How technology has changed our daily commute forever

Jack Dorsey, one of the co-founders of Twitter, might be a billionaire but he still travels to work in San Francisco everyday on the bus.

Not only that but he saves about 25 cents each day by buying a monthly pass. “If you buy it in bulk, it saves you a little bit of money,” he says in a fascinating interview in the New Yorker.

What is really interesting in the interview is not Dorsey’s money-saving tips, but his insight into how mobile technology and connectivity has – and still is – changing the daily commute for workers.

Dorsey reveals to the New Yorker that he sits at the back of the bus and just watches other commuters and what they are doing.

“I saw the rise of Instagram here. I saw the rise of Vine and Snapchat, and how many more people were using Facebook versus Twitter, and it’s amazing. Like, look—anyone reading magazines, newspapers, books?”

It’s a combination of smarter, smaller more portable devices and faster, more widely available connectivity that is driving this change in behaviour.

I remember when, ten years ago, the first 3G mobile data cards were launched. At the time it felt really cutting edge but which, looking back now through 4G-tinted glasses, was a pretty unsatisfying experience even though it represented progress.

It’s a very different – and I’m glad to say much more enjoyable and productive – experience today. Almost every kind of public transport now either gives passengers access to Wi-Fi or they can use mobile data networks.

Even being underground is no longer a barrier and free Wi-Fi is available to users of most of the major mobile networks across 120 London Underground stations, while my company EE has just announced a deal to provide 4G connectivity in the Channel Tunnel between England and France this year.

We can see how this is changing the daily commuting experience from the statistics. Just under 90 per cent of UK consumers in a survey by Geometry Global say they browse and buy on smartphones and tablets on their commute.

It’s not surprising, when you learn that the UK workforce commute more – and for longer, at just under an hour on average each journey – than their global cousins.

This has many implications with lots of research pointing to increasing peaks in online activity during traditional commuting hours.

Retail and shopping, for example, is just one. Over half of those UK consumers surveyed also said they have started shopping online while commuting because of the convenience, with music, books and clothes being the most popular items bought.

Social media is a booming interactive tool for travel companies to interact with their passengers, alerting them to disruption, delays and – importantly – fixes.

The daily commute for most of us will never be the same again. The tide of change is unstoppable. If you want proof then consider that 2014 is tipped to be the year that mobile internet traffic overtakes desktop traffic for the first time.

And keep an eye on who is sitting at the back of the bus watching everyone else – it could just be the founder of the next Twitter.

(article by O.Swantee)


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