Consumer study highlights WiFi dependency

Consumer dependency on WiFi routers has surpassed the smartphone as the #1 technology US adults cannot live without for more than one day, according to findings from the Customer and Product Experience 360 (CPX 360) Survey by global managed services provider iQor.

As the life-blood for the connected ecosystem, a functioning WiFi router is necessary for consumers to enjoy smart devices and the connected lifestyle, including smart TVs and streaming devices, multiplayer gaming, tablets, voice controlled virtual assistants and smart speakers, telehealth devices and IoT-enabled security systems.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of US adults (64 per cent) couldn’t be without WiFi for more than one day. As the smart home market and diversity of connected devices continues to grow, dependence on WiFi routers and smart home hubs will continue to intensify: the proliferation of smart devices is forecast to reach 20.4 billion globally by 2020, almost doubling from an estimated 11.1 billion in 2018.

“The fact that the WiFi-connected smart home is the most important technology consumers don’t want to be without–over the smartphone–is a shift that technology experts and brands must understand and plan for, because this is a relatively new market and consumer adoption is not yet mainstream,” said Autumn Braswell, COO, LinQ Integrated Solution at iQor. “Currently, there is no clear brand owning the connected home customer experience. We believe that whoever can help consumers fully realise the potential of the connected home reality—and connect multiple devices for maximum impact, security and efficiency—will emerge as the brand leader five years from now.”

At the same time, as increased adoption of multiple smart home devices and appliances has heightened dependence on connectivity in the home, the CPX 360 survey also revealed other, pressing smart home-related concerns.

As the smart home grows in popularity, IoT security concerns remain top of mind for consumers. The CPX 360 survey reports that more than two-thirds (70 per cent) of consumers are concerned about the lack of security from hackers who might hack into smart devices in the home; these apprehensions escalate among older generations, as nearly four out of five baby boomers (79 per cent) are fearful of hackers breaching a smart connected device in their home. Data and privacy fears rank second among consumer smart home concerns. More than half of US adults (58 per cent) fear lack of privacy from device manufacturers who have access to data, real-time conversations, voice patterns and search history. These security concerns are a potential barrier for mass consumer connected home adoption.

“Consumer concerns about data privacy and security, including both the unauthorised hacking of devices and theft of device data, consistently rank as one of the leading concerns about connecting devices to the Internet,” says Brad Russell, Research Director for Connected Home, Parks Associates. “Companies are working to adopt best practices for IoT data security and management to allay concerns and deliver peace of mind, including more stringent efforts to secure the home network by deep inspection of incoming and outgoing traffic and monitoring of edge devices to alert for anomalous behaviour.”

The promise of the connected ecosystem is that multiple devices will work in harmony to share information and simplify tasks. However, the CPX 360 survey reports that consumers are afraid of the ‘cascade effect’ in the smart home ecosystem. More than half of consumers (54 per cent) fear that if one devices fails it will cause other connected devices in the home to fail.

This is especially troubling to the consumers because they are already having problems connecting smart devices to the internet, configuring settings and interacting with other devices. Overall, in the past two years, 63 per cent of survey respondents had set up issues and 48 per cent had operation issues. Connecting the device to interact with other devices was difficult for nearly one third of consumers (31 per cent).

“The connected home contains multiple devices, from a variety of device manufacturers, that are all supposed to work together in harmony. When an issue arises, consumers often do not know how to identify where the issue resides: with connectivity to the Internet, with the device itself or with a different device it is connected to,” said Braswell. “This grey area causes confusion with both the customer, as well as customer service departments for various device brands. The fear of the ‘cascade effect’ is real if consumers are already having smart home connectivity, set-up or operation issues.”

Brands can offset issues increasing the ‘cascade effect’ in the connected home by educating consumers and retooling product delivery and customer support methods.

“The smart home and connected ecosystem is designed to transform consumers’ lives by simplifying tasks and providing an added layer of intelligence to devices with actionable insights for the consumer,” said Hartmut Liebel, CEO of iQor. “Consumers will adopt and try a number of different devices and those that enhance their lives and work seamlessly will secure a permanent place in the connected home. The ability to easily operate these connected devices and services, and to readily obtain customer support when needed, will be the crucial factor in adoption. Brands need to expand proactive engagement efforts and simplify products to minimise set-up frustration and directly address consumer concerns around privacy and security.”

The increased value of the WiFi router speaks to the growing adoption of the smart home lifestyle and the desire for the convenience that the connected ecosystem provides, but consumers have reservations about IoT creating an unhealthy dependence on technology. More than half of US adults (53 per cent) are concerned that IoT and smart devices will lead to a heightened dependence on technology to conduct daily tasks.

The CPX 360 survey reports that more than 90 per cent of consumer households today have a smartphone and that new connected technology is rapidly being adopted. Almost half of consumer households (42 per cent) have a smart TV, nearly one in four have a health wearable device, such as a Fitbit, and 16 per cent have a voice controlled virtual assistant, such as Alexa or Google home.

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