Three quarters of the British public have concerns about smart home devices, with the top worry being that data would be collected about them without their knowledge. Personal finance advice site MoneySuperMarket surveyed 2,005 people from across the UK and found that 76% had at least one concern about using smart technology in the home.
More than half (52%) said they were concerned about data being collected about them without their knowledge and 51% worried that technology would be hacked by criminals. (This fear may be justified as it is alleged that the CIA hacked Samsung Smart TVs back in 2015 with a piece of malware that had the ability to record the audio of TV users without their knowledge.) Being locked inside or outside the house was a fear held by 29% and a further 18% are worried that the smart fridge would order too much food.
Interestingly, younger people were the most concerned age group with 80% of 18 to 34-year-olds sceptical about smart technology in the home. This is in contrast to 73% of 35 to 54-year-olds and 75% of those aged 55-plus. There is evidence to suggest that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to take action to protect their privacy on social media sites, so it stands to reason that, with data privacy a top concern, younger consumers are more wary of smart home devices.
Attitudes to the smart home vary across the country. Those in and around Belfast were the most cynical with 91% having concerns about smart devices, but those from Nottingham and the surrounding areas were the least worried (67%). It is worth noting that "smart home" or "connected home" are not very well understood concepts. Almost half (48%) of respondents knew nothing about them. This figure is a touch lower for men compared to women, at 46% compared to 51%. Some responded that they had heard of smart home but knew nothing about it. Despite this, 46% responded that they had a smart device at home.
Awareness of smart and connected home is highest among the people in and around Plymouth where 82% have heard of it while the UK average is 77%. Plymouth and the surrounding area also houses people with the greatest knowledge about smart and connected home, with 68% having some knowledge compared to the average of 51%.
Smart TV is the most popular device from a list that included smart meters, smart speakers, smart thermostats, virtual assistance, smart fridges, smart lighting, leak detection device, video doorcam, and smart locks. Three out of ten respondents claimed to have a smart TV in their home. In spite of all the recent buzz about virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, only 4% of respondents said they own one. The residents of the area in and around Norwich were the most resistant to smart devices with 70% having none of the above. Sheffield and the surrounding area contains the highest proportion of smart home device lovers in the UK with 56% of people from the area owning a connected device.
Customer value could be an important incentive to adopting smart home devices as 58% said they would be more likely to buy a smart device if it meant they received a discount on their home insurance premium. Men were more likely to be swayed by a discount than women, with 63% more likely to buy a smart device for that reason compared to 54% of women.
Dan Plant, editor-in-chief at MoneySuperMarket, said: “Many people are understandably anxious that the benefits of smart technology will be countered by threats, such as hacking and loss of privacy. It’s up to the makers of smart devices and applications to reassure consumers that they are not putting themselves at risk. And it’s also vital that any cost savings that flow from adopting connected technology, such as reduced pay-outs for burglary claims, are passed on to customers in the form of lower home insurance premiums.”
According to Raconteur, the smart thermostat will be adopted by approximately 29% of UK households in the next five years, but it will take more than five years for the same percentage to purchase a connected security system.
(Visualisations created using Tableau Public)