The coming months are looking good for connected watches. However, it is now vital to tackle the various security issues.
The ordinary objects in our everyday lives are becoming ever more connected, a trend which is making inroads in all sectors, as illustrated by a recent L'Atelier study on the Internet of Things (IoT). Objects that incorporate sensors and internal computing capacity and are equipped with Internet connectivity, which together enable collection of data on the user, seem today to be driving growth in the mobile accessories industry. And French people appear to be embracing this movement. According to a survey carried out on behalf of Microsoft by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) among 1,050 French people aged 18 and over, more than six people out of ten (61%) are familiar with the concept of ‘connected objects’. Moreover the vast majority of those polled are attracted to these devices, with 82% agreeing that connected objects are useful and make their everyday lives easier. Close to eight out of ten even say that they represent a real digital revolution. Meanwhile a forecast from market research institute GfK indicates that sales of smartphones are likely to reach close to 18 million units in France in 2014, making them once again the highest-selling information and communication technology product in the country this year. With a total of 35 million units in circulation in France in 2014, smartphones are also giving rise to a range of related accessories, with the ‘smart’ watch topping the list.
The new wristband
Connected watches took pride of place at the Mobile World Congress 2014 – the world’s largest mobile telecoms conference and exhibition – in Barcelona earlier this year. These accessories were already forecast to be the ‘object of the year’ in 2014, a prediction which has now been confirmed by the GfK report. Launched on to the mass market only a few months ago, 35,000 ‘smart’ watches have already been sold in France, mainly on the Internet and through large specialist retailers. GfK found that they are already enjoying a 70% consumer awareness rate. And this trend seems to be here to stay. GfK expects sales of connected watches to reach over 150,000 this year, i.e. five times the number of connected wristbands sold in 2013. Connected watches are part of an overall trend which offers the user a natural extension of his/her smartphone, providing new functionality related to physical activity and health. On the other hand this expected growth in smart watches could lead to a decline in sales of connected wristbands, which came on to the market a little earlier. Basically the smart watch seems to meet the needs of French people for mobile connectivity. The IFOP study found that 74% of French people quizzed want their smartphones and tablets to be able to work with other devices.
Fundamental concerns over data security
All in all, the smart watch looks set to become a real driver in a flourishing connected objects market. However, the IFOP study found that there are still question marks when it comes to data privacy, with 92% of those polled stating that this new type of digital accessory raises a lot of issues in this regard. The latest report from the CNIL, the French regulatory body governing privacy and personal rights in the electronic data field, confirms this lack of trust. In the report, CNIL chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin called 2013 “the year of major data breaches”, referring to the number of incidents of illegal access to personal data. Although French people recognise and appreciate the progress which connected objects can bring, they are still concerned about data privacy. When asked about the functionality they would like to see developed in the future for smartphones and tablets, the security issue came top of the list. Fully 92% agreed that it would be a good idea if their smartphones and tablets were to incorporate a security device which ensured that these devices would work only when in the hands of their owners.