Tech trends for 2014: wearables, phablets and e-visits

Wearable technologies are in, cellphone voice calls are dying out for some, phablets are here to stay and “e-visits” will be preferred over doctors' waiting rooms, according to a report predicting 2014's Canadian tech trends.

Deloitte releases 10 predictions for tech trends impacting Canadian businesses

Wearable technologies are in, cellphone voice calls are dying out for some, phablets are here to stay and “e-visits” will keep patients out of waiting rooms while cutting global health-care costs.

That is the future of the Canadian technology, media and telecom landscape in 2014 — at least as the financial services firm Deloitte sees it.

Deloitte's tech trends prognosticator-in-chief, Duncan Stewart, presented the firm's 13th annual Canadian TMT (technology, media and telecommunications) Predictions report today in Toronto.

"The concept I want to introduce in 2014 is the idea of the 'mass niche,' " the Deloitte director of TMT research said. "Even a minority of a significantly large market can be a really big thing."

Data was sourced from global industry players and polls. The data includes Canada-only predictions based on 1,032 Ipsos-Reid interviews conducted online nationally.

Here are some of Stewart's predictions:

Wearable devices

Whether it's a smartwatch on your wrist, a life-logging camera clipped to your collar or a fitness band around your arm, wearable technology is reaching more consumers in 2014. Stewart points to buzz around Google Glass and similar "smart glasses" products that are likely to sell four million units this year at a price point of about $500, or the cost of "a fairly nice smartphone."

The Deloitte report says 100 million e-visits are expected to be logged globally in 2014, allowing patients to skip doctor waiting rooms and seek care online. (Nir Elias/Reuters)

"When we look at wearables, we're excited. This is going to be big," he said, adding that global sales of wearable computers are expected to surpass $3 billion in 2014.

"Although it’s a niche, it’s a 'mass niche' that’s big enough" to be significant, he said.

Phablets aren't a phad

Phablets, or phone tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, are devices with screens ranging in size from five to 6.9 inches.

Although Stewart said many consumers may pass on the phone-tablet hybrids because they find them cumbersome, phablets will command 25 per cent of the global smartphone market of 1.2 billion devices.

The decade of software is upon us

The growth in sales of tablets, smartphones, PCs and gaming consoles has been about 11.8 per cent compounded annually since 2003. Deloitte predicts that growth won't stop, but it will plateau.

Devices are getting cheaper, Stewart said.

"Less money for hardware means more money [that can be spent] on software, services and content," he said, adding that he believes consumers will shell out for better data speeds and more apps, movies and music over the next decade.

TV 'cord-stacking' will outdo cord-cutting

In Canada, TV cord-cutters are outnumbered 100 to one by what Stewart calls "cord-stackers" — viewers who have more than one pay-TV subscription. This could be a combination of traditional TV distribution and at least one online streaming service such as Netflix.

"As of 2011, very few Canadians have more than one subscription. That number is up 150 per cent in three years and will continue to grow," he said.

Deloitte's TMT director of research Stewart Duncan addresses an audience in Toronto as he presents Deloitte's 2014 tech trend predictions. (Matt Kwong/CBC)

E-visits instead of doctor waiting rooms

"There's this thing called e-visits. It's not sitting in front of a webcam, sticking out your tongue," Stewart said, but rather a system of online services allowing people to type in symptoms and fill out information about medical history.

"A doctor who's got 20 minutes between patient visits goes through 100 of these," he said, adding that most Americans in 2010 who visited a symptom-checking website did so to inquire about ailments such as a cough, stomach pain, ear aches and rashes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If symptoms appear serious enough, a medical professional can direct the patient to go to the hospital.

Stewart predicts that there will be 100 million e-visits logged in 2014, with 75 million in North America, saving as much as $3 billion on the global health market.

Voice-only calls a bygone era for some

Voice-only smartphone calls are dying for the 20 per cent of Canadian cellular customers who spend the fewest minutes chatting. In 2014, they're expected to spend less than two minutes a day actually talking on their phones, Stewart said.

You can read the full Deloitte report, which includes Stewart's predictions for the rising value of premium sports video rights, the closing smartphone generation gap, rising enrolment in online courses and changing TV behaviours for Canadians.


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