Hyderabad: World Consumer Rights Day, every year on the 15th of March, is an occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement.
It is observed for promoting basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and protesting about market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
On the occasion of World Consumer Day a workshop was organised on Friday, at Civil Supplies Bhavan.
Telangana Consumer Affairs Secretary Akun Sabharwal said that every year, the consumer movement marks this day with a specific theme. This year theme is “Trusted Smart Products.”
Today smart products, smart phones, smart TV, smart cards, smart houses, etc., everywhere smart digital products, services usage grown to a very large extent all over the globe. But, consumer privacy, safety, security is major concern technically, market based.
A smart product is a device which can connect, share and interact with its user and other devices. Smart Products connect to each other and to internet via different connections like 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.
The most popular consumer smart products are smart phones, gaming consoles, TVs and wearable health trackers.
These smart devices are capable of collecting and analysing user data; and transmitting it to other connected devices in a network. Network of smart products are known as Internet of Things. Smart Products offer consumers the promise of convenience, efficiency and personalized services.
Smart phones are one of the most popular smart devices – in addition to making calls and texting, they can monitor the user’s movements, locations and even health. They can act as the central hub connecting the owner to other smart devices such as computers, printers, speakers and even home security systems.
Other than smart phones, the other important smart devices include smart home security systems and smart health monitors. For example, fitness trackers monitors users’ activity levels, sleep pattern, heart rate helping them to get a better understanding of their health.
In the homes, smart security systems made of wireless cameras, locks and motion sensors can record any unusual activity and send alerts to the home owner.
Ensuring the affordability, safety and security of smart devices that connect to the internet and to each other is important for consumers. This is especially so due to the huge numbers involved. As per data available to the writer, it is assessed that there are 23.1 billion smart devices in the world, outnumbering people three to one.
There are nearly 4 billion smart phone connections, double the figure three years ago. It is predicted that by 2025, 72% of internet users will be accessing the internet exclusively via mobile.
Around half of these new users will come from the developing world – China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
As the access of smart devices and products increases and their important increases to mankind, it is important that we highlight that what consumers want and need from a connected world; and how important it is put human beings at the heart of the development of these digital products and services.
It is hoped that emergence of smart technology will bring many opportunities for consumers – access to new services, more responsive products, greater convenience and better choice.
The use of the smart product is the need for the future. There exist a growing number of smart products that can offer tailored solutions for people with disabilities. A day is not far when smart watches for people with sight loss will vibrate when the user receives an email and then translate into Braille the email on the watch face or it could read out the email to the person.
Similarly smart light bulbs connected to a door bell or a phone could alert a deaf person when the phone is ringing or when someone is at the door.
The possibilities are limitless. It is for human imagination to find uses of devices which can interact with each other and with the user to make his life efficient and easy.
As with any good thing, there are certain challenges with respect to the ability of products to connect and share with the user and other devices.
The significant causes of concern include lack of security and privacy; and meaningful choice over how we use them. There is also need for improved clarity about who is responsible when things go wrong.
One of the major issues is that of lack of access, with millions of people globally locked out of this new technology either due to the absence or due to high charges. A number of governments across the world have introduced measures like cutting on duties and taxes to make smart devices accessible to public. However the cost of data still represents a major barrier.
Small products are all a part of a large connected system and network. Vulnerability in any part can compromise the entire system in addition to network and service disruption. Unsecure smart devices can also put the consumer safety directly at risk.
A significant data privacy risk arises from devices being able to communicate with each other and transfer data automatically to third parties. This data may be harmless in individual formats. Once collected or collated, it could reveal an accurate knowledge of an individual resulting in increased traceability and also the harm of profiling.
A lack of transparency can also create fear in the minds of the consumers. Lack of pre purchase information of how devices collect and use data, may lead to personal information being collected used and disclosed.
Role of the Government – Regulator or Moderator
Smart products with their ability to connect, share and interact with the user and other devices are an instrument of change in the lives of all of us.
It is the next step towards use of technology to improving human kind. Along with the benefits they accrue, there is a need to looks towards issues of security, privacy and meaningful choice.
It is the duty of the regulatory authorities across the world to ensure that emergence of smart technology brings opportunities to public with access to new services, more responsive products, greater convenience and choice. (INN)