Consumers voice concerns over IoT devices

Retailers need to combat scepticism over digital assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, with new research showing that a majority of users fail to see the need for digital speaker devices as concern mounts over cybersecurity issues.

Research conducted by YouGov found that one in ten (11 per cent) of households that own an Internet of Things (IoT) device have smart speakers such as the Echo and its associated digital assistants. Meanwhile, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of households do not own any device, which the polling and data company suggested leaves significant potential for brands to expand their market share.

But the survey showed that organisations will have to continue to build trust in the incoming technology, with 56 per cent of non-owners of connected devices saying they do not see the need for digital assistants, while 54 per cent of current owners said they were equally unsure of how helpful they were.

Hacking of smart home appliances such as smart thermostats, lighting and security devices was the leading concern amongst 39 per cent of those asked, suggesting that the growing buzz around smart devices is being tempered by security concerns.

Eight per cent of those who do not own smart devices described digital assistants as ‘creepy’ and seven per cent said they would have security concerns if they were to purchase one. Meanwhile, 14 per cent of those who already own a digital assistant admitted to having privacy concerns.

The fears follow a number of high profile reports of the recording of conversations through hacked baby monitors and security cameras.

A Trustwave survey earlier this year showed 64 per cent of organisations have piloted some level of IoT technology, with another 20 per cent planning to do so within the next year.

Research published by Pindrop
in June suggested that 85 per cent of businesses are planning to use voice technology, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana voice-activated assistants, to communicate with customers in the coming year. However, Pindrop’s research found that only 28 per cent of businesses are currently using the technology.

The growing popularity of connected devices as a channel for direct interface with customers and service users is worrying industry experts, who fear that a lack of basic security features on digital assistants and smarthome devices could leave entry points open for cybercriminals.

Ian Kilpatrick, executive vice president for cyber security at Nuvias Group, told Retail Systems the absence of basic cybersecurity defences is “astonishing” and warned against companies looking to cash in on the buzz surrounding IoT devices turning a blind eye to risks.

In March this year, the UK government published a report advocating a “fundamental shift in approach”, moving the burden away from consumers having to secure their devices and instead ensuring strong security is built into consumer IoT products by design.

The report recommended a draft Code of Practice for manufacturers of new IoT products and associated services, but stopped short of setting out formal requirements for manufacturers to build in safeguards or provide warnings to users.

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