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The tech world is abuzz with interesting possibilities for the Internet of Things (IoT) lately, but regular folks haven’t caught up yet. Why the enthusiasm gap? That’s the question that Affinnova, a Nielsen company, set out to answer in a recent study of nearly 4,000 consumers.

First, it’s worth noting that while people have great faith in technology to come, even early adopters have trouble articulating what they would want from smart products. While 57 percent of all consumers who responded to this study strongly agree that the IoT will be “just as revolutionary as the smartphone” for our culture, they can’t explain how or why. Furthermore, 92 percent say that it’s very difficult to pinpoint what they’d want from smart objects, but they’ll know it when they see it.

Given this blind spot, the study presented nearly 4,000 consumers with different “smart” product concepts, giving them the opportunity to choose which actual features and items they might be interested in.

So, what’s holding consumers back from diving into this market head-on? By digging a little deeper into the best of the 4 million product alternatives evaluated by respondents, we can learn a little more about what makes consumers tick.


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What we want from the Internet of things

Beware our machine overlords

Automating one’s life with smart devices may sound like a dream come true, but many people worry that these products may not be reliable decision-making proxies yet; they fear smart products could take actions that they, as individuals, would not have chosen to make on their own. Devices that can automatically make purchases (such as ordering refills or replacements) are particularly divisive for this reason.

Is it 2015 … or 1984?

Concerns don’t stop there, however. In keeping with mainstream technology trends, many consumers say they’re more worried about privacy and security issues than any other potential downsides of the Internet of Things, with 53 percent of respondents expressing concern that their data might be shared without their knowledge or approval, and 51 percent expressing concern that their data could be hacked by other users. Interestingly, women are significantly more likely than men to worry about privacy and security issues.

Smart devices should be able to learn

Despite the fact that this technology is on the cutting edge, many consumers aren’t impressed by certain aspects of it. For example, basic personalization features, such as product recommendations based on the current product of interest, are nothing new. So what would impress consumers? Technologies that leverage past personal data or data from other connected objects, such as smart health products that provide increasingly tailored diet and fitness plans by “learning” from the user’s past behaviors.

Did I leave the iron on?

It may seem surprisingly basic, but being able to access or control objects remotely is the most desired functionality for smart products. For many people, the ability to check on appliances or complete household tasks remotely is a way to quell anxiety—by verifying that doors are locked, curling irons and ovens are off, the garage door is closed and so on, once away from home. Peace of mind ranks highly on most consumers’ lists.

You can forget about web-enabled diapers

When it comes to choosing specific smart objects, the most desired items are refrigerators, light bulbs and sprinkler systems, among others. For now, the demand is mostly for web-enabled durable items; no one is craving a connected baby diaper, toothbrush or wine bottle anytime soon.

To sum up the study’s findings, the IoT may need to reel in its more futuristic ambitions to win over the masses, at least for the near term; regular people want smart technology to solve age-old challenges such as saving money and the need to be in two places at once. Companies will also need to counteract the perceived risks surrounding smart products and consistently deliver devices that are smarter, cheaper and more secure than ever before. Until that point comes, the majority of us won’t be receiving texts from our refrigerators.

Kim Gaskins is Content Marketing Director at Affinnova, a Nielsen company

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