Context-Aware Notifications and Smartwatches

Due to the pervasive use of smartphones, it is becoming increasingly likely for people to be interrupted by notifications, regardless of their locational contexts or preferences. Previous studies have shown that people often use manual strategies to manage their reception of notifications either side of their work-home boundaries, but the idea using automatic and context-aware boundary management strategies for notifications is under-explored.

We have explored the concept of geofencing to understand its potential for smarter context-aware notifications that put the user in control of when and where to receive which notifications. By combining mixed methods (questionnaires, interviews, diary, workshop) we investigated how 11 participants used geo-fencing strategies to enable and disable cross-boundary interruptions based on their locational contexts. Results show that although geo-fencing is a promising concept, location-based notifications should be moderated also by time of day.  Based on our findings, we propose a set of design recommendations, aimed to inform the design of subsequent geo-fencing software in such a way that would enhance user experience and facilitate effective notification management across boundaries.

Moreover, wearable computers are expected to become the next big thing. Wearables such as smartwatches are marketed as notification devices, and their wearable nature makes them an ‘always-on’ device. It is still unclear whether this ‘digital handcuff’ also translates into the user’s perception of being always online and available and what the implications for work-home boundaries might be.

We reviewed the existing literature on smartwatches and extend their definition, in addition to highlighting the need to understand users’ everyday adoption of these technologies. We carried out a qualitative study with existing users on their everyday use of smartwatches to understand both the added value and the challenges of being constantly connected at the wrist. Our findings show that users see a large benefit in receiving notifications on their wrist, especially in terms of helping manage expectations of availability. Moreover, we find that response rates after viewing a notification on a smartwatch change based on the other devices available: laptops prompt quicker replies than smartphones. Finally, there are still many costs associated with using smartwatches, that suggest the user experience of smartwatches should be improved.

For a summary of findings, you can have a look at this short video.

watches bw 5

Publications:

Cecchinato, M.E., Cox, A. L., & Bird, J. (2017). Always On(line)? User Experience of Smartwatches and their Role within Multi-Device Ecologies. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing systems. Denver, CO. ACM.

Bassey, Victor. (2015). Investigating the user-experience of geo-fencing notifications. MSc dissertation in HCI-E, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London.
Primary supervisor: Marta E. Cecchinato. Secondary supervisors: Daniel Harrison, Anna L. Cox.

Cecchinato, M.E., Cox, A. L., & Bird, J. (2015, April). Smartwatches: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly?. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems(pp. 2133-2138). ACM.