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Just How Important is That Text Message?

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The following is a guest post by: Dr Gerry Purdy, Ph.D

Alicia and I were watching “American Idol” last week - just like you and millions of other people. But, all of a sudden, something ‘strange’ happened in the background while Ryan Seacrest was talking.  I didn’t notice it at first it and then I realized what happened.

I thought, “Mariah Carey is texting during a live TV show!” So, I backed up the show a bit and looked at it again. This time I paid close attention to Mariah sitting at the judges table in the background.  “My god, she is sitting there doing text messaging in front of 20 million people.  She clearly wasn’t supposed to be doing that.”

Well, that got me thinking. “Why do people take a risk of texting when clearly they shouldn’t be reading and composing text messages?” We all know that there’s a strong emotional need to pick up your smartphone when you’re not supposed to and either compose a new text, or – more likely – respond to a text you just received.

With the advent of many state laws outlawing texting while driving, it isn’t a matter of just altering your behavior. Rather, it’s a need to resolve the emotional drive to read and then do a quick reply. It’s not just a few people who feel this way. Rather, we all seem driven in a very similar way about this at times.

I think part of the inherent drive comes from the nature of texting being an immediate message. You know someone has created a message just for you, and you feel a sense of personal pride and affirmation about being ‘singled out’ by someone.  There’s also a cultural issue that you see so many other people instantly replying when they receive a text message that it give each of us the affirmation that it’s OK to do it.  

Email doesn’t elicit the same emotional reaction.  You may get a beep or other audio notification that you’re received an email, but because you know it’s an email, you know that the person who sent it isn’t expecting you to reply instantly.  But, with a text message, you not only think about your desire to respond quickly, but you know the person who sent you a text message is likely sitting there staring at their smartphone display waiting – yes, waiting – on you to reply in the next few seconds.

It’s like there is an underlying rule of texting: “Hey, if you get a text, it’s not some low priority, ‘answer whenever you can’ kind of thing over the next few hours.  The rule is that you must pick up your smartphone, read the message and reply immediately because it has to be a matter of life and death. You have to compose a reply immediately so the person’s dire request is answered within the expected next few seconds.”

Of course, you can see where this is headed. If two people both feel this way, then the situation is ripe for a rapid exchange of 20-30 text messages until someone gets interrupted or one of the parties feels it finally has gone too far.

It may be that when we get into a car, it’s best to put the smartphone in silent mode or, even better, turn it off.  But, turning it off may not be wise either.  What if you receive a call from someone that is very important – even life threatening?  You don’t want to miss that just because you’re trying to avoid texting.  So, turning the phone off may not be the best thing to do.
There are a number of apps out there (like ZoomSafer by Aegis Mobility that won the 2013 Mobility Award) that can shut down texting when the app senses that you’re moving above a threshold speed such as 10 mph. Such software is getting much better than when it was just being introduced a few years ago.  The app can now detect if you’re on a train or public transportation vehicle and determine if you’re driving or a passenger.

Back to Mariah Carey texting during a live episode of “American Idol.” First, no one in the audience is allowed to bring their phone into the studio.  The security for these shows is very tight.  Alicia and I were fortunate to attend an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” about 18 months ago, and we had to go through metal detectors, check in our cameras and phones and be checked again.

I presume if you’re Mariah Carey (or any high profile judge), you get exemption rights to check your phone. That’s a policy that the show’s producers might want to review.  But, I can see that once they allowed her to bring it into the studio (even in silent mode), it’s easy for her to see a text message appear on the display and then have a strong emotional need to reply since the scene was all about Ryan Seacrest talking, not the judges. It may have been a steamy text from husband Nick Cannon.

  You can see why she may have been so driven to reply.  Personally, I don’t blame Mariah Carey for texting when clearly she shouldn’t have been.  The show producers and operations managers allowed her to take her smartphone into the studio. That ‘teed up’ the situation where she really couldn’t help herself. Someone was texting her, and she felt just had to reply.  The producers need to help her by asking her for her phone while she’s on stage and then putting it in a case so the staff can’t read her text messages.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you shouldn’t be texting (like driving or being on national TV), either avoid the temptation (hard, I know) or send a really short message like ‘driving’ or ‘on TV’ and then put it somewhere you can’t easily pick it up until your situation has changed.

  Oh, and yes, we are hooked on American Idol. I believe that Angi Miller is going to win.  And not only win, but I think she’s going to become as popular as Carey Underwood. You heard it here so don’t be surprised if Angi Miller wins “American Idol,” has lots of hit songs and wins a lot of Grammy’s.

About the Author:  Gerry Purdy, Ph.D. is Principal Analyst, Mobile & Wireless, MobileTrax LLC. As a nationally recognized industry authority, he focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and market behavior in the mobile computing and wireless data communications industry in North America.  Dr. Purdy currently is a columnist for eWeek and CIT Insight and is an affiliated analyst at GigaOM.

