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Hoverboards and IoT: Both Can Explode in Consumers' Faces

It’s a bit ironic given that we’ve just wrapped the holiday gift-buying extravaganza, wherein most of us probably purchased at least one “smart” something or another: Infosecurity concerns are cooling the market for connected consumer electronics, according to Accenture.

It’s a funny thing: When it comes to the balancing consumer threat awareness with a product’s hip and cool quotient, the latter usually wins. For instance, a lot of households ended up with hoverboards in their homes after the holidays—despite the fact that they’re known to, well, explode when left attached to the charger for too long. Don’t worry kids! It comes with a free fire extinguisher! And who needs both legs anyway.

Similarly, internet of things (IoT) gadgets have been hot hot hot, especially things like Fitbits and smart watches, and smart home stuff like Nest thermostats and remote-controlled lightbulbs. And despite news story after news story (right here in the virtual pages of this magazine, as a matter of fact) on the gaping security holes that a lot of these items present, the market has given them a collective “whatevs” thus far.

ALL of my private information can be hijacked from my wrist without my knowledge? Shrug. Hackers can spy on my kids through baby monitors? Shrug again. Comcast XFINITY home security systems can be disabled? Cars can be remotely taken over? Shrug and shrug.

But Accenture thinks that lackadaisical attitude is about to change. Its polling of 28,000 consumers across 28 countries, found that for nearly half (47%) of respondents, security concerns and privacy risks rank among the top three barriers to buying an IoT device and service.

Of the survey respondents who indicated they either own or plan to buy an IoT device this year, nearly three-quarters (69 percent) said they know that these products are capable of being hacked and therefore can result in stolen data or device malfunctions.

Within the groups of IoT device owners or those planning to buy one in the next year, more than one-third (37 percent) decided to be more cautious when using these devices and services; 24 percent chose to postpone buying an IoT device or subscribing to an IoT service; and 18 percent quit using their IoT devices or terminated their IoT services until they can get safer guarantees.

“Despite all its promise, the Internet of Things market has revealed itself to be a double-edged sword,” said Sami Luukkonen, global managing director for Accenture’s Electronics and High Tech group. “The market opportunity is enormous, but security and ease-of-use concerns are hindering its near- and long-term potential. To ignite this market, consumer technology companies should consider getting serious about ecosystems, sharing data and creating integrated services across multiple companies, such as building a connected home through an integrated home security camera, thermostat and door lock.”

This is all translating into a flat market going forward. For instance, only 13 percent of respondents said they plan to purchase a smartwatch in the next year, up only 1 percentage point from last year. The survey found similar stagnation in demand for a range of devices, including fitness monitors, wearable health devices, smart thermostats and connected home-surveillance cameras—with each only cited as a planned purchase by 9 percent of respondents, about the same percentage as last year.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m just as tech-loving as the next gal. But for the IoT promise to make sense, device manufacturers have to start building in security measures from the ground up. There’s too much at stake to  simply ignore the problem—and consumers are, thankfully, starting to wake up to that.

“These companies need to consider investing more in innovative services and make consumers’ online lives more secure, convenient and enriching,” Luukkonen added. “Until the promise of IoT meets consumers’ expectations, the IoT market will remain more promise than profit and do little to reinvigorate the overall digital consumer market.”

Photo © Macrovector

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