chang­ing your life

As Madonna al­most said, we are liv­ing in a dig­i­tal world – and tech­nol­ogy continues to change our lives in un­ex­pected ways. Mary de Ruyter ex­plains how


3 Shop­ping global

We’re buy­ing on­line more of­ten, but lo­cal re­tail­ers aren’t nec­es­sar­ily ben­e­fit­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Roy Mor­gan Re­search Dig­i­tal Uni­verse re­port, fea­tur­ing data gath­ered be­tween Jan­uary 2008 and June 2013, 55.2 per­cent of Ki­wis aged 14 and older bought some­thing over the in­ter­net in an aver­age three-month pe­riod – that’s up from 41.6 per­cent four years ear­lier. The re­port also found New Zealan­ders spent more than $5.4 bil­lion on­line in the past fi­nan­cial year. In­ter­est­ingly, BNZ’s Fe­bru­ary 2014 on­line re­tail sales in­dex found 42 per­cent of New Zealand’s on­line re­tail pur­chases were from in­ter­na­tional mer­chants – up from four years ago, when over­seas stores ac­counted for just a third of on­line sales.

4 Fam­ily ties

Mi­crosoft Ad­ver­tis­ing sur­veyed 1500 fam­i­lies across the UK, and found nearly one third (30 per­cent) of them com­mu­ni­cated dig­i­tally with each other – when at home to­gether. Kids were ask­ing their par­ents for help with home­work and adults were us­ing video call­ing to call their chil­dren for din­ner. What­ever hap­pened to the grand old tra­di­tion of yelling up the stairs or out the front door so the whole neigh­bour­hood could hear?

5 Game on

De­bate still rages about the ef­fect of vi­o­lent video games on chil­dren and teenagers – re­cent stud­ies have var­i­ously said the games de­lay the de­vel­op­ment of moral judge­ment in teens, make them eat and cheat more, and that hos­tile be­hav­iour af­ter gam­ing is caused by feel­ings of fail­ure, not by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a vi­o­lent game. But one mat­ter seems be­yond de­bate: stay en­gaged with what your kids are do­ing and they’ll ben­e­fit. Two new US stud­ies pub­lished in JAMA Pe­di­atrics found that keep­ing tabs on your chil­dren’s dig­i­tal time (watch­ing TV, play­ing video games and be­ing on­line) is as­so­ci­ated with bet­ter BMI, im­proved school per­for­mance, bet­ter be­hav­iour and more sleep.

6 Com­puter games okay?

But wait – com­puter games might not be all bad. A new Ar­gen­tinian study, pub­lished in Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences, found that when the young chil­dren in the study (many of whom had at­ten­dance prob­lems due to is­sues at home) played com­puter games aimed at im­prov­ing mem­ory and plan­ning, their marks in lan­guage and math­e­mat­ics im­proved. This doesn’t mean the games def­i­nitely caused the im­prove­ments, but the re­sults are promis­ing ... per­haps don’t tell the kids just yet!

7 Ev­ery­thing is con­nected

Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity, Amer­ica, 1980s: a group of pro­gram­mers in­vented a way to check, via the In­ter­net, whether the Coke ma­chine sev­eral floors be­low was am­ply stocked with cold drinks be­fore they set off to buy one. Lit­tle did they know they were the fore­run­ners of the In­ter­net of Things (IoT) – where ev­ery­day phys­i­cal ob­jects are con­nected to the In­ter­net and trans­mit data to other dig­i­tal de­vices.

In New Zealand we al­ready have smart elec­tric­ity me­ters (for re­mote mon­i­tor­ing and billing) and an­i­mal tag­ging for in­creased farm pro­duc­tiv­ity; in the UK, a Bri­tish Gas app lets users con­trol their home’s heat­ing and hot wa­ter from their mo­bile dig­i­tal de­vice. Tech­nol­ogy fore­cast­ers pre­dict an ex­plo­sion of IoT-en­abled de­vices (up to sev­eral bil­lion in the next five years), en­com­pass­ing ev­ery­thing from health­care to air­craft main­te­nance and food dis­tri­bu­tion. Now if we could only de­sign a dish­washer that would un­load it­self.

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