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GUEST COMMENT Industrious British women welcome the Internet of Things

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As the hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to gather momentum, we will soon be propelled into a world where everything is connected. Our homes, cars, and offices will be seamlessly linked via newly available intelligent devices, streamlining the way we live and work. The IoT will be mainstream by the end of the decade and it is predicted that there will be 25 billion smart objects worldwide by 2020 – a prospect about which some sectors of society are more enthusiastic than others.

The IoT is a concept where everyday physical objects are connected to the web and can identify themselves to other connected devices. These smart devices will be used for everything from monitoring fitness and arranging medical appointments to taking control of everyday chores and organising social activities. Practical applications of the IoT might include a medicine bottle that orders a repeat prescription when it’s running low, a fridge that lets you know what groceries you need and orders them for you, and a heating system that adjusts automatically as you leave or approach the home.

In response to growing excitement and publicity around the IoT, Toluna launched a study to uncover how UK consumers felt about the prospect of connected living. Which sections of UK society are most likely to use the IoT and what inspires some consumers to embrace the technology more than others?

One of the most remarkable trends to emerge from the survey (1) was the variation between income groups in the willingness to adopt connected living – revealing a new kind of technological snobbery. While middle earners are the most likely to embrace a connected lifestyle, low earners and high earners were the two groups that showed the least interest.

Consumers that earn more than £100,000 per annum were the most likely to shun the IoT, with almost two-fifths (37%) saying they were not likely to use it. Interestingly the same income-related patterns were not evident when a similar survey was conducted in the US, so it seems that the British class system is now extending to technology.

A second trend revealed by the survey was the difference in the way men and women view connected living. While both are equally likely to use the IoT for practical domestic purposes, such as connecting home appliances and home security, women are far more likely to make use of the technology to provide a smarter, time-saving way of living.

More women said they would use the IoT for fitness (41% more than men), including monitoring workouts, food consumption, and sleep patterns; healthcare (35% more than men), including automatic appointments and smarter, more holistic diagnoses; and social arrangements (26% more than men), such as booking tickets and checking friends’ whereabouts. Women are also more likely than men to be excited about the ability of connected living to make them more organised – preventing them worrying about missing or forgetting appointments.

However, they also have more security and reliability concerns relating to the technology. Almost nine out of ten women (87%) were worried about hackers accessing their personal data, and six in ten (64%) were concerned about being left stranded if the technology failed.

With the inevitable move to connected living, the everyday objects around us are already having more of a say in the way we live our lives.

However, although men claim to know more about the IoT (40% more men than women claim to know a great deal about the technology), it appears women will be most enthusiastic with a view to getting fitter, healthier, and more organised.

Paul Twite is managing director of Toluna

(1) The survey was conducted in October 2014 among 1,000 adults (18+) in the UK and US respectively. Respondents were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Toluna surveys. Figures for age, gender, education, income, employment, and region were weighted to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the online population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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