Consumers frustrated with intelligent devices

According to a new Accenture survey, more than half American and British consumers say they are frustrated with frequently used electronic devices that freeze or crash, and seek better performing devices built on smarter, more innovative embedded technology, designed to be flexible to meet a wide range of end user needs.

In addition, they expressed a willingness to pay more for intelligent devices that perform better, look to embedded technology to drive new smart features that can help them save money and make their lives easier, and prefer quality over quantity.

The survey of more than 2,000 consumers probed for current opinions and frustrations with the performance of many electronic devices in common use today including mobile phones, TVs, computers, digital cameras, GPS systems and household appliances. The survey also explored aspirations to use innovative, alternative solutions for home automation, energy consumption and transportation.

“As consumers accumulate and rely on more devices to help manage their lives, they are becoming increasingly frustrated with devices that frequently crash or don’t work as well as expected,” said Jean-Laurent Poitou, global managing director of Accenture Embedded Software Services. “The ‘cool factor’ is no longer enough. Consumers, especially younger ones, seek simpler, more intelligent devices with just the right number of useful functionalities.”

Altogether 51% expressed some frustration with at least one of their more frequently used devices in the last six months. Device crashing (that is, freezing, not responding, and needing to be restarted) is by far the most common source of frustration, cited by 39% of respondents. This was twice as much as other causes such as concerns over privacy and data security, too much effort being required to use the device, and limited functionality. This number increased to 49% among those aged 18 to 24, suggesting that younger people have less patience when it comes to devices not functioning properly.

More than a quarter of respondents said they are frustrated when using their mobile phone applications (wishing it could do more things automatically), while also expressing frustration with their TV sets, cars and computers. While UK consumers experienced more device crashes (43% to 35% of those in the US), more US consumers felt their devices had limited functionality (18% vs. 13% of those in the UK).

When asked if they had advice for engineers who design their devices, 53% of respondents said they should keep it simple. At the same time, 53% also said they would like to be surprised by new innovations and wait for the next great generation of devices (a number which rose to 59% among those 18 to 24). And 43% said that engineers would be better off focusing on a limited number of useful functionalities and applications, rather than developing many they will never use.

Paying more for these devices would not be a concern, as half of all respondents said they would be ready to spend extra to get smarter devices that could do more things automatically and autonomously. Altogether, 17% would pay up to 10% more, 20% said they would be ready to pay up to 5% more, and another 10% said they would pay up to 20% to 30% more. US consumers appear slightly more willing to pay extra (52% vs. 48% in the UK), particularly for mobile phones and computers.

The survey also highlights that benefits need to justify the spend, since cost was found to be the overwhelming reason (81%) discouraging consumers from using completely new innovative solutions, at least initially or until reassured on the cost of purchase. Other prohibitive factors impeding use of innovative solutions were data privacy and security (48%), and the reliability or readiness of the solution (41%).

“Users are increasingly interested in the prospect that smarter collection and processing of individual information could lead to them paying lower prices,” added Poitou. “For example, they could pay less on car insurance if ‘black box’ data proves they drive more safely than average drivers; and they could pay less for electricity if they modify the timing of use of various household appliances, to better align with the needs of power supply companies. The challenge for the industry is to find ways to engineer these innovative uses of embedded technology to deliver cost savings in ways that are reliable and easy-to-understand.”