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France's Web Users Look Forward to More Connected Devices

Majority have heard of the 'internet of things,' see its potential benefits

August 8, 2014 | Technology

Internet users in France are fast becoming familiar with connected devices, according to a report from media consultancy Nouveaux Paysages Audiovisuels (NPA) and CCM Benchmark Group, based on a survey of 1,432 web users in April 2014. Nearly three-quarters of those polled said that they had heard of connected devices or the “internet of things” (IoT).

For some respondents, admittedly, these concepts were a little vague. While 34% said they were aware of these terms and could define them, 39% said they had heard of them but couldn’t explain exactly what they were. Recognition was highest—over 80%—among males and internet users ages 35 or under.

Among the online population who knew about connected devices, the level of intention to purchase was encouraging, NPA/CCM found. The notion of the “connected home” struck a particular chord, and 45% of those polled said they already had plans to equip their homes this way to some extent, either during the next year or a longer period. More than 60% said they were prepared to buy devices or applications that enabled them to optimize their household energy consumption.

Interest in gadgets and possibilities outside the home was even greater—perhaps because these options are easier to understand and already more widely available. For example, 71% of smartphone users said they would find it useful to be able to access their applications directly from their cars, and nine in 10 respondents had heard of smart watches and were well disposed to them. For those who considered buying a smart watch, affordable prices were a key factor—as was the differentiation from a smartphone.

The report did point out that businesses hoping to capitalize on these new dimensions of connectivity must overcome some obstacles. Among them, the need to focus attention on specific markets—such as wearables or the IoT—and understand their issues, including consumer preferences. Other concerns included the number of varying technology protocols operating in different industries, which render many devices partly or wholly incompatible, and the need to establish value chains and business models in particular markets, such as the connected home. Helping to institute change in consumer homes may be a more open opportunity, NPA/CCM suggested, than competing in the markets for wearables or connected vehicles, where electronics giants such as Apple, Google, Samsung and other players have already formed partnerships to bring gadgets and services to the public.

The potential for growth in all these areas in France seems clear, though, judging by the February 2014 Syntec Numérique report, “Barometre de l’innovation,” based on a survey by BVA. It found that one-quarter (23%) of web users in the country were already using connected devices such as thermometers and sensors to make their home life easier, and one in five was using a connected gadget in-car. Even some functions commonly associated with today’s smart devices, such as monitoring health and athletic performance levels, reached fairly small numbers (21% and 9%, respectively). While early adopters are embracing these possibilities, many millions have yet to buy in.

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