The OMCP is not meant to address the needs that have come as a result of the pandemic but rather to chronicle these changes in consumer behavior.
The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?
In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Paul Carter.
Dr. Paul Carter is the founder and CEO of Global Wireless Solutions. The organization defines the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. GWS’ proprietary OneScore network ranking combines in-depth testing data with real-world usage scenarios to make network testing results relatable and easy to understand. Founded in 1996, GWS is headquartered in Dulles, Virginia (USA). At last count, GWS has driven and walked over 13 million data collection miles for its customers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I founded Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. (GWS) in 1996 and have served as CEO ever since. Since 2000, we’ve been the leading provider of wireless network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Our proprietary OneScore ranking methodology combines engineering data with consumer research to provide a definitive performance score, which enables us to identify the best mobile networks across the country.
Recently we’ve expanded to provide insights on how consumers interact with their mobile devices. The One Measure Consumer Panel (OMCP) is an opt-in consumer panel that collects mobile app usage, content and adoption data from approximately 80,000 consumers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, monitoring whenever and wherever consumers use their devices. This data is becoming increasingly valuable as consumers continue to spend more time on their mobile devices. People take their smartphones with them everywhere, and they use them all the time, so usage data tells us a lot about these consumers’ daily lives, how they interact with businesses, and the choices they make.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I never planned to spend my career in the United States, but I arrived in January 1991 and never left. I wasn’t even supposed to come when I did. I had a job offer with a wireless operator in the U.K. However, a few weeks before I was due to start, I received a call from a friend about interviewing for a new company based in the States. Their CEO phoned me that same night and asked if I could meet him in Dusseldorf for an interview the next day. It went well, I got hired, and they arranged for me to get my VISA and come to the U.S., just for training. But by the time I was done with my university program, the project they had penciled me to work on (in the U.K.) had finished. So arriving with only two suitcases to my name, I began to make a new life in the States — and that was now 30 years ago!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandmother liked to mention an old Charlie Chaplin quote “you can always stoop and pick up nothing”. What she was really telling me was that anyone can go through the motions in life, but if you want something for yourself, you have to be brave enough to work hard for it and seek it out.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m most grateful for my wife. To achieve any success in life, a solid partnership with one’s spouse is crucial. Life partners help you in a myriad of ways from big decisions to small decisions to support and encouragement.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Wireless networks have always been used to keep people connected, and this past year of physical restrictions and social distancing has only highlighted this fact. Throughout the pandemic, mobile users turned to their smartphones to stay connected with friends and family. Technology brings people together, whether in a work, home or friendly environment, especially in times where in-person interactions are severely limited.
Given that people depend so heavily on their phones these days, GWS’ research into how devices are being used and how networks are performing ultimately helps people use their phones in a better, more reliable way.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting-edge communication technology research that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
GWS’ recent The Pandemic Year in Mobile Apps report offers unique insights into consumer mobile behavior during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020-February 2021), highlighting how usage has changed when compared to the prior 12 months. GWS obtained the data through its OneMeasure Consumer Panel, which evaluates the mobile app usage and content of approximately 80,000 consumers located across the United States. The report found that consumers spent an average of four hours per day on their smartphones during COVID-19 — up ten minutes per day when compared to mobile usage pre-pandemic. It also offers a portrait of which mobile apps consumers spent more time on during the pandemic focusing on six categories: finance/trading apps (+63%), social media apps (+25%), lifestyle apps (+19%), video apps (+12%) and gaming apps (+6%).
Delving into these categories produced some interesting insight such as:
- Americans averaged more than an hour per day on social media during the pandemic year.
- While consumers flocked to day trading and crypto trading apps, financial hardship was evident through a massive usage growth of food stamp mobile apps.
- Time spent on Robinhood increased by 183% during the pandemic.
- Time spent on food stamp management app, Fresh EBT increased 152% during the pandemic.
- During the pandemic year, consumer’s time spent on DoorDash increased 166% and Uber Eats increased 121%.
However, the generational usage data is likely the most impactful. As generations age and Gen Z starts to enter the workforce, their app usage habits will drive economic and business trends. It’s not surprising that they used technology at a higher rate than most other generations, but what is interesting is where they grew their usage the most. For example, Gen Z flocked to finance and trading apps clocking a 102% increase in total hours on financial apps overall and a 127% increase in total hours on investment apps in particular. Gen Z’s usage of lifestyle apps also increased significantly (50% increase in time spent), which could signal a reliance on food delivery services and online shopping that could endure beyond the pandemic. And, Gen Z increased time spent on video apps more than any other generation (up 44%); Baby Boomers had the second-highest growth with a 10% increase.
Being able to take such an in-depth look at a day in the life of a consumer as seen through interactions with their smartphones provides insights into customer needs, and can subsequently drive business decisions and industry innovation in order to meet those needs.
