Will Smart Home Alerts Ruin Your Vacation?

August 27, 2019
smart phone at beach
Photo: Unsplash/Jordan McQueen

Smart home security apps give peace of mind with their updates and alerts, but they also make it harder to disconnect, the New York Times reports.

Smart technology has made it easier to track our homes from afar. Rather than lock the doors, turn on the porch light and leave a key with the neighbor, homeowners use an army of apps that send real-time updates to their phones. Wondering when, or if, the house sitter arrived? A well-positioned Abode camera can send you a video clip. Missing your pooch? Chat with him and dole out treats with a video camera like PetChatz, which can also let a lonely pet call you. Water sensors like Wally alert you about leaks, or even too much humidity. And for the homeowner worried that the pipes might freeze in January, a smart thermostat like Nest lets you tinker with the temperature from Nantucket or the Caribbean.

All this information is supposed to help reduce homeowners’ anxiety about leaving what may be their biggest asset. But in the age of constant interruptions from work, social media and the news, a shout-out from your Ring doorbell that the mail was delivered just adds to the glut of pings. Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day while on vacation, about once every 12 minutes, according to a 2018 survey by Asurion, a device insurance and warranty company. But if the point of a vacation is to take a break from life’s responsibilities, a barrage of push alerts about package deliveries hardly helps.

“All these things take us away from ourselves and from those closest to us, and put us in a world where we’re connecting with our home heating system and we’re not connecting with the person across the table,” said Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.”

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