National Study Underscores Consumers’ Need for Control When Considering “Smart” Technology
May 8, 2017
The national poll looked at consumer sentiment toward smart homes, devices and self-driving cars, and found varying levels of excitement and concern for these technologies.
- Smart home is mainstream; one-third want robots to handle their chores at home
- Excitement for health-tracking technology far outweighs anticipation for self-driving cars
- Cost outweighs privacy concerns by 3x in smart home purchases
“Emotion plays an important role when it comes to consumers’ willingness to adopt connected technology,” said Sabrina Horn, managing partner, U.S. technology practice, Finn Partners. “People want to feel in control of their lives and of their loved ones’ well-being, so it isn’t surprising that we always see peace-of-mind as the top motivator in smart home adoption. Communications professionals need to help brands and other connected technology sectors tap into this finding with more visually-oriented and multi-faceted market awareness campaigns.”
Driverless car or “driverless” vacuum cleaner?
While autonomous vehicles are creating a lot of news right now, consumers are not fully on board with the concept yet.
- When presented with a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 meaning “not excited at all” and 10 meaning “extremely excited,” a majority (59%) of Americans chose a number of 5 or lower. Only 15% of Americans say they are “extremely excited.”
- Excitement for autonomous vehicles is higher among younger audiences. Americans under the age of 45 were more likely to give a response between 6 and 10 (56%), with one-quarter (24%) giving a 9 or 10.
- Interestingly, while data shows Americans are not clamoring to automate the driving experience, household chores are another story – one-third want robots to handle household activities such as folding laundry or vacuuming, making chores the second most desirable smart home feature next to home security.
Concern over nascent technology
“Nascent technology – like autonomous vehicles – can evoke feelings of risk and loss of control, so it’s not surprising to see that privacy and security are top concerns,” said Horn. “Marketers need to take a measured approach to reaching potential customers simply because of the degree to which these new technologies can change how people live. For example, communicators could avoid fear-based or threat-centered campaigns and opt for more positive messages of safety and well-being as consumers adjust to the new normal.”
Connected technology is not one-size-fits-all or even dependent on age when it comes to challenges faced. When asked about concerns:
- Americans were three times as likely to cite cost (59%) as a barrier to smart home technology as they were to cite privacy concerns (20%).
- Younger Americans are more likely to cite privacy concerns - 26% under the age of 45 cited privacy/security as a concern whereas only 16% of people over 45 had the same concerns
- The top concern about self-driving cars was the loss of “feeling in control” over the vehicle (42%), followed by worries of vulnerability to hacking (30%) and expense (25%).
- More than one out of five Americans are “very worried” (22%) their phone will be hacked, with another 37% “somewhat worried.”
People highly interested in giving doctors direct online access to health information
Consumers are interested (70%) in allowing their doctors to monitor their health remotely, a trend that increases among younger Americans.
- 81% of those under the age of 45 are interested in learning more about this access technology and sharing data with their doctors.
- Of those that expressed the highest level of interest – “very” interested:
- Close to half (47%) of those 18-24 years old
- 44% of those with children under 18
- 43% of both African Americans and Hispanic Americans
Overall, smart home is no longer a futuristic concept
Smart home has come a long way in a few short years. In 2014, a white paper from the Consumer Electronics Association and Park Associates reported that two-thirds of consumers with broadband are not very familiar with smart home services or products or where to buy them. Finn Futures survey showed that 86% of consumers "are confident they know what it means when someone says they have a smart home" - a huge leap in awareness over the last three years.
- 77% think it will be normal to have a robot in their home within 20 years
- Locks/doors (55%), thermostat (44%), lighting (41%) ranked among the top three features people would value most in a smart home. By comparison, voice controlled assistant (22%) and entertainment (25%) lagged behind.
- Demographics matter when it comes to what people would most like to automate in their homes, meaning an internet-enabled device would do it for them. Those with the highest incomes are especially likely to say “home security” is a top priority (40%). Younger Americans (36%) and women (35%) cite “laundry/cleaning” more often, while men are more likely to say “home environment” (22%).
About the Survey
The Finn Futures survey, from Finn Partners, was conducted online in January 2017 among a representative sample of 1,000 Americans, and is part of an ongoing initiative by the company to assess attitudes, beliefs and behaviors in public affairs and other areas of critical importance to consumers. The data was weighed slightly to ensure it was representative of the U.S. adult population. Full results of the survey are available upon request.