Wireless Systems Design

Kids Show Us The Way

Speaking very eloquently, someone once said that we should "teach our children well." They are our future. It's a strong statement and sentiment, given the "I"-driven, time-crunched society in which we all live. Yet every once in a while, I regain the hope that all is not lost.

A case in point is a recent study conducted by Circle 1 Network (www.circle1network.com) and SpectraCom, Inc. (www.spectracom.com). Its purpose was to determine the Internet usage/device preferences of a select group of children ages 4 to 18. The study has taken place every June since 1996.

The results of the survey revealed two interesting facts. First and foremost, today's youth isn't just accepting of wireless technology. These kids are actually quite knowledgeable about it. In addition, they're skilled in integrating it into their daily lives. For many of us "older types," the purchase and use of wireless devices may be a forced or careful migration. To these children, in contrast, it's quickly becoming an everyday expected practice.

The second fact to came out of the study is that contrary to popular belief, the demand for handsets is not dead. In fact, 33% of all of those surveyed own a cell phone. That number jumped by 10% over the previous year. By the same token, the number of kids ages 4 to 18 who own at least one mobile device grew from 32% last year to 43% this year. In other words, roughly four out of 10 kids in the United States own and use some type of wireless device. Of these devices, the cell phone ranks highest. It is the most prevalent device owned, while the ultra-light laptop ranks as the most popular.

What's behind these numbers? To many, the answer lies in the Internet. More than any previous generation, today's youth demands instant access to information anywhere. Such capabilities can only be delivered through the use of Internet-enabled mobile wireless devices, such as a cell phone, laptop, or PalmPilot. One or more of these devices gives them the ability to surf the Web, retrieve information locally, play games, or even complete/submit homework.

Recently, a college student who I know told me that her professors no longer accept handwritten or typed assignments. Instead, all assignments must now be downloaded via the Web and submitted electronically. Boy, have times changed! When I was in college, it was inconceivable that every student would one day be able to afford their own computer—let alone one that would be both mobile and wireless.

Will our children guide us, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the wireless world? From my vantage point, their odds look pretty good. Send me your thoughts when you get a chance. I can be reached at [email protected]

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