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Comment: The hyperconnected are coming


Multi-techIf you long for the days of beautiful old Bakelite telephones with tangly cords, look away now – the hyperconnected are coming, loaded up with mobile devices and probably wearing one of those funny things on their ears. Nigel Paine reports.

Nortel, the Canadian telecommunications company, has published an excellent research whitepaper called 'Hyperconnectivity' that it commissioned from IDC. And they have built a web site around it too. Globally, 2,400 people were interviewed from 17 countries and they discovered that about 16% of respondents are hyperconnected. That means being 'always on' and using a multiplicity of devices to connect to the internet (I have a mere six or seven currently but others go into double figures). And close on the heels of that 16% of power users (the report calls them the pioneers in a new 'culture of connectivity') are another 36% of the 'increasingly connected'. At the point where the 'increasingly connected' become the next wave of hyperconnected, the nature of work will profoundly change and the paper begins to explore this. It is only 16 pages and a free download and well worth a read.

Photo of Nigel Paine"They take their laptops away with them... check email constantly and hate being disconnected."

The hyperconnected come from any country and any age group but the majority are under 35 and based in the US and Europe. They take their laptops away with them, even if leaving the house for only 24 hours; they check email constantly and hate being disconnected. In fact, they feel uneasy when out of internet touch. They do not see themselves as early adopters but 'normal' as they layer Kindle (Amazon's ebook reader available only in the US currently) upon iPhone or Blackberry, upon iPod, 3G modem and digital camera. A sure give away is that any bag they carry is full of wires!

Incidently, behind the 'increasingly connected' are the 'passive online' (20%) who are beginning to go beyond email but are not ready for social networking tools yet. And finally the 'barebones users' (28%) who stick to email and the internet from a desktop computer, and only use their mobile as a phone for voice calls. What use is a mobile to make a phone call, surely not! I guess if you are reading this on you are automatically one of the top two groups. And if you feel like a lone voice at work, just be patient.

"Companies will be forced to offer social networking, full internet access and internal WiFi, not necessarily for the business services available but to retain staff."

The key point is that the hyperconnected constantly blur the line between business or work and leisure or personal time. They can be connecting with non-work people in work time and work people in their personal time. They IM or SMS work and non-work people almost simultaneously. And as they move into a majority at work, they will increasingly put demands on what is on offer to them in terms of connectivity. What this means is that companies will be forced to offer social networking, full internet access and internal WiFi, not necessarily for the business services available but to retain staff. Hardly any workplaces are looking at this but, if this report is accurate, they should start right now.

Access to these technologies could become a pre-requisite for potential employees to sign up. But, of course, if you build and deploy the technologies, lots of other things have to change too. It's a challenging future then for those big companies still debating whether email is a good thing! 'Barebones user' companies have a very limited shelf life too!

Nigel Paine is a former head of training and development at the BBC and now runs his own company, Nigel Paine.Com which focuses on people, learning and technology. For more information visit his website at


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