Addictive technology

By Lauren Duensing

February 2013 - Before smartphones, it wasn’t easy to buy movie tickets on the way to the theater, check maps while walking in circles around an unfamiliar block or post to Twitter or Facebook from the train. Now, these activities seem like second nature. It’s difficult to remember life before everyone carried a powerful, small electronic device with them, a time when people had to designate a meeting spot in advance because it wasn’t possible to text each other with up-to-the-minute updates.

According to the 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology report, which surveyed 1,800 college students and young professionals aged 18 to 30 across 18 countries, 90 percent of Gen Y surveyed worldwide check their phones for updates before they get out of bed. Twenty-nine percent of the Gen Y respondents check so constantly they lose count. Globally, one in five checks a smartphone for email, text and social media updates at least every 10 minutes. In the United States, two out of five check at least once every 10 minutes. 

This constant connectivity, however, has pros and cons. Two out of five survey respondents said they “would feel anxious, like part of me is missing” if they couldn’t use their smartphones to stay connected; however, constant, real-time consumption of information and data means that employers who hire members of Gen Y have an agile, informed, responsive workforce.

As consumers increasingly become attached to their smartphones, tablets and high-definition televisions, they want to upgrade to the newest model the minute it is released. The Telecommunications Industry Association reports the problem of electronics waste continues to grow, with average consumers using televisions for less than two years, computers for less than three and cell phones for approximately 24 months. 

“While advances in technology give consumers the availability to upgrade to newer, sleeker and more energy-efficient electronics, it’s important to remember that older electronics units and devices may not have reached the end of their useful life,” according to information from the TIA. “Many televisions, computers, computer monitors, mobile phones and other electronics are still in good working condition and can be recycled, refurbished or donated to schools and charities. There is a vibrant for-profit secondary market for recent models of laptop computers, desktop computers and cell phones because these products retain significant value.”

It also is important to dispose of electronics properly to ensure hazardous materials are contained and valuable metal parts are recycled for the next generation of products. For the metals industry, the infinitely recyclable nature of its materials is something it’s been touting for years. In this month’s issue, several of the features discuss sustainable solutions. “100 years of stainless,” covers the growing niche for stainless steel products in the construction market. “A coat of many colors,” talks about the benefits of prepainted metals, both to customers and the environment. And, of course, for more on trends in the consumer electronics market, go to “Smart machines.”MM

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