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Research finds that consumers don’t trust smart home technologies

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Warwick have found that consumers don’t fully trust new smart home technologies due to fears over security breaches.

Smart Home Technology
Image credit to Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash.

Smart home technologies are an emerging market, with some households installing voice-controlled appliances and smart security. 

The research was led by WMG, University of Warwick and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick, and supported by Queen’s Management School. The study was published in the journal, PlosOne

The research team surveyed 2,101 participants aged 16-74 years old across the UK using an online questionnaire. 

The findings suggest consumers had anxiety about the likelihood of a security incident, as overall the people surveyed were unconvinced that their privacy and security will not be at risk when they use smart home devices.

It also emerged that when asked to evaluate the impact of a privacy breach the respondents tended to disagree that its impact will be low, suggesting they expect the impact of a privacy breach to be significant. This is a prominent factor influencing whether or not they would adopt smart home technology.

Other key findings include:

  • More females than males have adopted smart home devices over the last year, possibly as they tend to run the house and find the technology helpful;
  • Young people (aged 18-24) were the earliest adopters of smart home technology, however older people (aged 65+) also adopted it early, possibly as they have more disposable income and less responsibilities – e.g. no mortgage, no dependent children;
  • People aged 65+ are less willing to use smart home devices in case of unauthorised data collection compared to younger people, indicating younger people are less aware of privacy breaches;
  • Less well-educated people are the least interested in using smart home devices in the future, and these might constitute market segments that will be lost to smart home adoption, unless their concerns are specifically addressed and targeted by policymakers and businesses.

Dr Sinong Ma, Lecturer in Economics at Queen’s Management School and researcher on the study explained: “Consumers' trust and understanding of the smart home are fundamental for the adoption of the innovative technology. Through mapping out influential factors in the understanding and acceptability of the smart home, our study flags up clear challenges to smart home adoption in the UK for both businesses and policymakers.” 

The ‘smart home’ can be defined as the integration of internet-enabled, digital devices with sensors and machine learning in the home. The aim of smart home devices is to provide enhanced entertainment services, easier management of the home, domestic chores and protection from domestic risks. They can be found in devices such as smart speakers and hubs, lighting, sensors, door locks and cameras, central heating thermostats and domestic appliances.

Sara Cannizzaro, from WMG, University of Warwick comments: “Our study underlines how businesses and policymakers will need to work together to act on the sociotechnical affordances of smart home technology in order to increase consumers’ trust. This intervention is necessary if barriers to adoption and acceptability of the smart home are to be addressed now and in the future.

“Proof of cybersecurity and low risk to privacy breaches will be key in smart home technology companies persuading a number of consumers to invest in their technology.”

Professor Rob Procter, from the Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick adds: “Businesses are still actively promoting positive visions of what the smart home means for consumers (e.g., convenience, economy, home security) … However, at the same time, as we see from our survey results, consumers are actively comparing their interactional 'experiences' against these visions and are coming up with different interpretations and meanings from those that businesses are trying to promote.”

The full paper ‘Trust in the smart home: Findings from a nationally representative survey in the UK’ is available here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0231615

ENDS…

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