The Connected Consumer – ESF’s 13th Annual Product Safety Conference

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Today, more than half the world uses mobile devices to connect, research and purchase, goods. So  it was fitting that Electrical Safety First’s 13th annual product safety conference had the theme of The Connected Consumer. The event, which attracted an international audience of over 600 delegates, explored the connected consumer from the key perspectives of sustainability, designing for inclusivity, and the evolving legislative context.

Hosted online over two mornings, the conference was opened by Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, followed by a keynote speech from Paul Scully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets). The Minister outlined the Government’s approach to product safety in the C21st and the opportunities and challenges following the UK’s exit from the single market.

A popular start to the day was the ‘Ask Us Anything’ regulators panel. Delegates quizzed a panel which included representatives from several Government Departments, including: the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS); the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS); and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV).

Next, a range of contributors considered inclusion in safe design, from manufacturers’ response to the issue, to the need for diverse voices to help in standard setting.  Day one of the event then ended with OPSS sharing its research on the fridge of the future and the safety of white goods.

The second morning focused on the speed of innovation of connected products and related issues around security, safety, and interoperability. Our expert speakers included representatives from Google, Alphabet Core Engineering Solutions, the Alan Turing Institute, Intertek and OPSS. They considered the governance and regulation of smart products (and the ethical implications); the challenges to business in terms of certification and compliance; and a look at how manufacturers are adapting to address environmental concerns.

A memorable moment in the day was the announcement of the winner of the charity’s Safety Innovation Award. The award was established to acknowledge an innovative product or project placing safety of consumers at the heart of its development.

This year’s worthy winner was Aico’s Ei1000G SmartLINK® Gateway. Developed in collaboration with housing associations and social landlords, this alarm maintenance and asset management device uses a cloud portal without the need for local Wi-Fi.  Although fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detection are well established in industry, the monitoring of, for example, humidity and air quality – plus the ability to influence consumer behaviour via direct messaging – made Aico the winning entry. “Winning the Safety Innovation Award is a proud moment for us”, explains Michael Wright, Product Development Manager of Aico. “We are dedicated to protecting people in their home and this award recognises the ways in which our innovative SmartLINK Gateway contributes to achieving this.”

The final conference sessions included contributions from BEKO, law firm Hogan Lovells LLP, the Household Electrical and Electronic Servicing Training Forum (HEEST), and SE24 Safety and Energy Consultants, who considered the legislative landscape and potential conflicts between sustainability and safety. We heard about global regulatory developments and how to make reuse and repair a viable and sustainable business proposition. Last but not least was an OPSS presentation detailing their research on consumer attitudes to produce safety – and the essential role of trust in the ‘contract’ between consumers, retailers, and manufacturers.

“Our annual product safety conference continues to bring critical and emerging issues to the fore, ensuring industry and other key stakeholders have the information they need to understand the future of product safety – and the connected consumer”, explains Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of the charity. “In such unpredictable times as we find ourselves, it is more important than ever to prepare for tomorrow’s developments today. By sharing expertise and views, we equip ourselves with the best information for a connected future, whatever may come!  Our wide range of delegates – from retailers, manufacturers and test houses, to government departments, product safety lawyers, trading standards, and fire and rescue services – seem to agree.”

 

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