High-profile online security vulnerabilities like the Heartbleed Bug and frequent reports of identity theft and device hacking have prompted consumers to be more protective of their personal data and more aware of the risks that come with connected devices. As consumers adopt new devices that provide connectivity to the web and to other devices, such as smartphones and tablets and even wearables like fitness devices, they generate and share more and more data. Protection, then, is paramount to preventing cybersecurity threats and other problems.
Security Threats and Device Problems in the IoT
The smart home represents an area where security is much needed. Parks Associates estimates that by 2020, over one-half of U.S. broadband households will own at least one smart home device. Already, over one-third of U.S. broadband households have a smart TV, and 70 percent of them are connected to the internet. Smart thermostats, smoke alarms, lighting, and entertainment systems with internet and device-to-device connectivity features are also entering the market in increasing numbers. With this increase in internet connectivity comes an increase in risk of device intrusion and other cybersecurity threats that could compromise the device's data.
However, the problems consumers encounter with smart home devices are not limited to security breaches. Right now, the people that have these devices are primarily the early adopters that make up about 10 percent of U.S. broadband households, and the problems they report are varied and numerous, including functional glitches, user errors, and connectivity. As many as 10 percent of consumers experience such problems with their connected home devices on a daily basis.
For smartphones and tablets, the problems are equally as varied—short battery life and establishing a network connection remain the two most common problems on smartphones. Consumers, however, show the highest interest in receiving support services that protect and secure their devices. In fact, over 50 percent of U.S. smartphone and tablet owners are interested in tech support that provides protection against loss, theft, or virus/infection, despite less than 10 percent experiencing such problems.
As device technology matures, consumers tend to experience more problems relating to the quality of device performance. For example, sound and image quality are key concerns related to entertainment devices like Blu‑ray players and DVRs, which have been in broadband households for some time. Problems relating to connectivity often remain even after device technology matures.
Tech Support Solutions and Strategies for the Connected Home
As both new and traditional devices become more exposed to intrusion due to increased connectivity, consumers attempt to proactively address these issues by purchasing or subscribing to security services from their tech support provider, which presents a huge opportunity. Tech support companies will need to be vigilant in addressing these concerns and providing the appropriate services.
In evaluating their future business strategies, tech support and security companies will need to ask several important questions: How will the connected CE market evolve? How should support services evolve in order to address changing consumer support needs? Parks Associates recommends that support providers invest in automation strategies to address routine technical issues more efficiently. Tier-0 solutions will be particularly important as more emerging devices enter the home. Emphasizing security-related support offerings that can protect consumer information and data on any device will also be a key strategy in the future.
The Internet of Things will continue to grow as new and innovative devices emerge. Already, over 40 percent of U.S. broadband households are likely to purchase a smoke/fire detector that can be managed and monitored remotely, while over 25 percent are interested in connected motion/window sensors and smart thermostats. As consumers adopt new categories of devices, including home automation and home monitoring devices, more support opportunities will emerge. Successful premium support services will take a comprehensive approach to address consumer needs and help consumers get the most out of their devices.
Patrice Samuels (@PatriceatParks) studies digital home technical support services across global markets with a focus on market trends, business models, and provider strategies. In addition to exploring events and disruptions in the technical support space, she examines pay-TV and broadband services in North America and Europe, digital media, and digital music services.