The technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) practice business advisory firm Deloitte, has today announced its predictions for the TMT sector in 2018 at a launch event held at The Stollers Hall, Manchester.

The audience of 80 people heard from Paul Lee, partner and global head of TMT research at Deloitte.

His predictions included a rise in smartphone technology, especially around identification.

He was joined by the BBC’s Colin Warhurst and Kirsten Hughes, managing director of Travel Counsellors, who shared the story of Travel Counsellors’ adoption of technology and how this continues to shape their business.

The event marks the eighth consecutive year the UK announcement of the predictions has been hosted in the city.

The news comes following the launch of the seventeenth edition of TMT Predictions 2018.

In the report Deloitte predicts that globally, one billion air passenger journeys – a quarter of all passengers – are expected to be on planes fitted with in-flight connectivity (IFC) in 2018.

This is a 20 per cent increase from the previous year. Deloitte expects that the technology will generate ancillary airline revenues close to $1bn in 2018.

While IFC has been available for many years in markets such as North America, it should be more popular and lucrative than ever in 2018, thanks to the rising number of routes covered, higher connection speeds and greater data capacity per flight. 

UK airlines will increasingly adopt the technology from 2018, with IFC being commonly available by the end of the decade. This trend implies that within a few years, the airplane may no longer be one of the last remaining connectivity-free zones in any part of the world.

Claire Jolly, head of TMT at Deloitte in the North West, said: “In 2018, the airline industry will commence a significant step-change.

“Newer aircraft and improved telecommunications technology will mean that connectivity will not only improve, but it will also become cheaper.

“As a result, IFC is likely to become standard, enabling travelers to work, interact with social media and surf the web from 35,000ft in the air.”

Machine learning is another key trend identified, with a surge in deployment of FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) and ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) predicted to be a core driver.

Jolly said: “Machine learning is already being adopted in many sectors to automate and streamline processes.

“These capabilities, together with data reduction and advanced training is likely to facilitate the take up of this technology by making it easier, cheaper and faster for businesses to implement and take advantage of.

“In 2018, we expect that machine learning will become increasingly mainstream, although it will likely evolve further in years to come.”

Deloitte also predicts that demand for paid-for online media content will continue to grow: by the end of 2018, half of adults in developed countries will have at least two online-only media subscriptions, doubling to four by 2020.

2018 will see 350 million digital-only subscribers globally, with around 580 million subscriptions to services that can include video on demand, music, gaming or news and magazines.

In the UK, Deloitte also estimates there are about 26 million media online-only subscriptions.

“The subscription model is not new but it is being continually refreshed and refined in order to meet the demands of the digital consumer, with great success,” said Jolly.

“The growing capability of online delivery – from robust and scalable hosting to rapid broadband speeds – is making digital media more convenient, accessible and ever more compelling than traditional alternatives.”