LONDON: Fears over data protection and questions around the relevance have emerged as key barriers to the widespread adoption of voice assistant technology, a new report reveals.

This is according to The QT, a quarterly tracking survey of 1000 British consumers, by media agency the7stars, which found that the desire among consumers for voice technologies – such as Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo, and Google’s Home – stands at around 29%.

Meanwhile, well over half of consumers (61%) said they were reluctant to give big tech companies any more data about them than they currently hold. In contrast, 81% of customers said they didn’t mind sharing an item of personal data if it meant free, cheaper, or better services.

But UK consumers were worried about the kind of data that voice-assistants could gather. Just under half (43%) of respondents nationwide said they were concerned about the technology’s potential use as a way to listen in on conversations. Among Londoners, the figure rises to 49%.

This is not merely baseless suspicion. Reports from Wired and The Guardian highlight the privacy worries of many consumers. Despite this, desire for the technology remains healthy.  

If there is desire, it is among wealthier consumers, who are twice as likely to want a voice assistant than those on lower incomes. The typical voice-assistant consumer is an 18-34 male; men tend to see the technology as a more positive step for society than women (43% v 38%). They are also more likely than women to feel they are of use.

While younger consumers are more positive about the technology than their older counterparts, the figures are not much more positive. For many (41%) the technology is seen as a ‘gimmick,’ despite the fact that 49% can see the benefits.

Frances Revel of the7stars noted the questions hanging over the technology’s entry to the mainstream. “Scepticism remains over their value and how they are using consumer data, so there is work to be done to break down these barriers for this exciting new technology.”

In May, research from Radiocentre painted a far more positive picture of voice assistants’ potential, with the suggestion that respondents’ purchase intent could result in an Amazon Echo in 40% of UK homes.

Data sourced from the7stars, WARC; additional content by WARC staff