Consumers feel perils of connectivity

January 18, 2016 //By Junko Yoshida
Earlier this month, Nest’s smart thermostat reportedly stopped working, leaving many users frustrated and their homes freezing cold.

Users took their problem to social media, blaming a mysterious software bug that drained Nest’s battery, and complaining that the thermostat can’t connect to the Internet.

Connectivity, of course, is the main thing in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Nest thermostat

But what if software updates, unbeknownst to users, go haywire, leaving people — especially seniors, the ill and babies – inside in the cold? The convenience of the IoT device — that you can remotely adjust the temperature of your vacation homes — means nothing if the thermostat goes bust and the pipes burst.

The New York Times quoted Matt Rogers, co-founder and vice president for engineering at Nest, who blamed a software update from December. He said, “We had a bug that was introduced in the software update that didn’t show up for about two weeks.” In January, devices went offline, he explained.

Richard Doherty, research director of Envisioneering Group, called the Nest fiasco “the worst possible consumer experience imaginable.” All the more egregious is that most of the time “customers do NOT know of the update; or even the purpose of the ‘fix’ it was supposed to deliver,” he added.

Security and privacy

Consumers are slowly but surely catching onto the perils of connectivity.

Take a look at the 2016 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey in which 28,000 consumers in 28 countries were polled on their use of consumer technology. One result that jumps out is that consumers’ “security and privacy” concerns over IoT devices are much more prominent, compared to 12 months ago, John Curran, managing director of Accenture, told us.

According to the survey, “Close to 70% are aware of the recent hacker attacks using IoT devices, and 42% say it will impact their use and purchase decisions.”

An even bigger surprise is how many consumers said they are going out of their way “to quit or terminate an IoT device or services until they are assured of safety,” explained Curran. “It’s not a majority, but close to 20 percent of people told us that. It’s a big number.”

The New York Times cites a San Francisco resident named Kent Goldman. “After being put on hold with Nest’s technical support for over an hour, Mr. Goldman went to his nearest Ace Hardware store (while still on hold) and picked up an old-fashioned mechanical thermostat for about $25.”

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