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Straight Talk Consumer and Entertainment Services

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The number and types of connected devices in the home are rapidly growing, leading to greater consumer convenience and better quality of life. However, one downside of this particular aspect of the digital revolution is that the rise in connected devices, if left unchecked, can make the home more vulnerable to attack from cybercriminals. Smart home IoT devices are particularly vulnerable to attack because they often have little integrated cybersecurity protection, and they may contain features such as embedded microphones and sensors that are hidden from the average consumer but easily exploited by those with the technical know-how.

Consumers may not fully understand the technicality of IoT cybersecurity, but they are certainly becoming more aware of its perils due to increasing press coverage of examples of devices that have been easily hacked and stories of the unfortunate victims. The threat of being spied on during our most private moments is enough to put anyone on high alert. Figure 1 shows that this fear of hacking is increasingly putting consumers off purchasing smart home devices and services (in this example, around smart home security), even when they have stated a need for such solutions. The figure shows that traditional barriers to purchasing smart home technology, such as cost, have on the whole declined between 2017 and 2018. However, the fear of being hacked has increased as a barrier during the same period, significantly so in the case of devices such as smart locks and indoor webcams.

 

Figure 1: Reasons why consumers do not purchase smart home security devices even when they have a needReasons why consumers do not purchase smart home security devices even when they have a need

Source: Ovum

 

Unlike devices such as PCs, tablets, and smartphones, the majority of IoT devices cannot have cybersecurity software installed directly. To resolve this issue, a protective cybersecurity "ring" or "firewall" covering the whole home must be installed to protect all devices connected within it. The most logical monitoring point for this software is the home gateway device, which traffic from all devices flows through. Whole-home cybersecurity is therefore a great opportunity for the suppliers of such devices, which, in the majority of cases, are broadband service providers.

One service provider that has already been extremely successful in this area is Bezeq in Israel. Approximately 35% of Bezeq's broadband customers already subscribe to such a service, for which it charges approximately $4 per month. Comcast is another provider offering such a service, charging approximately $6. Removing this barrier is a must for greater smart home adoption, but it also represents a direct opportunity for broadband service providers, which, on the whole, have otherwise struggled to make a success of the smart home.

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