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And the surveys said…

Two recent entries provide excellent insight into the Canadian wireless market and the future of RFID.


July 1, 2006  


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It is summer, and traditionally that is a slower time for news. Many companies try to generate some buzz by commissioning surveys. This time out, I thought I’d pass along some results from two that recently crossed my desk.

The first comes from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), the lobby group that represents the interests of wireless companies in this country, which commissioned Decima Research to conduct a survey of the Canadian wireless market.

Decima polled more than 1,500 Canadians by telephone in April, and the CWTA used its two-day Live-Work-Play conference in Toronto in May to publish the results.

Among its findings, the survey notes, is that people in 64% of Canadian households report either owning or having access to a mobile phone.

Of those households, 8% are using this phone as a replacement for a traditional, wired service.

Personal calls are rising

Furthermore, 17% of households that currently have a mobile phone, or plan to have one in the next 12 months, say they are likely to use it as a replacement for their land-line phone.

Not surprisingly, as household penetration rises, the use of wireless primarily for personal, as opposed to business, calls has also risen.

Decima found 60% of Canadians use their mobile service primarily for personal calls, while only 29% report using it primarily for business. 8% report a fairly balanced mix of personal and business calls on their mobile.

According to Decima, not only has mobile phone use increased significantly over the past 10 years, but the way in which we are using the devices is maturing.

Essentially, more Canadians are using wireless phones, usage of wireless phones is deeper within each household, wireless phones are being used more for personal purposes than for business purposes and Canadians continue to consider them viable alternatives to their traditional home phone, the research firm says in its final report.

What I find most interesting is that only 10% of those surveyed who had access to a mobile phone say their employer provides them with the wireless service.

This is essentially unchanged from 1999 and 2000 — the last times that Decima asked the question.

This suggests that Canadian companies have not yet decided that mobiles are a valuable asset over which they need to exercise control. If that is the case, it is time to have another look at how mobile phones are being used in the organization.

In addition to this 10%, the survey also notes that 9% of those with mobile service access it through their home business or small office/home office, while another 15% have access through someone else in the household.

The full survey — Usage of Wireless Communications in Canada — can be found on the CWTA’s web site (www.cwta.ca).

Meanwhile, RFID: How Far, How Fast, comes to us courtesy of NCR Corp. Conducted by the Retail Systems Alert Group and also published in May, this survey found that the adoption of radio frequency identification systems is moving at only a modest pace.

The survey notes that of the retailers that responded, only 9% report that they have established a timeline to implement RFID.

That is well below the 44% of companies in the manufacturing sector who report that they have developed an RFID timeline.

Of the retailers and manufacturers that do have an implementation schedule, most report they are running pilot programs at distribution centres.

In announcing the results, NCR says that the slow take up of RFID suggests that companies continue to struggle with technical and cultural challenges.

Privacy concerns

Among the challenges are continued concerns over whether RFID can track people or purchases.

In her 2005 report on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart notes that her office has started to study RFID technology and its privacy implications.

The work to date must be considered preliminary: Last year, the privacy watchdog surveyed only a dozen companies to find out how they’re using RFID, and the answers merely scratch the surface of the issue.

But it is safe to assume that the commission will continue to investigate the technology and publish its findings.

RFID offers many advantages to Canadian businesses, particularly those that must manage supply chains.

But unless it is implemented in a way that reassures Canadians that their privacy is being respected, it will have a tough, uphill climb to acceptance.

Trevor Marshall is a Toronto-based reporter, writer and observer of the Canadian wireless industry. He can be reached (on his mobile) at 416-878-7730 or trevor@words-tm.com.