The impact that the Internet of Things will have on consumers will be just as significant as that for businesses and industries, and for one consumer advocacy executive, she wants to ensure that the consumers’ voices continue to be heard throughout this IoT innovation period.

“How, in this brave new world, are we going to ensure that we have empowered consumers that have the confidence to try and buy new products and services?” asked Teresa Corbin, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

“In a world of ever-increasing flexibility and choice at a time when we’re grappling with questions of how best to transition our society to actively engage in the latest onslaught of very exciting new technology, how do we make sure that we make the best of this, for both the demand and the supply side?”

Corbin posed these questions to an audience of IoT industry heavyweights at KPMG’s recent IoT State Of The Nation workshop.

She said that everyone present is grappling with these questions to some degree, as many businesses and industries will themselves be consumers of IoT, in some way.

She added that while she doesn’t have all the answers, stakeholders have learnt a lot already in their “journey to connectivity”.

“In Australia, we’re well positioned, because not only do we have a good, competitive market, we also have a lot of things in place already that set us up well to produce the products and innovations for the rest of the world,” she said.

“We might generally be standards takers not makers, but the ACCAN is a consumer organisation like none other in the world, and in our consumer organisation we have a bunch of experts who have been thinking about these issues for a long time.

“We have people from various backgrounds, from science, economics, engineering and arts, and we’re linked in with all sorts of consumer community organisations across the whole of Australia.”

Consumer safety should remain top of mind

Corbin said that consumer safety should continue to be a primary focus for product manufacturers and service providers, in an increasingly connected world.

“Many people think that we’ve got this area well and truly covered, and mostly we do, but there has been some discussion about liability of manufacturers of goods with safety defects in relation to IoT security and privacy, and whether or not the laws we’ve got are going to be sufficient,” she explained.

“We need to think about whether faulty product software is covered by legislation, as it’s a fairly unexplored area.

“We haven’t really tested who will be responsible when a cyberattack happens, or when an IoT product fails because of a software glitch which causes property damage or physical injury.”

Corbin said that interoperability with other consumer devices is related to the issues of safety and security, and that IoT introduces a certain level of uncertainty in that regard.

“Consumers are really going to need to understand what they’re purchasing and how it interoperates with whatever else they’ve got before they buy it,” she said.

“There are all sorts of operational issues there that are going to be quite challenging for the buyers.

“There are even concerns for consumers about second-hand goods, whether or not that product has been completely cleared of information that it had on it already.”