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Are consumers ready for wearables and connected tech, yet?

2014-07-23 15:22 by Nathalie Kantorowicz (comments: 0)

There's a lot of talk in the press about the latest in wearable tech, from Google Glass to the iWatch (which may not be called iWatch, as it appears). In the Home Automation field, Google has got Nest, Apple has HomeKit, and Samsung has just acquired its own connected objects firm, SmartThings. Everyday we can read news about yet another usage of connected objects. And in spite of that, consumers seem to be reacting slowly, if not adversely to it.

Why, will you ask? Well, there's first the issue of data privacy, which is not only one of the big topics at the moment, but something that seems to stay with consumers, in a negative way. Just look at the response Google Glass got from the public, and the numerous mock videos it got, and disregard of the numerous benefits of the device. In our communities, we asked our members in France & in the UK what they thought of connected objects, whether they could make their life easier, or what they thought their drawbacks were. Although a few highlighted the positive applications of connected tech for e-health, many responded with a 'No, thanks'.  E-locks for example, would seem to make life easier for a person in a wheelchair (acknowledged by a member who is herself in this situation), while another person reckoned the benefits of applications used to identify health problems. Yet, even these members, who were the only ones to point out some benefits in connected objects, were also saying they were cautious, if not suspicious, about apps that would collect numerous data and exploit them in a possible unwanted manner.

Then comes the real use they can make of these. It is fair to say that in spite of the general propensity of respondents to err on the side of caution, there were positive reactions (more often among UK than among French members). But then, the same people would also wonder whether they could, or would, afford any of these objects. When prompted about the price they would be ready to pay, for say an e-toothbrush, they usually priced it in the £10 - £20 / £15 - £30 range. Basically about the same as a mid-range electric toothbrush. In a cash-strapped environment, people are more likely to review cautiously their options and avoid buying items that seem unnecessary.

Third in my opinion is the innovation adoption cycle, with mainstream consumers not adapting as fast as technology itself. Innovation is by essence disruptive, so to embrace fully a new tech, consumers need to see in this disruption a benefit for their their personal usage, generally linked with some financial incentives. Just like lower device prices and the possibility to check emails and social media on the go, or away from the computer, boosted Smartphones adoption in recent years.

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