Almost all web users know something—however vague—about the internet of things (IoT). But many worry about the privacy implications.
2016 has been heralded as a crucial year for the internet of things (IoT), as more connected products appear in stores and consumers across Europe weigh up the potential benefits of smart thermostats, home security systems controlled via mobile phone, and smart watches and wristbands that help users stay fit and healthy.
Thanks to a sharp rise in advertising and press coverage, most internet users in France know about connected devices. According to a report from the Institut français d’opinion publique (Ifop) , 57% of the online population ages 15 and older polled in November 2015 knew exactly what “connected devices” were; a further 40% had heard the term, but didn’t know precisely what it meant.
Predictably perhaps, knowledge was more extensive among the youngest respondents (ages 15 to 24), residents of Paris and its environs, and higher-income internet users. Males were also more likely than females to know exactly what connected devices were.
Awareness certainly isn’t translating into rapid adoption, though. Fewer than one-quarter (22%) of web users polled by Ifop owned even one connected device. Uptake was highest (16%) for smart home items—smart thermostats were the most popular—and 11% of internet users said they had a health-related device such as a smart watch or activity tracker.
Cost is one obstacle to purchase for many potential buyers; many connected devices are quite new to the market and prices reflect that premium, just-launched status. Moreover, most consumers aren’t convinced that they need IoT devices—or that these can save them money or improve their lives in other ways.
But privacy worries are also a major contributor to low adoption rates, Ifop found. Nearly half (46%) of respondents understood clearly that connected devices generated data about them personally, their habits and their homes. Almost as many were vaguely aware of this process but didn’t recognize the full extent or implications of it.
Whatever their understanding of data generation by IoT devices, an overwhelming majority (76%) of web users said they wouldn’t consider sharing that personal data with brands or companies, because they wanted to protect their privacy. Just 16% were willing to trade their personal data if they benefitted from doing so. Younger internet users tended to view this trade-off more positively than their elders; among respondents 50 or older, only 11% were prepared to share personal data if they derived a benefit in exchange.
While penetration of connected devices is bound to rise, as more consumers in France see their positive side, the surrounding data issues will also be climbing up the agenda. According to Ifop, about 40% of web users had no idea where the data generated by smart devices actually resided, or who owned it. And some hadn’t even asked themselves such questions. We expect that to change dramatically in 2016.