wearable-technology-changeWearable technology is on the rise, pretty much anything you can wear you can now get a technological version of, from headpieces to rings.  There have been mixed opinions so far on wearable technology, but what’s certain is that they’re yet another development which further adapts the way we communicate.  Continuing the trend of smartwatches, Apple recently revealed its newest innovation the Apple watch.  Of course they are a little behind, with many smartwatches already on the market, such as the Pebble steel and the Sony smartwatch, released to mixed reviews.  Whether smartwatches are something that will become a staple as devices such as the tablet has remains to be seen.  Following the emergence of smartwatches, Google released its choice of wearable; Google glass, a hands free device worn as glasses would be.  Each fulfil similar duties to that of a smartphone, you can text, access apps, and many of these devices function through voice interaction.  But what have these newest developments in technology meant for the way we communicate in our everyday lives?

Changes

First there was the telegram, then the letter, the telephone, followed my mobile phone and texting, and now these watches are replacing the need to even type words, you can communicate by talking to a smart watch, and the watch will type your reply. If not, the watch can also come up with replies for you, meaning essentially, you can achieve communication without actually communicating.

There are disputes as to whether these new ways of communicating, gadgets and tech wearables are a positive or negative affect on communication.  Globally 82% said they felt the world was changing too fast and with so many options of technological items 45% said they felt overwhelmed by choice.

Almost 78% of Chinese people say they are “always looking at screens”, with Britons are not far behind at 71%. The global average is 60%. Only the Spanish, at 39% say they don’t spend most of their time staring at screens.

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Smartphones

Where before you might have had thousands of appliances to fulfil their own purpose, smartphones and wearables now fulfil many of these purposes on one device often replacing the need for interaction during everyday tasks such as going to the bank, or asking for directions.  They are often a camera, map, bank, mp3 player, television, encyclopaedia, games console, shop and much more all in one, which in turn has meant huge changes in our daily lives.  Many of these tasks can now also be fulfilled via these smartwatches, which are connected to your smartphone.  The time to complete a task has decreased significantly.  Although a decrease in time to fulfil a task should mean we have more time to do activities and socialise, increasingly less time is being spent communicating face to face.  Research also shows the increasing use of technology is actually altering the way our brain processes communication.

The purposes mentioned above are usually fulfilled through apps.  These apps can be controlled on many devices through voice commands or gestures, for example with Google Glass, you can turn on the display by tilting your head upward. Tilting your head will turn the display on for a few seconds. You can use this gesture to quickly check the time, or issue a voice command using “ok glass”, you can turn off the display by quickly nodding your head up again. On average people have about 20-25 apps on their devices; social network apps are most often used.

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Social media

Social media has been revolutionary for the way we communicate.  Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn mean that you never have to lose contact with anyone you come into contact with, be it a work contact or an old school friend.  An incredible development of the social media age is that the previous 6 degrees of separation theory has now decreased to 3.  The world is getting smaller, and this is thanks to the increase in social media usage, and more and more devices compatible with these networks.

Emerging markets such as Brazil and Argentina currently show the highest rates of awareness, penetration and memberships of social networks than any other place, including Europe and the USA.  Twitter’s largest user base is in Japan with 30%, equal to its percentage of Facebook users.  In the Arab countries, 71 million people used social media last year out of a total 135 million internet users.

Just as in languages, communication trends can vary from country to country, preference of social media platform varies globally, for example in Russia the primary social media network is vkontakte.  In China many sites such as Facebook are blocked due to the country’s internet censorship policy.  Weibo is China’s most popular social networking site, known as the “Twitter of China”, it has over twice as many users as Twitter.  Orkut, after Facebook and Twitter is the most popular social networking site in Latin America.

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Social networking means we never lose touch with anyone, we can update people on our every move, we are aware of a change in situation of a person’s life, and it’s made communication far easier.  Especially with the innovation of new technologies and their compatibility with social media.  Through Google Glass you can use the voice command “Ok Google, take a picture” and share what you can see directly to your social media contacts.  You can tweet via your smartwatch by simply talking to it.

If you have family or friends around the world, you can now communicate far more frequently and with ease than a decade ago.  Overseas calls used to be pricey but now, with technologies such as Skype, you can call and even see someone the other side of the world, and for free.

These voice over IP (VoIP) services have also revolutionised overseas communication in business.

