In this article, Questia Group focuses on the concept of the Internet of Things, namely on the key motivations and barriers for adopting this approach in our cities, homes and everyday lives. Our research was made through an online survey on our platform http://questia.ro covering 534 respondents, with a plus or minus 4% margin of error. The survey was active between 20 and 21 April 2017. Our findings are presented below.

Overview

The concept of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) refers to the networked interconnection of everyday objects, equipped with ubiquitous intelligence, which leads to a highly distributed network of devices communicating with human beings as well as other devices.

This concept is no longer science-fiction or day-dreaming to making your home respond to your needs. According to Statista, in 2012, the number of connected devices worldwide reached 8.7 billion, while in 2020 it is predicted to reach 26 billion connected devices and a market valued at over a trillion dollars. Moreover, some estimate that the IoT will have a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.

Thus, the development of the technology sector has grown at a high pace over the years, offering numerous debates over its implications to the way we live our lives, the way we want our cities to look like and how we can gain more sustainability for the future generations. Expert opinions are divided in this matter. For instance, telecommunications expert Kerry Hinton, former director of the Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications at the University of Melbourne, considers that the IoT will largely depend on the types of devices deployed and what they will be doing.

This is exactly what we wanted to find out, from community priorities for smart technologies to adopting a more flexible lifestyle. Mobile banking, contactless payments, online shopping apps are means that changed consumer lifestyles, and the desire for aspirational products. Integrating remote control technology in our cities and everyday devices seems to be the next step and the next conversation we should definitely have.

Findings

Consumer awareness for the IoT is low: only a quarter of the respondents (29,4%) heard about this concept.

Internet of Things awareness

Out of those who are familiar with the IoT, they associate it with advanced technology (63.7%), big data (60.5%), flexibility and adaptability to global technologies (59.9%), efficiency or saving time (54.8%) and improving the quality of life (40.8%).This shows that for Romanians, IoT is portrayed in rather abstract terms, more connected to technology and less to one’s personal life. Also, safety, money, and sustainability are less perceived to be related to the IoT, pointing out to the more problematic aspects that are brought in debates and research for this concept.

Internet of Things concept

Asked to which extent they would use everyday things/objects that could connect to the internet (such as doors, windows, lighting devices), respondents say they would use them to a very large extent (20.8%) and to a large extent (34.5%), showing a rather great interest in this topic.

Internet of Things usage

Security issues and data confidentiality (41.4%), lack of information and higher costs (19.0%) are the biggest perceived deterrents for not using everyday things/objects that could connect to the internet. This finding, channeled with the low awareness for IoT, shows that educating the population about smart technology and its implications are some important measures for our society.

Internet of Things detterrents

When it comes to priorities, most respondents are very interested and somehow interested in smart technologies in the city (88.8%), smart homes (79.0%) and smart devices (81.0%).

Smart cities are defined as communities that use information and communication technology to enhance livability, workability, and sustainability. The Romanian Ministry of Communications has released the Smart City Guide for Romania in 2016, while Alba Iulia will develop the first smart city pilot-project.

Smart homes are considered homes equipped with lighting, heating, and electronic devices that can be controlled remotely by smartphone or computer. According to this report, the prevalence of smartphones and tablets has meant that smart home technology is starting to gain real momentum and is becoming easier to use, more intuitive, and, importantly, affordable.

Interests in the Internet of Things

Real-time accidents/alerts (31.1%), street traffic lights depending on the traffic (23.7%) and public lighting with sensors (18.0%) are the top smart technologies that respondents consider having greater priority in the cities/communities. On the other hand, smart public transport and smart garbage cans have lower priority.

Smart city

When asked which different household systems respondents would like to be able to control remotely now or in the future, security systems (for video surveillance, fire/leakage alarm) are the most important (51.0%), followed by a heating system depending on the seasons (32.4%). This shows that safety issues are top priorities for Romanians, considering that smart alarms both in the city and in the households have higher scores as compared to other smart devices.

In the next years, when the smart home market will evolve, the role of the traditional installer and electrician will change, encompassing new, advanced skills. See more on ‘smart installers’ here.

Smart home

In terms of what smart devices respondents already own, a substantial number own a smart TV (45.2%), some own smart lightbulbs (19.1%), motion sensor lamps (18.4%) and smart toothbrushes (16.1%). Only a few own smartwatches, VR glasses, and fitness wearables. However, 34.4% say that they don’t own any smart devices in their homes. This means that lack of information, costs and security issues could come as barriers for Romanian’s ownership of IoT.

Smart devices

The concept of IoT has numerous implications and debatable standing points. On the one hand, citizens should start motivating their governments to implement or expand smart city initiatives. However, can a smart city become a hackable city? Thus, issues of data security and control are of great importance in this endeavor.

On the other hand, business-to-business applications will probably capture more value than consumer uses, although consumer applications, such as fitness monitors and self-driving cars, attract the most attention and can create significant value. IoT has potential in developing economies, yet, it is estimated that it will have a higher overall value impact in advanced economies because of the higher value per use. However, developing economies could generate nearly 40 percent of the IoT’s value, and nearly half in some settings. One thing is sure though, capturing the full potential of IoT will require the result of synergetic activities conducted in different fields of knowledge, such as telecommunications, informatics, electronics and social science.

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