wave of new business customers in the coming years.

New Challengers to Big 3 Telcos Emerge

For over 20 years, the legacy Big 3 U.S. telcos, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, have owned the telecommunications infrastructure we relied on. The Big 3 are increasingly being disrupted by tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Space X. The top tech companies already own much of the infrastructure carrying data and content people consume.

They’ve started to sell internet access and mobile services while leveraging a combination of public networks and the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model. Google Fiber and Space X’s Starlink are only two examples of how Big Tech has the resources to compete in the long term. The MVNO model that’s allowing the Big 3 to remain gatekeepers of telco infrastructure isn’t going to remain a digital moat much longer. Albeit, new regulations and trust-busting on Big Tech may temporarily hamper some of these companies and create opportunities for the Big 3. However, emerging technology will continue to increase the pace of disruption among telcos.

Creating New Revenue Streams via Solutions

Telcos are overly reliant on selling the network — i.e., voice and data connectivity — in a North American market that is largely saturated by the Big 3 telcos and growing at roughly the rate of GDP in terms of net new customers. To create new revenue streams, telcos need to create solutions for customers through new service offerings or monetizing existing assets. For consumers, data, home security, and family management are important. For small businesses, the lifecycle of a startup, running a business, and scaling are key opportunities for telcos to provide services and solutions.

For enterprise businesses, the ability of 5G to support low latency and thousands of devices with mission-critical resiliency with the use of data and automation opens exciting new possibilities in verticals such as energy, manufacturing, and agriculture. Telcos should continue reaching out to partners across verticals to explore what Industry 4.0 will look like as cloud storage, cloud computing, and connectivity come together.

Even More Connected Lives Mean Even More Data Concerns

The Halo fitness tracker is one of the examples from Amazon of how connected our lives have become. Halo processes the wearer’s tone of voice, and Amazon claims “to help users communicate more thoughtfully with family, friends, and colleagues.” It also scans body fat. However, with more devices in more contexts connecting us and tracking every action—the control and portability of the data will need to be resolved.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are not only enablers of these connected lives, they are among the largest holders of customer data. These tech giants are approaching monetizing and protecting that data differently as consumers become more aware of how much data is being collected. Regulations, privacy rules, and business models have yet to catch up to handle the accompanying data, whether transactional, electronic health records, or behavioral tracking.

Two trends that companies should be exploring immediately are

  • Data trusts or a structure where data is placed under the control of a board of trustees with a fiduciary responsibility to look after the interests of the beneficiaries and
  • Data wallets, where users can manage data through a trusted, independent party and then give companies permission to access specific data under certain guidelines, including duration, use and value exchange parameters.

As consumers assert control over their data and data rights, organizations at all levels need to explore how they will be compliant with regulations and, more importantly, earn and keep the trust of consumers.

Big AI May Not Need Big Data

Much of the artificial intelligence/ machine learning conversations to date have focused on the need for access to huge amounts of data to feed algorithms and neural networks, an area dominated by companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, or the Chinese mega-tech companies, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. But recent advances in machine learning, including “less than one”-shot learning where ML algorithms can learn information about something from one or only a few training samples or images.

This example indicates that certain key ML capabilities may be achievable without needing large amounts of customer data. A recent MIT example using these techniques reduced the training set of images needed to identify handwritten numbers from 60,000 to 10. This puts complex AI-driven solutions that rely on supervised learning, like natural language processing and image recognition, within reach of start-ups and smaller companies, which should lead to accelerated innovation. Companies should start examining use cases that may have once been out of reach and determining if new techniques like one-shot learning could work and create value.

Ambient Technology Takes Over the Next Wave of Experiences

Ambient intelligence allows technologies to act on the user’s behalf without a user giving a direct command. Popular devices like Amazon’s Alexa have laid the groundwork for this technology, and many customers are already comfortable with smart devices completing household tasks. As more consumer technologies remain connected in a passive listening mode, some are experimenting with acting based on consumer preferences or preset automation workflows. An example would be a connected coffee maker turning on at the beginning of a workday when being notified by your IoT-enabled hot water pump that the shower had just turned off.

Although data privacy concerns are abundant in many of these scenarios, with the right privacy and security measures in place, consumers will become more comfortable with devices sharing data and streamlining many tasks in the background. Home automation, workplace safety, and automotive and retail could all be impacted as ambient technology becomes embedded in consumers’ lives making for higher degrees of personalization and more frictionless experiences.

Brands need to prepare for ambient technology as the next evolution of experience interactions that follow in the footsteps of desktop browsers and mobile apps.

Finding Streaming Flywheels

Successful media brands in the twenty-first century must have a streaming-first mindset. Media companies’ catalogs are assets, but many aren’t distributing and monetizing effectively. Disney’s content-driven flywheel has always been linked to its merchandising, experiences, and parks ecosystem, allowing it to monetize Marvel, Star Wars, or Pixar content well beyond the price of a single viewing, but other players are floundering. Digital experiences from rich content libraries are one area for media brands to start their flywheel innovation.

Media companies need to start paying attention to things such as experience enhancements like shared streaming, deeper personalization and ending endless scrolls by using artificial intelligence and machine learning. Companies must be conscious of not ending up where this all started: expensive bundles, too many options, low viewer satisfaction, and customer fatigue.

The winner will be whoever can keep subscribers engaged and coming back not just for the content but for the experience.

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