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Unisys: New Zealanders want IoT driving seat

New Zealanders have a healthy scepticism when it comes to the Internet-of-Things collecting and sharing their data. More than anything, we want control.

For years we’ve been told the IoT is just a remote-monitored heartbeat away. The technology promises to change our lives as much as mobile phones.

Heaters can start to warm homes when we’re 30 minutes away. Our fridges can order fresh milk before the last drop is drunk. Farmers can already micromanage water and fertilizer to the nearest square metre in each paddock.

That’s the IoT dream. It’s already happening.

There’s also an IoT nightmare. It’s where embedded devices watch our every step and report back to uncaring, anonymous companies. They can use data gathered from our own things coupled with their own sensor information to break down any resistance we might have to spending money with them.

Watching over us

Being part of someone else’s business model is one thing. Not everyone or everything that wants to monitor us is as benign. And if the good guys can watch over us, so can the villains.

As part of a global research project, Unisys, a large technology company, questioned 1012 New Zealanders about their reaction to the Internet-of-Things.

Unisys found there’s a nuanced response. No surprises there. The TLDR version is that we’re comfortable with some aspects of IoT, uncomfortable with others. It all adds up to a complex relationship with the technology.

Control freaks?

Yet it all boils down to who is in the driving seat. New Zealanders want to the power to direct what happens with their data.

Take the idea of putting buttons on smartwatches that can alert the police to the user’s position when pushed. We’ll put aside for one moment that not even one-in-ten New Zealanders currently uses a smartwatch. That’s not the point.

Unisys found 84 percent on New Zealanders like the idea of an emergency button. That’s a overwhelming support. Yet only 31 percent like the idea of the police being able to monitor their fitness tracker to figure out where they are at any given moment. That’s a big thumbs down.

You don’t have to look at that hard to realise the first gives you the option of calling for help. The second means you’ll get help, or maybe interference, whether you want it or not.

Personal data

Trust and control are central to personal data. Most people in New Zealand trust the police, but that doesn’t go as far as letting them watch over you all the time. Being able to call for help retains control, being monitored, puts someone or something else in control.

Unisys found there is also high support, 74 percent, for medical hardware such as pacemakers or blood sugar sensors able to alert doctors if something happens. We tend to trust our doctors.

Almost two-thirds of New Zealanders are happy to have sensors on their luggage so their phones know where it is at an airport. Which you could interpret as meaning we are less trusting of baggage handlers or worry about the lack of control. If the IoT hands some back, we like that.

This is the first in a series of sponsored posts about the 2017 Unisys Security Index New Zealand.