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Security concerns cast a shadow over digital home devices

smart kitchen

UK households are increasingly adopting the smart home experience according to the third report from EY’s annual digital home survey of 2,500 UK consumers. Yet many are worried about security implications.

The report, which focuses on the connected home, finds that nearly a quarter (22%) of households currently own a voice-controlled digital home assistant, double the figure from 2017 (11%), and 41% of households plan to own one over the next five years.

Among smart home appliances, utility-based products are particularly popular with 12% of households surveyed owning a smart heating device (up from 8% in 2017) and 11% owning a smart lighting device (up from 7% in 2017). Over the next five years 41% and 36% of households, respectively, say they plan to own these products. Ownership of smart security devices has risen to 9%, from 7% in 2017, and 37% of households expect to own one within five years.

Connected white goods rank further down the list of priorities with 6% and 5% of households currently owning a smart washing machine and smart fridge, respectively, and 19% planning to own either product over the next five years.

Adrian Baschnonga, global lead telecommunications analyst at EY, said: “Smart home adoption rates are encouraging, with virtual assistants really striking a chord with consumers over the past year. Entry-level products continue to come down in price, helping to put smart home tech within reach of more and more households.”

However, according to the report, 71% of households are concerned about the ability of hackers to access internet connected appliances or security products. In addition, more than two thirds (68%) of households are concerned about what personal data is captured and shared by smart home devices. Moreover, more than half (53%) of households do not believe that smart home technology can ever be secure.

Baschnonga added: “Consumer anxieties could derail the smart home growth story. Perceived security flaws allied to discomfort around how personal data is captured by voice-activated devices are top of mind for many households. These concerns are unlikely to fade any time soon, meaning service providers must take new steps to reassure both existing smart home users and would-be users.”

Praveen Shankar, EY’s head of technology, media and telecommunications for the UK & Ireland, said: “Our report shows that current and predicted levels of smart home adoption are encouraging for service providers. However, only 49% of households are familiar with the features and benefits of these products, which is the same figure as in 2017. If providers can increase this awareness there could be an even a greater opportunity for growth.

“Service providers need to not only raise awareness of the benefits of connected home products, but also address consumer concerns around security and privacy to reach the next level of adoption.”