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Most Consumers Too Dependent on Electronics, Says Harris Poll

Consumers see advanced technology as stimulus to recovery and prosperity

When it comes to many of the challenges the U.S. faces today, whether it is a stalled automobile industry, an ailing education system or expensive medical costs, a majority of consumers believe advanced technology could be the answer. Consumers are looking to technology to improve their lives and want very practical applications to solve their current problems.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,355 U.S. adults surveyed online between March 9 and 16, 2009 by Harris Interactive.

With regard to the advanced technology, more specifically:

  • Almost three-quarters of Americans (73%) believe that investing in innovation and advanced technology sciences in education is the key to the country’s long term success;
  • Consumers also send a strong message to the U.S. automobile industry to invest in hybrids and alternative fuels, as seven in ten Americans (71%) said not only an investment but a leadership role in these technologies could mean survival for our auto industry;
  • Seven in ten adults (71%) believe that travel costs for businesses could be cut if technology such as video conferencing were better utilized; and,
  • Other ideas that are widely supported are the use of technology to produce “green products and services” (67%) and to manage medical records and patient care (67%).

Some practical applications of high tech
Advanced technology is particularly valuable when it is practical. Looking at several advanced wireless, mobile device applications that are just entering the marketplace or will be introduced in the near future one area explored was traffic and transportation usage. Over a quarter of consumers (28%) strongly or very strongly liked the idea of using GPS technology to balance and monitor traffic to determine the most effective routes in real time for an effective transportation system.

About one-third of consumers (31%) indicated they would be highly interested in purchasing mobile, wireless devices to monitor their car in real time, advising them of developing problems and even updating engine software to keep their car running at peak performance – essentially a mobile tune up.

Considering the importance of the cell phone in many people’s lives, it is no surprise that 27% of consumers very strongly or strongly like the idea of controlling home systems or appliances from a mobile device and it should be encouraging to many wireless service providers that are in the process of or poised to roll out their next generation networks that 26% of consumers very strongly or strongly like a 4G wireless network that could provide seamless voice, Internet, and entertainment to their homes and mobile devices. On the other side of the equation, seemingly unable to put privacy aside, two in five (40%) of Americans say they would not like it at all if their doctor could monitor their vital signs in real time using a mobile device.

Many people have reservations about high tech
Looking at the other side of the coin, many Americans have reservations about the impact of high technology on our lives. Three in five Americans (61%) do not believe technology that enables people to be more mobile makes people more productive. Also, two-thirds of Americans (65%) agree that society is too dependent on electronics and electronic gadgets. Surprisingly perhaps, there is also no age divide. Fully 58% of Echo Boomers (those aged 18-32) say mobile technology does not make Americans more productive while almost three-quarters (72%) of Echo Boomers believe that society is too dependent of electronics and electronic gadgets.

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So What?
While many Americans indicate they do not believe mobile technology enables people to be more productive, the solution may be to make the devices easier to use. Under half of Americans (46%) say they only use about half of the features and functionality of their technology devices. It might be that the productivity gains people are seeking are offered by an application or function they have never used or considered.

According to Joe Porus, Vice president, Harris Interactive Technology group, “In a study we completed a few weeks ago and released at this year’s CTIA conference, business decision makers were much more bullish on technology, especially wireless technology, than consumers. Businesses large and small are increasing their investments in wireless applications and believe a 15% benefit is going right to their bottom line. The good news is they feel the wireless industry has a very bright future despite the recent economic turndown as long as they can continue to deliver on a value proposition that resonates with both consumers and business decision makers.”

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States March 9 and 16, among 2,355 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Full data tables and methodology are available at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/pubs/Harris_Poll_2009_04_20.pdf

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms.

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