Canadian consumers on connectivity and climate change
What do high costs of living, extreme weather events and food and water shortages all have in common? These and other consequences of climate change will be more difficult to ignore as our world becomes hotter. Canadian early tech adopters believe the solution to adjusting to climate change impacts may lie in connected devices and products.
Each year Canadians face more record-breaking weather events as they experience the speed and scale of climate change. Stable, predictable weather will become a thing of the past, and what was once considered “wild” weather will be the norm. Last year’s events took a toll on society and the economy, from Storm Fiona ravaging through Atlantic Canada, flooding in the Prairies and thawing permafrost roads up north.
To meet future environmental and economic challenges, the Canadian government is strengthening its climate plan—A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. In addition, it is developing the National Adaptation Strategy to help the country adjust to a warmer reality by addressing disaster resilience, well-being, economy, infrastructure and nature. These key societal aspects are also concerns for consumers in our latest report, where they shared their views on how ICT innovations will help them deal with climate change in the 2030s.
Climate change is one of the major challenges facing Canadians. Among urban early adopters we surveyed, eight out of ten believe global temperatures will be 1.5°C warmer in the 2030s and 57 percent anticipate negative effects. Furthermore, six out of ten think technological innovations will be necessary to deal with climate change consequences, and 98 percent of consumers will use at least one ICT service.
Making your dollar stretch
The majority of people recognize the importance of digital services in building financial resiliency, but they also expect intuitive and eco-friendly assistance when trying to manage their funds effectively. Over 60 percent of Canadians are worried about rising costs and are looking for ways to live more cost-effectively. Consumers want more affordable energy and to use it more efficiently. One out of three believe there will be an online energy savings account for families to pool their household energy, and over half predict “potluck energy party” apps to share any unused energy. Almost 80 percent think there will be personal electricity consumption monitors in the future and that an Artificial intelligence (AI) assistant will ensure their daily activities will be within walking distance to minimize transport costs. Over half also hope energy will become a currency and be able to pay in kWh using mobile apps.
Finding ways to save on food expenses is also a worry for consumers. Almost 70 percent think AI-powered food price optimizers will exist and that apps will alert them of discounted food availability. To help plan and prepare meals, 67 percent of consumers believe there will be connected recipe assistants and about half of them will use such tools.
It's interesting to see that a significant majority of consumers—seven out of ten—believe that future societies will be centered on energy efficiency rather than time efficiency. This is a clear indication of the shift towards a more sustainable mindset. Additionally, three out of four individuals expect AI planners to assist with cost- and energy-efficient travel. A belief that reflects consumer willingness to adapt their behavior when provided with smart tools.
This readiness for change is also apparent in the third of consumers who anticipate incentives for off-peak energy travel, such as bonuses for using public transport during non-peak hours. A desire for apps that show when and where cars can be charged for less, as well as an appetite for connected events with flexible start times, reinforces the idea that new technology will be adopted if environmental gains are blended with cost savings.
Prepared for any weather
Modern consumers are also increasingly conscious about the need to take measures to stay safe during extreme weather events with almost three out of ten wanting to use AI services to invest in green technologies. On top of this, 70 percent expect a climate-disaster-proof home alarm system and 28 percent would wear a smart extreme weather jacket, demonstrating the growing interest in using technology to combat extreme weather risks. Similarly, the study finds that three-quarters of the participants believe that personalized weather warning systems are likely to become available, and over half of them express a desire to use such systems. Statistics which all point to the pivotal role of technology in creating a safer future.
With more reports of droughts, floods and other natural disasters, water scarcity has become a growing concern for many people in North America (though less for Canadians in general). Surprisingly, 24 percent of those surveyed would consider forgoing water for hygiene in the future which highlights the belief that water scarcity will reach a critical level. The study also found that over 50 percent of people expect a digitally controlled monthly water allowance, which could help address water scarcity concerns in a fair and equitable way. In addition, 40 percent think they’ll be able to monitor their home’s water use with built-in sensors. The study also reveals that four out of ten are willing to install smart water catchers on their roofs, and almost half of the participants think they will be able to sell any surplus water they collect through mobile apps to promote greater water conservation and sustainability.
Human connection becomes more important than ever during natural disasters when you want to ensure your family and friends are safe. Seven out of ten consumers believe there will be smart signal locators in the future and half will use them, indicating a deep reliance on technology for human connection during natural disasters in the coming years. Nearly 40 percent want mobile operators to offer resilient subscription plans, and about a third want a personal local weather warning system, highlighting the strong desire for individuals to be better prepared for unexpected events that may impact their safety.
Physically here, but virtually there
Canadian early tech adopters predict they will be traveling a lot more in the future—digitally. A third of consumers believe that connectivity will enable them to experience through a virtual travel service more than they could ever hope for physically. Over two-thirds think they will be able to ride a boat using Virtual reality (VR), go on safaris using Augmented reality (AR) glasses, or go on tours with VR-equipped bodysuits. Almost three-quarters also see the benefits of AR/VR in schools.
Consumers expect their working lives to change due to AI use in the future. Almost seven out of ten think their work will provide AI services to schedule their days and about half will use AR/VR to be digitally present at work. To increase comfort in the office, a third believe they will use air-conditioning systems with personalized cooling and heating.
Future consumers are more conscious of physical overconsumption, and two-thirds believe consumers will move towards digital alternatives that shopping apps will suggest. Over half also think AI will keep consumers from buying non-essential things. On the lifestyle side, a third see themselves adopting a digital pet or buying digital toys, and 73 percent will use AR/VR glasses to join fitness classes online. Consumers also think future packaging will look different. Almost a third say they will personally use low-environmental impact packaging and 68 percent think branding and product information will be unnecessary with AR/VR devices.
With great technology comes great responsibility
Consumers recognize that innovations bring pros and cons. Despite 95 percent of Canadians knowing that climate change is a reality, a third believe people will use digital technology to bypass stricter environmental restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. About one out of four of these “climate cheaters” believe life will improve due to climate change, versus four percent among non-cheaters. For example, 65 percent think they will manipulate home air-conditioners and heaters, and 58 percent believe apps will provide unofficial waste collection services. Almost half foresee apps that let them tap into their neighbors’ water and electricity supplies. Half also think AI-generated images for social media will hide their high-emission air travel.
The realities of climate change are inescapable. Canadian urban early adopters believe that ICT is crucial in tackling climate change challenges in their daily lives. Current worries about finances, safety, work, school and other everyday practicalities will still concern future consumers. With added complications brought on by the climate crisis, working on and investing in connectivity innovations today is needed for consumers to adapt to a warmer world.
About the report
Ericsson's ConsumerLab studies the use and role of technology for consumers now and in the future. To do this, we interview more than 100,000 consumers each year, representing over 1.1 billion voices. While personal finances, healthcare and safety have topped the global list of consumer worries for decades, climate change has become one of consumers' most reported concerns.
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