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UK consumers seek greater security assurances when buying smart devices

Eight out of ten (81%) people participating in a recent study of consumers in the UK said how a manufacturer protects against cyber-attacks and privacy invasions is important when purchasing a smart home, fitness or medical device. Commissioned by UL Solutions, the study of consumer internet of things (IoT) buying habits suggests consumers are increasingly concerned about the security of their connected smart devices. Security is now of the same importance as other factors, like brand value or word-of-mouth recommendations, when making a purchase.

The study found that more than one in two (58%) U.K. consumers intend to buy a smart home device like a connected light bulb or camera. In comparison, slightly less than half (45%) expect to purchase a personal smart device such as a fitness or medical monitor. One in ten (12%) intend to buy large, connected appliances in the next two years.

Cybersecurity and data privacy concerns appear to be becoming more influential in smart home and personal IoT device purchasing, based on three sets of findings:

The top smart device cybersecurity concerns:

  • a cyber-attack to steal and sell personal data on the dark web (55%);
  • damage to the equipment and injury to a person and extorting money (51%);
  • government bodies stealing sensitive data (47%).

These concerns were ahead of health fears from electromagnetic waves emitted by devices (36%).

  • When purchasing, two-thirds of consumers think that securing the device is very important (64%). When a consumer has already purchased an IoT device for monitoring children or assisting a frail person, security factors are even more significant — 81% and 76%, respectively.
  • Seeking help in making the right purchase based on cybersecurity and safety considerations suggests a strong desire among consumers for independent assessment. Almost three-quarters (73%) of U.K. consumers say whether a device has been independently tested is vital to their buying decision. This statistic is equivalent to considering recommendations from friends (74%). It is also similar to responses regarding “brands I know and trust” (72%), which is a more significant consideration than recommendations by a salesperson (39%).

UK consumers appear to be broadly confident in their use of IoT devices, with two-thirds (66%) of customers saying they installed their smart home device themselves.

While most (69%) said the installation was easy, close to one in three consumers (31%) said it was difficult. After cost, the main areas for improvement with smart devices ranked as: being easier to install and configure (second), greater guarantees of privacy (third), and against failure or malfunction (fourth).

“While the UK is a mature market for smart home and personal devices, consumers are looking for greater clarity and reassurance on product safety, cybersecurity and data privacy management,” said Maan Ghanma, director of smart solutions at UL Solutions. “This will likely increase as the UK government educates citizens about raising minimum device cybersecurity standards. We know that our customers take product safety seriously and are responding with initiatives to help ensure cybersecurity is integral to a variety of smart home and health devices.”

The study was conducted by the independent market research agency Doxa and surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 U.K. consumers aged 18-64 in February 2023.

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