How do you think this might change the world?
As the Coronavirus pandemic took hold, smartphones became further cemented as a link between isolated consumers and the world at large, thus their usage is increasingly becoming an accurate reflection of human behavior as a whole. We can expect that sustained consumer mobile behavior changes during the pandemic will have a lasting effect on how consumers engage with businesses over the long term and will be a major aspect to establishing what the “new normal” looks like.
Amidst the pandemic, more Americans turned to food delivery services and online shopping to weather quarantine periods, possibly shifting consumers’ behavior for good. For example, DoorDash saw a 166% increase in total volume hours, a 14% increase in average daily minutes per user. Consumers also embraced one-stop-shopping with time spent on the Walmart app increasing 74% in total volume hours, and Target app increasing 62% in total volume hours; likely thanks to same-day pickup and grocery offerings.
Once vaccines are more widespread, restrictions are lifted, and lives return to relatively normal, will the people who relied on delivery or same-day pickup services return to spending hours in grocery or big box stores? We’re not sure. But, we’ll certainly be watching, using the One Measure Consumer Panel (OMCP) we’ll be able to track this digital transformation for years to come.
By collecting and curating the consumer insights, analytics and performance metrics from the smartphones of opted-in panels across the United States using our OMCP, we can measure mobile app usage and content, network performance and consumer perceptions. This research, available at scale or on a deeper dive into specific demographics or user sets, will surface trends that give direction to the future across industries.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Not particularly. “Black Mirror” leans heavily into techno-paranoia, whereas in real life, GWS has continually observed that consumers deeply value their smartphones. Throughout the pandemic, these devices greatly improved the convenience and efficiency in consumers’ everyday lives. GWS’ 2020 Teleworking During the Pandemic Study showed that if consumers could only keep one product or service during the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate, their top choice was their smartphone. Having a better understanding of how users interact with devices will ultimately lead to tangible insights into how people prioritize staying connected with their friends and loved ones, as well as the new ways they live, work and play with these devices.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Long before GWS established its consumer research panel (OMCP), the organization had always valued the consumer perspective. We are the only wireless network benchmarking organization to incorporate consumer feedback on what metrics matter most in terms of performance from their wireless network operator. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear consumers were interacting with their smartphone devices in ways they had previously not. To truly gain an accurate picture of how smartphones were being used, we needed to shift our focus to measure the increasingly blended nature of network performance and consumer behavior together.
To understand network performance more completely, GWS needs to also measure consumer behavior. The networks were designed for people to use them; the more we understand how they use them, the more the networks can be optimized.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
To be honest, we are not looking for this technology to gain widespread adoption. Instead, we are hoping to gain a broader understanding of how consumers are interacting with their smartphone devices. Insights we take from this data can then be used to shape where different market segments such as social media, gaming, finance, and video streaming go from here in terms of improving the overall consumer experience.
The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?
The OMCP is not meant to address the needs that have come as a result of the pandemic but rather to chronicle these changes in consumer behavior.
The pandemic has certainly accelerated changes in the ways we communicate. Whether it’s changed for the better or for the worse, it’s too early to tell. But, either way, GWS can use the OMCP to measure the changes and tell the story of how the ways we communicate have evolved.
There will always be new mobile apps and through the OMCP we will be able to measure their impact.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I’m not one for heeding advice. People have told me a variety of things — some true, some false — but I am a big believer in the fact that people need to go through different life experiences to learn and understand life’s lessons. That being said, some sayings have resonated with me over the years:
- Believe in your capabilities
- Work with the best people you can find
- Shoot for the stars
- Always go outside your comfort zone
- No is the easy answer; yes is the hard one
I’m sure folks have told me similar things to these over the years, but it was my life experiences that taught me the value of these sayings, not someone else.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
People all around the world care about what they eat and put inside their bodies. Not a ton of thought, however, has been given to the type of air quality we breathe in to our lungs. With so many polluting sources throughout the world, it will become increasingly important to utilize new technologies to monitor and play a key role in improving air quality.
Low-cost, wireless environmental sensors are one of those technologies that would benefit from widespread adoption (versus the more capital intensive and expensive sensor related systems found most often in the field today). These new types of sensors can be deployed anywhere in the world, have low data rates, low power requirements, and can work across a myriad of wireless technologies from LTE to 5G to LPWAN technologies. Once they are deployed, organizations can gather a base of data to understand what’s going on with air quality in specific locations.
We feel strongly about this need and, as a result, have established a company, Aeternum LLC, that provides a simple, cost effective, flexible monitoring approach. But more innovation is needed and it’s needed now; after all, it involves one of the most important elements in our lives — the air that we breathe.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.