Smartphones not so clever at promoting social inclusion

I recently wrote a poem called 'Tomorrow's Smartphone User' and it focused on the fact that a modern smartphone has so many wonderful features that it may be easy for a smartphone user of the future to forget that it is still capable of actually making voice phone calls. In the 18-29 age bracket, 52 per cent of smartphone users make a phone call less often than weekly. That same age bracket has average usage of over four hours per day. There is no doubt that younger generations use smartphones - just not for phone calls!

As our smartphones allow us to do more and more, I start to wonder when the lack of a smartphone means you are somewhat excluded from society.

There was a recent case in a New York City apartment block where the landlord installed a smart lock on the lobby door and changed the elevator to be controlled by smartphone. As often happens in America, when people are unhappy, they sue. Five tenants banded together and sued the landlord on two issues.

Firstly, a 93-year-old tenant did not own a smartphone and was therefore unable to use the elevator or access the building without the help of another tenant. Secondly, the tenants were concerned about the privacy issues. Controlling the locks electronically would allow an interested party to possibly 'surveil, track and intimidate' tenants.

Access to security doors in my business is allowed with a simple wave of my phone.

Access to security doors in my business is allowed with a simple wave of my phone.

In the end the tenants won the case and a physical key was officially deemed a 'required service.' Some may argue this was a loss for technological progress.

Stop for a moment and think about the number of ways you can use a smartphone in your everyday life. I no longer carry a car key. I carry a smartphone with an app that allows me to enter and start my car. Credit card? Nope. I use my phone or watch to tap and pay for items. I am not required to carry my physical Driver Licence.

I haven't punched in a security code on an alarm system for many years. Access to security doors and cabinets in my business is allowed with a simple wave of my phone. When I listen to music, my phone or watch is providing the link to my listening device. Control my drone? Smartphone. Start my vacuum cleaner or pool filter or open my gates or garage or board a plane? Airbnb? You guessed it. Smartphone.

Back to my original concern. The lack of a smartphone can put a person in an interesting position. Smartphone ownership has not yet become as pervasive as ATM usage in our society.

In the US, for example, 95 per cent of all adults own a mobile but only 77 per cent of adults own a smartphone. That means that there are still 23 per cent of people excluded from activities requiring a smartphone.

When you break down the ages it tells a clearer picture. In the 18-29 age bracket, mobile ownership is close enough to 100 per cent with 94 per cent owning a smartphone. In the 65+ age bracket, mobile ownership is quite strong still at 85 per cent but only 46 per cent of people in this age bracket own a smartphone.

If we think back to the example in New York City, the lack of penetration in the 65+ age bracket immediately removes a segment of society from living in this particular apartment block.

As much as I am a fan of technology, for a time we will still be using dual methods for a range of items in our society.

  • Mathew Dickerson is the founder of Axxis Technology. Contact him at ask@techtalk.digital