Nothing is more susceptible to mansplaining than a new TV, but the male-centric bias of most home gadgets could actually pose a security threat to women.
Research from Monash University, RMIT and Intel Corporation reveals concern among women that some smart home technologies could be hacked to invade their privacy or restrict their movement, possibly as a form of intimidation.
Even digital voice assistants are singled out for their “gendered stereotypes”.
Although some innovations such as smart lighting and entertainment systems provide benefits, the research suggests smart tech has mostly failed to deliver on the promise of effortless living – especially for women.
“In the current smart home market, it is mainly men who are designing and selling smart home technologies, and also mainly men who are responsible for setting up, maintaining and introducing smart home to other householders,” says Monash University researcher Associate Professor Yolanda Strengers.
“This affects the types of devices that get designed, and their potential benefits and usefulness to other householders. In particular, women on the whole are currently underrepresented and underserved by the industry.”
Based on a survey of technology users, the research found women do not always feel products match their needs.
Ironically, devices designed to enhance security such as surveillance cameras or automatic locks are themselves sometimes viewed as a threat due to the potential for hacking or misuse in an abusive relationship.
The feminised voices of digital voice assistants are resented for reinforcing gender stereotypes, and many other devices are seen by both men and women as more hassle than they’re worth.
The research suggests some products may need to be reengineered to make them more accessible to women but there was some good news for manufacturers.
Smart lighting delivered the most pleasure for households, alongside voice activation technology, which was often a source of fun and play.
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