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The year is 2017. Software engineers and online gamers are designing our future as we speak — er, text. Consumers take pictures of their ice cream cones and post them on their Instagrams, reaping big, monetized benefits for Ben and Jerrys. Google reviews are kings. Political campaigns stream like flags across Facebook and Twitter. Elon Musk is the President of the United States (okay, maybe in our dreams). But in any case, the internet, with its 3.4 billion worldwide users, is a fascinating and confusing place, and it has become a strong result and influencer of our daily habits, which businesses are still learning more and more about.
We decided to ask Plumbing Engineer’s engineering and design community a few questions about their internet usage. This is our survey’s second year running, so we’ve taken note of the differences and similarities from last year.
The 2016 survey also paired our findings against those of leading annual internet trend reports, presented by Morgan Stanley analyst and investor, Mary Meeker. We have followed up with her newest research to help shed light on overall usage and how our audience reflects and deflects the national trends.
We distributed our survey to print and online subscribers, and the largest markets represented were plumbing (33 percent), mechanical (23 percent) and HVAC (22 percent). Our “other” category was also well-represented by respondents (20 percent), a lot of them who operate in the fire protection and inspection arenas. Given these results, I will be adding “fire protection” as its own category in next year’s internet survey questionnaire.
I found that 61 percent of our respondents are 56 or older, while last year they accounted for 63 percent. Only 5 percent of our responders were 35 years old or younger. This number is to be expected with our current knowledge. Our industries are well aware of the age gap and continue to discuss and implement ways to engage the younger generation.
Online time and function
In her 2017 report (kpcb.com/internet-trends), Meeker found that the generational chasm is increasing, as shifts to internet-enabled media continue. She found that respondents over 50 years old spend between 9 and 10 hours on analog devices and between 1 and 3 and half hours on digital devices. While users under 30 are using both analog and digital devices between 4 and 5 hours a day. Overall, the survey finds that Americans spend roughly 4.14 hours on their phones a day, which has increased by two times over the last two years.
We also wanted to know how long our audience spends online, and how it helps or hinders them with their work. It turns out that 47 percent of respondents spend more than 1 hour online a day, while a whopping 21 percent spend less than 30 minutes a day online, which correlates with national numbers. Fifty-four percent of our respondents indicated that their smartphone was their most used device, followed by laptop usage at 38 percent. Interestingly enough, smartphone preference over laptops and tablets decreased significantly from last year, which was at 74 percent.
Given these results, we wanted to know how our respondents spend their time online and if they find themselves more or less productive. Roughly 58 percent said that smartphone technology has increased the amount of time they spend working. Fifty-one percent said that smartphone technology has allowed flexibility in their work schedules, while 68 percent said that it has increased productivity.
Respondents said the most popular functions for mobile devices at work are emailing (38 percent) followed by calling (28 percent). They said the most popular internet application that helps them do their jobs better is the webinar (30 percent). The second most popular response is “other” (12 percent), and a good amount of you wrote in “product research,” so thank you for that extra insight.
We issue this survey to our contractor side as well, and many of the questions are similar. This year, we decided to ask a few questions aimed more specifically at engineers. The majority of you said that the BIM and 3D CAD formats you’re using are AutoCad and Revit, which has become essential to your professions.
Mobile/tablet applications are also another side of technology that is surging through businesses. I recently attended AHR and was blown away by the level of thought and capability put into some applications. Many of your companies have designed their own apps (22 percent), or use third-party applications that assist you in your work (37 percent). Nationally this number is expected to grow, though we still have a long way to go with application security.
One of the most significant areas of change that we found was social media presence. Last year close to half of our respondents said that their businesses were not involved in any kind of social media. This year, the number has taken a drastic plunge to 30 percent. This is good news from a business perspective because according to national trends, mobile advertising alone racked in $73 billion. Google’s advertising revenue jumped from $30 billion to $36 billion, while Facebook’s advertising went from $7 billion to $13 billion, and other social media platforms together went from $22 billion to $23 billion.
LinkedIn is the social media platform most frequently used by businesses in our industry (30 percent), according to our respondents. LinkedIn is a great way for engineers to connect and join discussions related to their fields, as well as locate employment opportunities, submit abstracts to and follow news of national organizations, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Engineers can join groups that offer a knowledge network for engineers of all different levels and disciplines. In our survey, LinkedIn was followed by Facebook (18 percent), then Google+ (10 percent). Overall, the engineering professions tend to stick closer to high level discussions, given the technicality and intent of the work.
I wasn’t surprised to see Pinterest at 2 percent and Instagram at 1 percent, given that the target market for Instagram especially is millennials and younger. But I can see how automation and systematic representations could be conveyed through platforms that are predominantly images or videos. As an example, check out World of Engineering (@world_of_engineering) on Instagram. With over 277,000 followers, the site shares news, facts and humor that engineers would find relatable. Imagine what you could convey with one video share on a highly-populated platform and what kind of collaboration and learning that could inspire. Though this number is nothing compared to Katy Perry’s 38 million followers, it’s important to give science the view time it deserves.
This concludes our 2017 internet survey report. I wanted to thank each of you who took the time to respond. Your feedback is essential to our understanding of our diverse and uniquely skilled readers. If you have any other trends/technology ideas you want us to cover or would like to write about, pitch it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.