Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

13.12.2019 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 176


A friend of mine once told me that a phone call is a demand for a meeting without an appointment. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with the attitude from a customer service perspective, I do understand the sentiment. Until 1876, our society existed on the basis of physical interactions or the laborious method of communication that seems non-existent today – letters. Once the telephone became entrenched in our society, communication became so much quicker.

When we think of our society today, we have gone a step forward – or some may say backward – with the ability to access almost limitless information in the palm of our hands. The ongoing debate is whether the incessant use of a smartphone is beneficial to individuals and society.

I am constantly intrigued by the number of new market segments that develop out of our constantly changing world and over-use of smartphones has spawned another business segment.

Enter phone pouches.

Several years ago, Graham Dugoni felt frustrated that people at concerts he was attending seemed more absorbed with their phones than the concert. Yondr was subsequently founded and created an entirely new market segment.

At first the concept seems unnecessary – until you realise that mobile phone use is an addiction to some people. As you enter a concert supported by Yondr, you are handed a pouch and you place your phone inside. The case is electronically latched and cannot be unlatched until you leave the concert and open the pouch at an unlocking station in the foyer. You maintain possession of your phone at all times therefore removing the fear of theft - but you simply can’t use it. As much as it would seem simpler to ask everyone to turn their phones off for the concert, we have all been at events when this request has been made and not a single member of the audience reaches for their phone to turn it off! It would seem the only way to have a phone free concert is to enforce it - although there is some irony in the fact that a technology solution is being used to address the reliance on technology!

Although the concept started with concerts it has now been extended to a number of other areas. I remember my first experience of entering the public gallery of our Federal Parliament and being asked to hand my phone to the door attendant. It made me feel very uncomfortable handing my phone to a stranger. The Yondr concept is being applied in many situations such as this – parliaments, court rooms, weddings, events and even schools are now using this same concept.

The idea of a phone pouch at school is an interesting one. If the number of schools in the nation is n, the number of mobile phone policies across the nation seems to be approximately n + 1. Psychologists, educators, parents, kids, my friend who doesn’t like phone calls…they all have a strong and defensible opinion on mobile phones in schools. One school in Australia has just started with a test program of using pouches and already they have noticed more activity and playground noise during recess and lunch. This is only anecdotal at this stage and I am quite certain that a significant amount of research will continue to be conducted.

What I need next is a home version of the pouch so I can sit down and talk to my children at the dinner table rather than phones being used during dinner. Unfortunately, the worst offender is me!

Let me know what you think of the idea of phone pouches at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson