Editor’s note: Phil Ahad is chief digital officer at market research firm Toluna, Wilton, Conn. 

The relatively short history of consumer electronics includes products that blew up in ways their creators never envisioned and other disruptive technologies that never really took off despite huge marketing budgets. Many of the best products fill needs consumers didn’t even know they had.

Smart companies put a lot of effort into understanding their prospective customers. How do brands know what consumers will adopt in such a field as complex as consumer technology? Consumer insights are crucial to new product development. 

Toluna and Harris Interactive jointly conducted a global survey of over 7,000 consumers from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. The goal was to get a feel of technology around the globe: how comfortable are consumers with new devices and innovations; in what areas are they likely to buy; what did they already own; how they are using it; and more. The survey was in the field for 24 hours in February. The three age groups were 18-34, 35-54 and 55+. 

The results are interesting. While there were some differences between country, gender and age categories, there are significant similarities on most issues across the board. 

Most consumers (59%) say they are very comfortable with new technologies. The youngest age category (18-34) demonstrate the most enthusiasm with 77% affirming their comfort, compared to 60% of those ages 34-to-54 and only 41% in the 55+ age group agreeing. 

The most popular new technology is speech recognition/voice search with 51% of all consumers surveyed saying they have tried it. Wearable technology devices came in second with smart home or IoT-connected devices in third. Coming in at 24%, the least tried category is smart or foldable displays (smart speakers with screens). 

New technology ownership varies by mar...