Overseas business

Technology has largely affected the way we’ve become accustomed to communicating overseas. Work wise the technological age allows teams spread across the world to pull of projects that previously would have been unthinkable.  What would’ve been a complicated task-working with teams abroad, is now no more complicated than if they were in the same room.  Collaboration is easier than ever thanks to video conferencing and webcasts.  Sending and sharing all types of documents is now a process that can be done as quickly as you’ve read the last sentence.  Modern communication allows for a freer exchange of thoughts and information that has allowed us to solve many problems.

In Kenya, for example, mobile phones are being used to collect data and report on disease-specific issues from more than 175 health centres serving over 1 million people. This technology has reduced the cost of the country’s health information system by 25% and cut the time needed to report the information from four weeks to one week.

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Varying Global technology behaviours

The way people use online services also varies from country to country. 37% of social networkers in Europe post information on products, brands and/or companies.  In countries such as China, India, Brazil and Argentina, more than half the social networkers do the same.  89% of Brazilian smartphone owners look for local information on their phones.

For Arabs, social media is the primary source of news for millions over the conventional media with nearly 30 per cent of individuals considering social media their primary source of news, similar to the percentage of individuals considering conventional media outlets as the main source of news.

The latest advance in technological behaviour is the dual screen phenomenon.  In Brazil for example, almost half the population watches TV over 3 hours a day, and 60% of them use another screen at the same time i.e. tablet or smartphone device.  52% of smartphone owners in France use their phone to browse the internet while watching TV.  One-sixth of the audience in the UK are engaging with each other on the web around TV content.  The rise of smart wearables is not likely to slow down the dual screen phenomenon anytime soon, with sales of the Apple watch predicted at around 10 million units in 2015, and Google Glass around the same figure by 2016.  Through the phenomenon of hashtags, you can see what the most discussed topics are around the world and join the conversation on any given topic at any certain time, and as you’re able to Tweet via a smartwatch, it’s yet another screen that can be added to the dual screen phenomenon.

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51% of the internet population use a smartphone.  Consumers use their smartphone mainly for convenience reasons and secondly for communication and entertainments reasons.  Although the use of the txt message in the UK is largely being replaced by features such as iMessage or WhatsApp, Latin America is one place where the text is now more interactive than ever.  Brazil is one of the countries where Twitter offers a short code – something which isn’t available in a country like France, for instance. For Brazilian users, this means that they can send tweets with a simple SMS, as long as their mobile operator is Nextel or TIM.

A partnership with Brazil’s main mobile operators, mean it sends pre-registered users an alert via SMS up to 4 hours before storms hit the city.  Also in Brazil the text is being used to real-time monitor dengue fever. While it isn’t always fatal, it claims over a hundred victims in Rio de Janeiro each year.  Convinced that this number could be reduced by better monitoring home patients, the city’s private hospitals developed a SMS program which will remind them to come back to the hospital for check-ups.  Google Glass was also recently used in the operating theatre for the first time in the UK.  Communicative technology is penetrating every sector including healthcare.

Education

As well as in the healthcare sector, technology has been ground-breaking for the education sector.  Online classes have made it possible for a larger range of people to get an education.  Educational materials are available at low or no cost and you can learn a new craft or find tutorials on pretty much anything online.

It’s not just online however, that education via technology is happening.  The e-learning startup Descomplica, for example, has recently partnered with Vivo to offer SMS lessons.  As previously mentioned text services are particularly popular in Brazil, and an example of an educational service that exists via text message is one that prepares Brazilian high school students for their ENEM exams, and has proven particularly successful, attracting 100,000 subscribers in only three months.  Another of its m-learning offers, the English course Kantoo English, has reported over 3 million Brazilian subscribers, in total, Kantoo has a total of around 4.5m users.

Many people argue over whether all these technological advances are a good thing, and whether technological interaction is replacing human interaction.  In the words of Albert Einstein ‘I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, it seems this day is fast approaching.  However it’s undeniable that technology has created many great advances, such as those mentioned on helping the prevention of diseases and increasing educational availability.

Over to you. Do you think the way we communicate via technology nowadays has changed in a positive way?

 

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by Caitlin Stenner

Caitlin is a marketing intern at Wolfestone and recent graduate. When she’s not researching or writing for the Wolfestone blog and helping out the marketing department, she’s back in the mighty Cardiff swotting up on Marketing and brushing up on her languages.

  • Ahmed

    “In the UAE 71 million people used social media in the region last year out of a total 135 million internet users.”
    UAE population is just 9m!!

    • admin

      Fair comment Ahmed! We’ve corrected the mistake. The statistics were related to the Arabic countries as a whole, not just UAE. Thank you!

    • caitlin

      Good observation, Ahmed! We’ve corrected the mistake. The statistics were related to the Arabic countries as a whole, not just UAE. Thank you!