One of the many benefits of smart home technology is added security and ease of mind that everything is under control; Continuous monitoring through live video feeds, remote access/control of gadgets, and sensor-driven alerts can help keep us connected and informed, even when away from home.
But as I experienced last week, that interconnectedness can actually backfire and cause unwanted anxiety when everything goes offline, and you’re unable to see what’s going on or take action… even if there’s nothing to worry about.
Those who know me, know that pretty much every aspect of my apartment is not only connected, but “smart” in one way or another. [Points to readers who know what movie the GIF is from. #90sKid]
It’s not uncommon for me to be out and about and receive a movement notification with a live stream of my cats being rambunctious, or an alert telling me the apartment is too hot so it’s turning on my A/C (the cats have to be comfortable too!), or a notification that the mailman has come and delivered the mail. I’ve become accustom to my house giving me quick updates on what’s going on when I’m not there, while also self-ajusting based on the conditions around and in it. And if something goes awry, alarms go off, alerts are sent, and I’m able to check-in and take action. [Thankfully the latter has only happened once when my landlords decided to make an unscheduled visit. The look on their faces when sirens started roaring and my lights turned red and started blinking was priceless. Let’s just say they give me plenty of notice now… 😂]
But last week, my smart home decided to take a vacation and unplug… while I was 200 miles away on a work trip, and it certainly reminded me of how accustomed I am to being “connected,” and the dependenies it causes.
At 06:00, I had woke up and noticed a notification on my iPhone from 01:26––it said my camera had been disconnected for over 4 hours. My initial thought was that my rambunctious cats were playing with the dangling wire and just unplugged the camera, but I reviewed the footage leading up to the time it went offline, and there was nothing, no cats, nothing. I then checked the slew of other connected gadgets I have, and quickly realised that everything seemed to be offline. Internet problems, right? It has to be… Maybe the router hiccuped, or the cats unpluged it (I’m telling you — they’re quite the trouble makers, and love wires).
Something seemed off though, I’ve had my smart home setup for over 4 years, and not once has the entire system gone down, maybe one thing now and then, but never the entire network, both hardwired and wireless devices. So I thought, let’s check with the ISP and ping the modem, well the ISP reported no outages, but it did report that it wasn’t able to access my modem. I repeatidly sent a refresh signal to the modem in hopes of the ISP being able to reconnect to it, but had no success. At this point, my only other thought was that the power was off, but this also seemed like an odd possibility given that the electric company had no reported outages, nor have I ever had a power outage last for longer than a few minutes unless there was a major storm (there was not at this time).
Well for the next few hours, my anxiety got the best of me… was there a fire that knocked out the power? Was there a power outage and the Internet just didn’t reconnect? Was it something malicious? WHAT’S GOING ON‽ I knew that it was likely nothing, but that didn’t stop me from wondering, and having my friend go and check to make sure things were okay. Thankfully it wasn’t in the winter either, otherwise I would have been even more woried not knowing if my thermostat was on/working, if my pipes were freezing, and the cats were warm/okay.
At the end of the day, it’s funny how during normal operations, smart home technology can provide a sense of security and ease of mind that everything is okay, and even when things aren’t, at least you can check in, view video feeds, or take action. But as I was reminded, the second that technology goes away after being so accustomed to it, it can bring fourth anxieties, that you may have not even had before the technologies existed.
When my work trip was over, I came home to my door unlocking for me, my lights turning on, the radio greeting me, thermostat adjusting, and so on and so fourth. Power was up, Internet was working, cats were relaxing unbeknownst that anything had even happened. To this day, I have no clue what caused everything to go offline, but I’ll just continue to think my smart home went on a brief vacation… or maybe it just wanted to remind me how much I rely on it now.