Mobile, laptop or PDA user? Intel is watching you...

Undercover boffins spy on London's mobile workforce
Written by Suzanna Kerridge, Contributor on

Undercover boffins spy on London's mobile workforce

Intel's research boffins are not often found on the Number 73 bus travelling from Victoria to Tottenham, but that's where they've been conducting their latest research into the use of mobile devices.

The research project, conducted in association with the University of Surrey's sociology department, is now in its second year and has one year left to run.

The researchers are studying how people use mobile devices in their daily lives. This has involved spending the day travelling on the Number 73 and on an overland train on a popular commuter route between London Waterloo and Richmond in Surrey.

The idea, said Dr Nina Wakeford, researcher at the University of Surrey, is to offer Intel an insight into the social processes into which technology can be fitted and its cultural and economic importance.

"What we're trying to do is see if there are certain social activities that can influence the design of technology," she said.

Wakeford said space is a major factor. "The spacial configuration of using a laptop is quite different from a PDA or mobile so we see an increasing number of people doing what we call 'layering' - linking information from a mobile to PDA and then downloading it to a PC or laptop in the office."

The University of Surrey has been granted $50,000 a year to run the study, entitled, somewhat verbosely, Understanding the Consumption of Ubiquitous Digital Content.

The chip giant has already learnt about the way people use technology as a way to form social identities.

Wakeford said. "Our research shows that people are often defined by what technology they have. We've seen young girls painting their nails to match their phones."

Wakeford and her team are expected to continue to ride buses and trains in the name of research until next year.

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