January 22, 2019

Smart Lifers Increasingly Use Connected Devices and Services, but Worry About Privacy and Security

The previous post on this blog focused a conference session, "Getting Hacked: IoT and Beyond," I attended at CES®2019 in Las Vegas, Nev. where AIG, an American insurer, released a report that presents key questions Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and risk managers should be asking regarding the relationship between IoT and cybersecurity. In addition to this session, I attended one entitled "Living the Smart Life: The Evolution of Today's Consumer" where representatives of GfK, a multinational market research firm based in German, shared their latest research on consumers and the "smart life."

During the conference session, which an archived video may be viewed through this link, Karen Ramspacher and Kathy Sheehan, GfK's Senior Vice President of Innovation & Insights and Executive Vice President of Consumer Life, respectively, co-presented "The Promise of the Smart Life: Opportunities and barriers that will impact adoption."

A point made early in the presentation is how the global smartphone market has reached saturation. Voice technologies, however, is growing by 21 percent of the worldwide population have used the emerging technology. Interestingly, the median age of adults using voice assistants 42.7 with 58 percent using them for streaming music, 48 percent for weather updates, and 37 percent to set a timer or alarm. What is more, as reflected in the slide to the right, the global use of voice technologies is high in Argentina, Brazil, India, Russia, Spain, and the United States.

Whether it is voice assistants or the smart home, the presentation crucially says the "demand for simplicity" where "if a new technology product is not simple to use, I lose interest in it." The presentation notes the smart home is hitting a tipping point in leading markets with 49 percent of Americans owns at least one smart home product or device. And there is still room for growth with 58 percent of Americans, an increase of seven percentage points since 2015, "feel smart home technology will impact their life over the next few years."

Where will the growth continue? Americans interested in having the following types of smart home features: Optimize energy usage, remote home monitoring, appliances communicate with each other, self-diagnose problems, remote via mobile devices, real-time energy tracking, further automate household chores, and share health data with healthcare providers.

And more sophisticated applications are emerging with communication between appliances becoming the fastest growing emerging technology and smart home benefit. Furthermore, new apps and interfaces are making it easier for consumers to monitor their homes for safety, which include receiving alerts when something unusual happens at home (e.g., smoke/gas, security alarm, door/window opening or water leak), monitor your home with a video camera, control lights inside or outside your home, and grant access to home when you cannot be there with a scheduled code to let housekeeper/guest in.

With respect to detection opportunities, the presenters explained 57 percent of Americans, up from 49 percent in 2012, are interested in smart home products that reduce allergens in the home. Globally, 41 percent of people want a car that protects from health threats (allergens, pollution, and other environmental hazards), and 58 percent worry about getting sick from contaminated food or drink.

On the topic of mobility (auto), 55 percent of Americans said their vehicle selection has been influenced by in-vehicle technology and 58 percent of Americans attest that they definitely or probably will consider a vehicle with personal assistant capabilities.

When it comes to using mobile applications for health and wellness, 69 percent of U.S. consumers, up four percentage points from 2009, focus on preventative healthcare measures as opposed to treating current issues. In providing reasons for tracking or monitoring their health or fitness, 52 percent say they do so to motivate themselves to exercise, 52 percent do so to maintain or improve their physical condition, 51 percent do so to lose weight, 45 percent do so to motivate themselves to eat or drink healthy, and 30 percent do so to improve sleep.

Regarding mobile payments, online banking and shopping are two areas consumers overwhelmingly see the benefits far outweighing any negatives. While mobile wallets have lower acceptance rates in the U.S., growth globally suggests further opportunity in the American market.

The presenters then discussed the demographics of the Smart Lifer. Six percent or 16 million Americans are considered a Smart Lifer with 59 percent being female, 51 percent having children, and 60 percent being married. Importantly, Smart Lifers say privacy concern is the primary barrier for adoption of digital home assistants in the U.S.

More Smart Lifers are saying no to always-on connectivity with 37 percent of global consumers responding they regularly take a break from technology or unplug/disconnect to maintain health (an increase of 14 points since 2014). Among Americans aged 18-24, 25 percent say they feel disconnected without the internet (down seven points since 2013), 25 percent say it is important to always be reachable wherever they are (down six points since 2013), and 22 percent like to be connected, either by phone or the internet, at all times (down six points since 2013).

The presenters also noted that 2018 was the year when the danger of social media becomes apparent with 82 percent saying they were concerned about their social media footprint. And 17 percent citing personal information falling into the wrong hands as a top concern.

Lastly, on the topic of brand trust, 44 percent of global consumers strongly agree with "I only buy products or services from a trusted brand."

As more global consumers purchase internet-connected devices and services, cybersecurity will have a direct correlation in establishing brand trust. And as noted in the previous blog post, creating strong cybersecurity standards to protect consumer data will involved the collaboration of CISOs and risk managers. The GfK presentation demonstrates the large global market opportunity for connected hardware manufacturers and service companies. However, companies should understand that incorporating strong data protection processes will serve an important value proposition in selling products and services to Smart Lifers.

Which findings from the presentation will your company incorporate in its operational or product development strategy?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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