IoT’s Success may be Undermined by a Lack of Consumer Trust

Author: Rimma Perelmuter, CEO, MEF 

MEFWe are in the midst of a rapid technology evolution. Within the first three months of 2016 we saw two major industry shows dominated by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Both CES and MWC had a focus on a hyper connected future. This future is powered by the ecosystem and  telco operators collaborating to provide broadband and new services to our homes, office and in between. But the real challenge to the successful adoption of this exciting future lies with the consumers and ensuring they trust the technology being marketed and made available to them

MEF’s 2016 IoT report shows that consumers clearly understand its value, but have reservations about the potential consequences of engagement. What’s not to get excited about; Keyless padlocks, next gen baby monitors, low cost home security systems – even ice cubes that know when you’ve drunk too much and will text a friend to drive you home.

The numbers for IoT support the global success story: 34 billion connected devices by 2020 with investment of $7.3 trillion by 2017.

But with mainstream recognition comes the inevitable backlash. There are clear concerns around privacy as laid out in MEF’s Report – produced in association with AVG Technologies – analysing the impact of trust related issues on the Internet of Things. 60% of consumers are concerned about a world of connected devices. Privacy (62%) and security (54%) are seen as the biggest threats worldwide, with home security raising the most concern among connected devices and applications.

The value proposition and potential is certainly there: just 1 consumer in 10 says IoT won’t deliver tangible benefits. What this research demonstrates is that consumers need to be reassured that the value of their new gadget or service won’t be ruined by a nasty surprise.

Given the heightened degree of sensitive data consumers and enterprises alike will be asked to share to benefit from IoT, it’s important that companies developing new IoT products and services observe the same best practice principles that apply across the rest of the mobile ecosystem. Follow these 5 simple rules to keeping your customers onside and set yourself up as a trusted brand:

1) Keep it Lean

The worst services hoover up as much data as they can for no additional value. Don’t be that service. You need certain types of data to do your job. Take that data and resist the temptation to take more or share without explicit consent. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. 62% named privacy as their main concern around IoT – due in part to both the volume and sensitivity of data collected by connected devices.

 2) Be responsible for managing your customers’ data: Sharing is not always caring

Customers are buying a product or service from you and you alone. Don’t share the data you collect from customers unless it’s an essential part of delivering the service you promised and if you intend to do so, be transparent.

3) Lock the door behind you

More than half of all consumers (54%) said they were especially concerned about the security of IoT devices. The data you’re collecting is sensitive and potentially damaging to the consumer if it falls into the wrong hands. The processes you use to collect, transport and store it must be robust and as failsafe as can realistically be expected.

4) Provide Customer Care

If consumers have a problem, they’ll want to talk about it. It’s important someone is on hand to offer guidance and reassurance. And it’s not just about after-sales service; the fact that the customer can name the company behind the IoT service helps build trust long term.

5) Be transparent

This is the number one rule that supersedes the rest. 65% demand transparency in apps and , and 52% say it’s vital to know that a wearable device is collecting data. What we learn is that if you do decide to share the data you collect (and we all need to make an honest dime), be open about it. Explain what information you’re sharing and with whom. Make sure the companies you’re sharing with have their own policies for dealing with personal information and link to them.

Todd Simpson, Chief Strategy Officer AVG Technologies summed it up well, “If we care about our consumers and about the potential and longevity of IoT, we need to make ‘security by design’ a fundamental approach, regardless of device”.

Taking consumers along with you for the ride is as easy – taking proactive steps to bring them on a trusted journey is hard but worthwhile. The whole industry needs to be aware of these issues and endeavour to be good stewards of customer data. If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be ahead of the curve in building long term value and gaining a competitive advantage. Ignore them at your own peril and consumers will switch off and tune out. To find out more about how MEF’s Consumer Trust initiative can help your company to prepare and stand out, join MEF’s 6th Annual Consumer Trust Summit taking place on June 23rd in San Francisco  and  register here.  Focused on business critical issues related to advancing emerging technologies, the Summit provides key connections, expert insights and global guidance on issues related to Consumer Trust in mobile.

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