Growing awareness of data security and privacy will change adoption habits

While understanding among consumers and businesses of the need to implement robust security on and around devices is improving, the challenges are far from overcome.

Mobile devices have quickly become a mainstay of people’s lives. Whether for business or pleasure, there is now a demand to have the world and all the information in it at our fingertips anytime, anywhere, and to find out as much as we can about ourselves and our lives with the help of technology.  

From smartphones and tablets, wearables like smartwatches or fitness trackers right through to Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices in our increasingly smart homes and connected cars, the volume, capture, analysis and transfer of data from devices belonging to one individual alone is enormous.  

Replicate that by an entire population, and the insatiable need to have instant access to information or to access and share data from our favourite devices means that securely transferring and storing that data becomes a real issue, and one that people are becoming increasingly aware of. Even those with little interest or understanding of technology will see news stories about hacked devices and companies, and as a result will look to be reassured about how secure their personal data is, and how far that data will be ‘legally’ shared with other companies. The exponential growth in the use of and data stored on devices is set to continue, and more devices means more potential points of weakness. 

While understanding among consumers and businesses of the need to implement robust security on and around devices is improving, the challenges are far from overcome. As a result, security and privacy will start to become differentiators in the connected device market, and trust in the brands providing those devices will become increasingly important.

Reassurance is required  

The survey ‘Igniting Growth in Consumer Technology’ clearly demonstrated that heightened security concerns in the consumer electronics industry is having a negative effect on the market. Of the 28,000 consumers polled across 28 countries, the survey found that for nearly half (47 per cent) of respondents, security concerns and privacy risks ranked among the top three barriers to buying an IoT device or service. 

With those planning to buy a connected device this year, over two thirds (69 per cent) said they knew that these products were capable of being hacked, and therefore could result in stolen data or device malfunctions. Another recent report called Guarding and Growing Personal Data Value shows that the collection and use of personal data is being challenged by changing customer attitudes, increased government regulation and new sources of independent scrutiny. 

To preserve and even increase the potential of personal data as well as maintain trust, businesses need to embrace the principles of corporate digital responsibility to turn potential risks into opportunities for differentiation and growth.  

New challenges, new solutions

This focus on security and increased awareness of the need for security measures to be implemented on personal and business devices will lead to biometric authentication solutions starting to break into the mainstream in the near future. 

As consumer familiarity with the biometric security already available on personal devices grows, more organisations will also start to consider implementing tools such as iris recognition in order to remain both physically secure, and to keep their data and networks safe. This means that they will also need to start considering the employee data they’re collecting and how that might impact individuals’ privacy; how are employers protecting data on behalf of their workforce? 

Employees – like consumers – simply won’t adopt tools if they don’t believe they can be trusted.   

Protecting individuals’ data in the workplace

We have entered the third phase of enterprise mobility. The first phase was about empowering users with mobile devices and email on the move. The second was about basic transactional apps that enabled working on the move, and the third is about the transformation of work using mobile technologies, including wearables, that have started to enter the enterprise thanks to the reduced cost of computing capability, familiarity by employees of new device types, and the increased acceptance of CIOs of BYOD.  

We are already seeing pilot projects leading to more complete roll-outs of wearable technology in the enterprise, particularly in the manufacturing and field force sectors. This enhanced use of wearables will create a force of ‘Connected Workers’, able to access the information they need at the point at which they need it, collaborate with colleagues remotely and even receive instructions on the go. 

However, new technology like this can breed concerns about security and privacy which need to be addressed to ensure successful adoption. Companies will need to think through encryption, remote wipe capabilities, and having the ability to remotely push firmware updates to employee devices. But data can travel more than one way, and unique to wearables is the risk that they could record sensitive information via a camera or other sensors. These concerns can be addressed using tools like geofencing, whereby connectivity and other capabilities are disabled when devices are taken out of dedicated areas and into private offices, bathrooms, or other sensitive areas.  

Wearables could also potentially capture biometric data about users, such as heart rate information to indicate stress levels, so it’s important for employee confidence and trust that enterprises provide full disclosure on how such information would be captured and/or used. Overall, these are minor obstacles and if managed transparently and correctly they should not curtail technology adoption. They are issues that must be considered when rolling out new connected devices though, or the investment will likely fail.   

Meet user expectations on transparency and trust from technology

If we’re to expect people in both their personal and work lives to adopt the exciting new connected technologies that are becoming available to everyone, the technology industry needs to work together to tackle the challenges around the storage, transfer and security of the data contained within and transferred between devices. Inside organisations, different teams will need to work together to create a holistic, transparent and secure solution, with IT teams working with legal, HR and other relevant practices to make that happen.  

Maintaining trust and loyalty from audiences – be they consumers or employees – is now a priority conversation for vendors and service providers, and the security of devices and data needs to be discussed both within and across industry boundaries. If people don’t trust that their data is safe and their privacy respected by a device or service provider, they will start to look elsewhere. It is therefore both a moral and business imperative to take this seriously, and to start considering the implications of being in control of such data sooner, rather than later.

Phil Vann, managing director, connected devices at Accenture Mobility, part of Accenture Digital. 


Phil Vann is the managing director, connected devices at Accenture Mobility, part of Accenture Digital.