'Hyperconnected' users on the increase: survey

Many are using multiple gadgets and social networking sites

Enterprises are facing an exploding "culture of connectivity", with global information workers using an increasing number of devices and applications, according to an IDC study.

In a worldwide study sponsored by Nortel Networks, IDC found a considerable number of what it calls "hyperconnected" users — those using at least seven devices and nine applications. The survey covered nearly 2,400 employees in 17 countries.

Employers will need to make accommodations for the new wave of hyperconnected employees as these people become the next-generation workforce, IDC says.

The hyperconnected accounted for 16% of those polled in the study. They are using gadgets ranging from phones to laptops to PDAs and even car-based systems. Applications being used on these devices include Web 2.0 applications, such as Twitter, Second Life and wikis. Also prominent are applications like text messaging, instant messaging and web conferencing.

Behind the hyperconnected were the "increasingly connected", who use four devices and as many as six applications and account for 36% of survey respondents.

"The conclusion is that there is this groundswell," for the increasingly connected to move into hyper-connected status and for the hyper-connected to move into the workforce, says Vito Mabrucco, senior vice president at IDC Canada.

Increasing demand for connectivity and applications as well as the blurring of personal and business use of technology is expected to tax telecommunications networks, broadband networks, and high-speed networks, Mabrucco says.

Nortel CTO John Roes says IT departments need to embrace the idea of the business and personal IT experience blurring. Different assumptions will have to be made on network security. The user experience will need to be extended to new media.

"As an example, imagine if a good chunk of your workforce wants to collaborate about work in a site like Facebook," Roes says. Employers will have to make that secure and predictable, which can be done but requires a different approach to technology, he says.

Young would-be employees are presuming that employers are embracing technologies like Facebook, says Roes.

Companies can turn this trend into revenue opportunities by, for example, connecting with customers via Facebook, he says. Also, networks will need to be built to scale to the size of the customer base rather than to the number of employees. This could mean building a network to accommodate a million customers rather than one that handles 20,000 employees. A government agency, for example, might scale to millions of customers.

With the new usage trends, IT and telecommunications will converge, Mabrucco says. Unified communications, which is promoted by companies such as Microsoft and Nortel, will make an impact, according to IDC and Nortel. Networks will need to accommodate identity, presence, location, telephony and data, they say.

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