Constant connectivity - a necessity or not?

As Group Applications Director at TSG, it goes without saying that I love technology. I’ve also had a front-row seat as it’s progressed at an amazing rate.

A recent flight experience reminded me how far it has advanced, but how much further it can go.

I was flying to our Head Office in Newcastle recently and, as always, working on my Surface Pro – Microsoft’s flagship tablet/laptop hybrid – when passengers were asked to put away all laptops and electronic devices that might disturb the take-off. Thanks to the Surface Pro’s versatile design, I was able to simply remove the keyboard and flip the stand down and hey presto – I’ve got a tablet that I can continue to use during take-off.

It’s a huge step from the days where all electronic devices had to be turned off for the entire flight – but don’t count your chickens just yet.

About 10 minutes before our landing was due to take place, an announcement was made. Due to the fog in Newcastle, the plane was to do a fully automated landing. This meant that ALL gadgets (their words, not mine), even those in flight mode, needed to be turned off. Unsurprisingly, the plane erupted into pandemonium as people leapt out of their seats to switch off their phones, tablets and laptops.

I was personally quite excited about the possibility of an automated landing – it’s yet another example of the rapid advancement of technology. It’s incredible that, when pilots struggle to land because of poor visibility, technology can take over and land the plane accurately and safely (with pilot supervision, of course). I was probably the only passenger who was thrilled – looking around the plane, there were certainly some worried faces!

 Although the ability to use these electronic devices in some capacity on a plane shows how far we’ve come with technology – you’d have seldom seen any devices used on a flight just 10 years ago – this incident made me realise that there’s still progress we can make. I did wonder how much a device in flight mode – with no active mobile or WiFi signal – could affect an automated landing.

After a little bit of research, I’ve found out it’s more of a precaution; there’s the possibility that a device could be emitting a frequency that it shouldn’t be – ideally this shouldn’t happen, but we all know how faulty our mobiles can be sometimes. It’s also a possibility with devices manufactured in places where emissions and testing are less rigorous.

Mobility and connectivity are huge advances; as consumers we’re more connected than ever. But it’s not just personal lives that are positively impacted by this – it’s huge for the business world. Near-constant connectivity means our specialists who travel up and down the country can work while commuting. They can talk to customers and colleagues whenever, wherever, and they’ll never miss out on anything important.

There are, however, still occasions where we need to be switched off, as my experience highlighted. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I still had the ability to work on WiFi in-flight, so it wasn’t the end of the world switching my device off for the descent. In our hyper-connected world, it can sometimes be helpful to take a step away from our devices and live in the real world for a moment.

Maybe we’ll see a day where we’re never disconnected, whether that’s on a flight or walking through a “digital desert” – an area with limited or no connectivity. We’re closer to that than ever before, especially as the government recently announced it will prioritise improvements to the UK’s connectivity. But for now, we should appreciate how connected we already are, and maybe take a step back from our devices once in a while.