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IoT-enabled children’s toys—are the risks real or exaggerated, and do the benefits outweigh them?

November 26, 2018

IoT-enabled children’s toys—are the risks real or exaggerated, and do the benefits outweigh them?

You’ve likely seen them. Perhaps your customers’ kids even own them. When it comes to children’s toys, IoT-enabled, “connected” playthings are all the rage. But are they totally secure?

The toy industry certainly wants you to think so. IoT-enabled toys represent a multiple billion dollar market, with new smart toys being released all the time. But a growing body of research suggests that today’s connected toys may pose some serious security risks.

As the holiday shopping season jets into full-swing, here are a few things your customers should consider before filling their carts with smart toys:

Smart toys are growing in popularity. The first toy that could be described as smart or connected—the Furby—incited a holiday craze in the late 1990s. While it predated the modern IoT label by several years, it certainly inspired later smart toy developments, including modern varieties like these three:

  • Hello Barbie: Mattel offers a Hello Barbie doll that works just like Samsung voice operators—sending children’s conversations into the cloud and returning verbal responses through a speaker in the doll.
  • Smart Toy Bear: Fisher-Price takes the classic teddy bear to the next level—combining a stuffed animal with Wi-Fi technology to offer an interactive play and adaptive learning experience. Choose an activity card, hold it in front of the bear’s nose (which is actually a camera) and the bear will begin the chosen activity—tell a story, play music, tell the time, ask kids questions and respond to their answers.
  • BB-8: Sphero introduced an awesome little app-enabled droid toy with an adaptive personality that evolves as a child plays with it. It can create and display holographic recordings and can connect with someone’s phone, enabling movement control.

With the advent of sensors, chips, phones, apps and the cloud, the possibilities for future smart toys are practically limitless. Despite their popularity, however, smart toys aren’t loved by everyone.

Some groups are calling for bans. One U.K. consumer rights group, Which?, is urging authorities to issue a ban on IoT-enabled toys with proven security flaws. According the group, these known flaws allow toys to be easily hacked, which could allow a stranger to communicate with a child. The group published its findings on four specific toys, claiming they contain significant security issues. It claims hacking the toys is simply too easy and that a person would need hardly any technical knowledge to hack your child’s toy.

This group is not alone. Even the FBI warns about potential cybersecurity risks with smart toys, warning consumers to be cautious. 

Bottom line: Encourage customers to be wary of the risks. Sure, smart toys are fun—and they even prep children with important skills for adulthood. After all, a child who grows up using tech will have the kind of intuitive familiarity with it that’s crucial to success in the modern workplace. But when it comes to the potential for eavesdropping through an unsecured Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled device, the risks may outweigh the benefits—every consumer should decide for themselves.

We provide this information so you can help your customers make informed decisions. You’ll not only be the go-to source for information, you’ll remain their trusted advisor on all things related to smart technology.  

To learn more about smart, IoT-connected toys this season, connect with the experts at Ingram Micro today.