You, Me, and IoT: How Internet-Connected Consumer Devices Affect Interpersonal Relationships

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Internet-connected consumer devices have rapidly increased in popularity; however, relatively little is known about how these technologies are affecting interpersonal relationships in multi-occupant households. In this study, we conduct 13 semi-structured interviews and survey 508 individuals from a variety of backgrounds to discover and categorize how consumer IoT devices are affecting interpersonal relationships in the United States. We highlight several themes, providing exploratory data about the pervasiveness of interpersonal costs and benefits of consumer IoT devices. These results inform follow-up studies and design priorities for future IoT technologies to amplify positive and reduce negative interpersonal effects.

Summary of findings…
On the positive side, we find that IoT devices strengthen interpersonal connections through bonding over shared experiences, simplify remote communication, inspire playfulness, support independence of individuals with special needs, ease household management, improve peace of mind, and increase free time to spend with household members. On the negative side, we find that IoT devices facilitate surveillance and cause mistrust due to potential or actual undesired monitoring and a lack of data collection transparency, provoke differences in knowledge or preferences about the functionality, benefits, risks, privacy, or security of the devices, and cause tensions about device use, sharing, and technical issues that arise during day-to-day operation.”