More than two-thirds (70%) of UK consumers fear the increase in the number of interconnected everyday devices make it too easy for things to go wrong, while 58% resent the fact computers run their lives, according to research by KPMG.
Smart energy meters, smart health monitors, smart cars and even smart fridges are just some of the developments around internet-connected devices that people can use in their everyday lives and businesses can harness for the huge volumes of potential customer data they provide.
The business consultancy firm said until consumers overcome their fear and resentment, the UK might miss out on huge opportunities.
“There are so many opportunities for the latest technologies to provide value and enhance our lives, but we are failing to take advantage of them and will continue in that vein until consumers can be convinced always-connected devices are safe and worthwhile,” said the KPMG report.
The firm conducted a survey of 1,600 UK consumers which asked for their attitudes to the internet of things (IoT) and revealed people are uncomfortable with increasing surveillance of their lives. More than half (56%) are concerned about a big brother effect and 36% suggested employers are monitoring their every action.
The survey surprisingly revealed 54% mainly want their phone just to make calls. Most said internet-based products – such as smart fridges which self-order food or cookers reminding owners about recipes – are not necessary.
But 48% said they welcomed the prospect of smart meters that can save energy and money, while 40% said health monitors to warn people about impending illness are a good idea.
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Director in KPMG's cyber security practice Wil Rockall said it is clear consumers are struggling with a desire to use connected devices for an easier life, as they remain wary of the rise of the machine.
“They still support innovation, but having the latest technology in the right environment is key – nearly 60% acknowledged technology makes people more effective at their job," he said.
Security and privacy were high on the list of worries for consumers, with 62% believing there is insufficient concern about it, according to the survey.
"The fact remains, where once an Englishman’s home was considered to be his castle, the advent of the IoT means fortress walls can be breached more easily,” said Rockall.
Gartner expects the market to outpace traditional technology spending in the next few years, creating $1.9tn of economic value added by 2020, as more processes become digital and the physical and virtual worlds merge.
Smart Meter Implementation Programme
In the UK, the government is running a project to get smart energy meters in all households and businesses. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had targeted introducing smart meters in homes by the summer of 2014, but that was put back to the autumn of 2015.
The final project – known as the Smart Meter Implementation Programme (Smip) – is planned to go live in 2020. The project will mean millions of intelligent energy meters in homes and businesses will collect information on usage and send all the data to a central hub that will process it and forward it to the energy suppliers.
The Smip requires major IT investments, with a need for smart meters, smart communicating sensors, modules, advanced communications networks, as well as technologies to secure data.
British Gas plans to roll out 1.3 million meters in 2014.
Overcoming the user scepticism – as highlighted by KPMG– is one of the major challenges faced by the Smip, as people question its value if prices continue to rise.