Mobile technology trends

February 2012 » Departments » COMMENT
Bob Drake

Mobile technologies —€” cell phones, smartphones, laptop computers, and tablets, among other devices —€” have significantly impacted how we daily communicate. In fact, for the generation of civil engineers who are just beginning or are early in their careers, constant mobile communication through texting, tweeting, emailing, and social networking is a way of life —€” at least in their personal lives. However, based on two online surveys that CE News conducted in November 2009 and December 2011, use of mobile communication technologies is not as prevalent in the workplace, although adoption is increasing.

Following are a few of the questions asked in both surveys and the percent of respondents each year:

—€¢ Which is your primary oral communication tool for work?
Response
2009
2011
Land-line phone
65.6%
54.8%
Cell phone (without advanced capabilities)
15.3%
16.3%
Smartphone
19.2%
28.8%
—€¢ Which is your primary Internet/Web communication tool for work?
Response
2009
2011
Laptop computer
35.3%
44.7%
Desktop computer
64.1%
52.4%
Tablet computer
--
1.9%
Smartphone
0.6%
1.0%
—€¢ What percentage of your work time do you spend answering/sending email?
Response
2009
2011
Less than 25% of time
45.2%
52.4%
25% of time
39.6%
33.0%
50% of time
13.7%
13.6%
75% of time
1.4%
1.0%
90% of time or more
0.1%
0%
—€¢ What percentage of your work time do you spend on the Web?
Response
2009
2011
Less than 25% of time
74.0%
79.6%
25% of time
21.5%
14.6%
50% of time
3.7%
3.9%
75% of time
0.4%
1.9%
90% of time or more
0.3%
0%

Of course, percentage of time spent using mobile technologies, emailing, or accessing the Internet is influenced by factors other than just whether a firm has adopted its use. For example, use of desktop workstations likely predominates for design and engineering functions, so civil engineers working in that environment are more likely to access the Web using a desktop rather than a laptop or tablet computer. Also, while it appears from these two surveys that civil engineers were spending slightly less time in 2011 answering/sending email or accessing the Web than they were in 2009, it's possible that these functions are now conducted more efficiently —€” requiring less time —€” or that the poor economy —€” resulting in fewer clients and projects —€” may have simply decreased the need for such functions.

Interestingly, daily use of the Internet to research engineering-related topics, projects, products, and technologies has increased significantly during the last two years. In 2009, 15 percent of respondents said that they used the Internet daily for that function; 82.4 percent used it only weekly or monthly. In 2011, 43.4 percent of respondents said they used the Internet daily for research; 54.6 percent used it only weekly or monthly.

Survey respondents also reported increased daily and weekly activity in professional networking using websites such as LinkedIn and in chatting/instant messaging.

Disclaimer: The proportionate age of respondents to the two surveys is possibly skewing the results, suggesting slower adoption of mobile technologies than, in fact, is occurring. In 2009, 32 percent of survey respondents were 56 years or older; 16 percent were 35 years or younger. In 2011, 43 percent of respondents were 56 years or older; 8 percent were 35 years or younger.

What's your experience with mobile technologies in the workplace? What's driving or hindering adoption at your firm? Play the futurologist —€” where is the civil engineering industry headed with mobile technologies?

Bob Drake
bdrake@zweigwhite.com


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