Consumers value IoT, but they don’t trust it, says Cisco
Consumers value IoT, but they don’t trust it, says Cisco

Consumers value IoT, but they don’t trust it, says Cisco

New research finds that fears over data privacy persist but aren’t enough to get consumers to pull the plug on smart devices. 

Cisco has announced the findings of new consumer-focused research, based on a survey of over 3,000 US and Canadian consumers, that the networking giant says is designed to help businesses that offer IoT-based products and services give the market a boost when it comes to customer confidence and adoption.

The message from the report, The IoT Trust/Value Paradox, is clear: consumers believe these products and services deliver “significant value”, but they don’t understand or trust how the data they share with providers is managed or used.

No change there, it seems: the same could be said of any of the major social networking sites. And, as with social networking sites, consumers are unwilling to disconnect from IoT services, even temporarily, despite their concerns.

According to Cisco, 42 percent of respondents said the IoT was too deeply integrated into their daily lives to simply ‘switch it off’. From this, the company deduces that they find it easier to tolerate uncertainty and risk than to pull the plug on IoT.

Read more: Study reveals in-person service essential in creating smart homes

What is the IoT, anyway?

A lot depends, of course, on how a consumer defines the IoT. In the Cisco report, respondents were twice as likely to recognize personal IoT devices such as wearables and smart home security systems than they were public ones, such as smart streetlights and wind turbines.

That stands to reason, given the hype around consumer devices and the relatively limited exposure to  IoT that many people have had in their working lives to date, unless they’re directly involved in making strategic decisions about their company’s digital direction.

But even at home, while it’s perfectly true that many people now have smart devices, others are perfectly happy to potter along in a relatively ‘dumb’ home that ‘just works’ for them, unless they see real value in making a switch. For a vast swathe of the world’s population, of course, this isn’t even an issue.

What does stand out, in Cisco’s research at least, is that respondents are overwhelmingly positive about the value the IoT brings to them, however they define it. Fifty-three percent say that IoT makes their lives more convenient, 47 percent say it makes them more efficient, and 34 percent say IoT increases their safety.

Read more: Survey: UK consumers wary of smart home products

A matter of education?

At the same time, only 9 percent of respondents say that they trust that their data, collected and shared through IoT, is secure. And only 14 percent feel that companies do a good job of informing them what data is being collected on them and how it is used.

According to Cisco, “As companies build their businesses around IoT services, they need first to understand the importance of educating their customers on the role of IoT in delivering new, valuable services that will enhance their lives. Only when customers understand the value of IoT – and trust that these new services can be delivered in a way that respects and protects their data – will mainstream adoption increase.”

There’s some truth in that, certainly. A great deal more work needs to be done by smart device makers on data privacy – and, while they’re about it, they should definitely cast an urgent eye over device security. But if “mainstream adoption” is truly the goal here, an education in the IoT might be overkill.

At Internet of Business, then, our take is this: the onus rests with smart product device makers to sort out privacy, tackle security – and do a much better job of explaining to customers what value might look like, in terms of the impact we can expect connected devices to have on our day-to-day lives.

And, here, interoperability is going to be key, because a thousand different apps to turn on lights, track our pets, measure our fitness efforts and curb our energy usage is unlikely to be workable for many in the longer term.

Read more: Smart home device metadata offers hackers insight into residents’ habits


Jessica Twentyman is a journalist with a 20-year track record as both a writer and editor on national newspapers and IT trade titles. Her work focuses on how smart companies use technology to achieve real business results. She is a contributor to the Financial Times, The Economist and Computer Weekly, and Consulting Editor on Diginomica.com and I-CIO.com.

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