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It's been a long time in coming -- but last week, Sprint bid farewell to their outdated Nextel iDEN network which will shut down on June 30th.  You heard it right.  The shutdown is less than 60 days away.

And despite two years of advanced warning, more than one million loyal Nextel business users are still clinging to the old push-to-talk walkie talkie service, like swimmers in the middle of the ocean clinging to a life boat that is about to sink.

If your business is still clinging to the old Nextel network -- it is important not to panic.  There's still time to make the switch and grab hold of a new future.  One that is complete with walkie-talkie features, faster networks and improved coverage.

Furthermore, if your employees are highly mobile, work with their hands, and drive company vehicles in industries such as construction, manufacturing and building services -- then the switch comes with a huge benefit in the form of a mobile application called FleetSafer.

FleetSafer is software that reduces risk and liability for commercial fleet operators by automatically promoting safe and legal use of mobile devices while employees are driving on the job.  FleetSafer is available on Kyocera DuraCore, DuraXT, DuraMax and DuraPlus phones with Sprint® Direct Connect®.

So when it comes to preventing work place distracted driving -- "leaving the old" and "embracing the new" never felt so good.

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The NHTSA has taken another step forward to combat distracted driving by proposing voluntary guidelines for automobile manufacturers to help minimize in-vehicle driver distraction.  The goal is to balance the technological innovation that consumers want with keeping our roads safe and drivers focused on driving.  The focus is to limit secondary tasks (communications, entertainment, and information gathering etc.) that the agency believes will interfere with a driver's ability to safely control the vehicle.

You can get more detailed information through the NHTSA website and press release:


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I noticed another distracted driving tragedy in the news recently. University of Northern Colorado student Alexander Heit crashed his car as a result of being distracted by texting while driving and died of his injuries soon after. 

Included in the article was a photo of his iPhone displaying the last words he typed. His parents wanted the image shared as a reminder to others of the dangers of texting while driving.

The photo is an unfortunate association for Apple. While it could have easily been any phone, it made me wonder about how such an association might impact a company’s brand and how the handset companies will react.

Given increasing public awareness of the problem of distracted driving, I believe the first handset company to openly embrace the distracted driving issue and provide solutions as part of their operating system would elicit a positive reaction from consumers, particularly the parents of young drivers.

Imagine, for example, that as part of the set-up procedure for a new smartphone, the consumer is informed of the dangers of using that handset while driving and is offered the opportunity to enable a safe driving feature that automatically silences and disables the phone when driving.

Granted, some handset companies are taking steps to reduce distraction -- for example Siri Eyes Free and Motorola Smart Actions -- but I predict that we’ll see the major handset brands paying more and more attention to the issue of distracted driving to protect both their brand and their bottom line.

Story: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/world/final-text-crash-cuts-off-sentence/story-fnd134gw-1226618691883

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Employers continue to be concerned about the risk and liability posed by employee use of mobile devices while driving on the job.  In fact, seven in ten companies have adopted written policies designed to curb employee distracted driving, but only 32% are confident that current enforcement methods are effective at achieving compliance.

These are among the new findings from our Third Annual Enterprise Distracted Driving Survey of 547 fleet safety and risk management professionals.  Other key findings include:

  • “Hands-Free” and “Zero Tolerance” are most popular policies. 45% of existing employer policies prohibit all use, except hands-free.  41% prohibit all use, no exceptions. 12% prohibit texting emailing and browsing.
  • Efforts to enforce distracted driving policies remain steady. 86% of companies report taking some steps to enforce distracted driving policies. 
  • Confidence is lacking in current policy enforcement. Confidence in current enforcement efforts is limited. Only 32% report they are “very confident” that current methods are effective. 60% are “somewhat confident”, while 8% are “not confident”.
  • Interest in policy technology continues to grow.  22% of companies plan to evaluate either device-based software, device analytics or in-vehicle cameras within the next twelve months to better enforce compliance with distracted driving policies.
  • Android™ and iPhone® smartphones are fast growing, while Blackberry and Push-to-Talk (PTT) phones are hanging in.  Android™ and iPhone® continue to grow rapidly and now represent 61% of corporate-liable smartphone devices. BlackBerrys have decreased, but remain prominent with 30% market share and appear to have good prospects to maintain share based on customer interest in the new BlackBerry 10 devices.
  • The tablet wave is coming to commercial fleet vehicles. A full 27% of respondents currently equip employee drivers with some form of tablet computer. Of those, 73% are iPads and 27% are Android.  Prospects for continued growth appear strong as 8% of total respondents indicate plans to deploy tablets to employee drivers within the next 12 months.

To download the full survey analysis, please visit: http://info.aegismobility.com/2013-distracted-driving-survey-results/


These findings are based on an online survey of 547 fleet safety and risk management professionals across a variety of industries in North America.  It is the third year in a row the survey has been conducted.  Responses were taken over 3 weeks from March 20 until April 10, 2013.  The margin of error for the full sample is ± 5.0 percentage points.

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