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October 10, 2014

Why are UK consumers scared of the Internet of Things?

Big Brother-style surveillance, security...

By Amy-Jo Crowley

UK consumers are increasingly wary about the pace of which technology is taking over their lives, particularly concerning the Internet of Things (IoT).

First coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, the possibilities for IoT devices and applications are endless with the market set to grow to $7.1 trillion over the next six years, according to IDC.

However, a survey of 1,600 consumers across the UK has found that 58% resent the idea of computers running their lives "wherever I go", while 70% said that with the marketplace flooded by smart devices, it’s too easy for things to go wrong.

Most notably, over 54% said they only want their phones to make calls, while the majority said that IoT devices, such as smart fridges, which are able to re-order food, or cookers that remind users about recipes, aren’t necessary.

When asked why they are cynical about the IoT, 56% said they are concerned about a ‘Big Brother’ effect occurring as a result of these products and the pace at which they are coming to the market.

Mark Thompson, a senior manager in KPMG’s Cyber Security practice, which conducted the survey,said: "Security and privacy are high on the list of worries for the consumer with 62% of believing that there is insufficient concern about it.

"The fact remains that where once an Englishman’s home was considered to be his castle the advent of the IoT means that fortress walls can be breached more easily.

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"There are also so many opportunities for the latest technologies to provide value and enhance our lives but we are failing to take advantage of them and we will continue in that vein until consumers can be convinced that always-connected devices are safe and worthwhile."

However, many respondents were able to recognise some benefits of IoT, with 48% welcoming the idea that smart meters can save energy and money.

Another four in ten said that health monitors which issue warning about impending illness are a good idea, while 46% would like security systems to monitor their property whilst away from home.

Wil Rockall, a director in KPMG’s Cyber Security practice, added: "It is clear that consumers are struggling with a desire to use connected devices as a route towards an easier life, but they remain wary of the rise of the machine. They still support innovation, recognising that in the right environment having the latest technology is key – nearly 60% acknowledge that technology makes us more effective at our job."

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