A new study from the U.K. shows that expensive smart appliances could be rendered obsolete after as little as two years as manufacturers stop issuing software updates.
The organization Which? found that U.K. consumers pay, on average, £855.00 (US $1,085.63) more for a smart refrigerator-freezer than a standard model, £259.00 (US $328.86) more for a smart dishwasher and £190.00 (US $241.25) more for a smart dryer. More than two thirds (69 percent) of Which? members surveyed said they expected their smart appliances to last as long as standard models.
However, manufacturers failed to provide clarity as to how long they would provide vital security updates for their products. Without regular security and software updates, appliances could lose their smart functionality and leave owners’ home networks open to hackers.
One company suggested that it could stop providing security updates after two years. Miele was the only manufacturer to provide a definitive answer, saying that it would support its smart appliances with 10 years’ worth of security updates.
This finding from the U.K., while perhaps not amenable to being generalized too far, is suggestive of two courses of action for mobile operators.
First, operators may wish to exercise some caution with regard to choosing technology partners for smart-home services. In looking for IoT opportunities with which to grow their business and increase relevance in an era of seismic change in the mobile industry, MNOs have been working with a broad range of technology companies to provide smart services to subscribers. While marketing smart-home appliances and providing the connectivity for them may bring in revenue in the short term, it could mean trouble for operators in the longer term if those appliances are properly supported with updates over time.
Second, and perhaps even important, the reported shortcomings of the existing manufacturers, coupled with the relatively high costs of the devices, open a window of opportunity for mobile operators. Given the state of the market, MNOs would likely do very well to create and offer their own smart-home solutions, independent of any third party entity. Some operators, such as SK Telecom in South Korea, have already done this. If the findings of the Which? survey are accurate, more operators, in the U.K. and elsewhere, could find that is significant interest among consumers for self-branded, own-make smart-home IoT systems.