Skip to Content

Smarter Smartphone Alerts Come In When You Want Them

A startup says its algorithm can tell when a smartphone notification would just annoy you.
August 10, 2015

Smartphone notifications can be annoying if they interrupt you while you’re working, eating, or sleeping. A startup says it has a way to make sure they’re always helpful.

Called Triggerhood, the New York-based startup says it has built software that developers can add to their apps to collect data from an app itself—such as how long it’s been operating, when it’s opened, and when it’s closed. This information is combined with location data and signals from smartphone sensors that indicate whether the phone’s user is running, driving, or tilting the device, and is sent anonymously to Triggerhood’s servers, where an algorithm determines whether you’re likely to find it a good or bad time to get a notification.

It takes a few days to build a personal profile for a user before Triggerhood can determine that, say, a news app should send you notifications about articles after you go running rather than during your run.

Triggerhood’s cofounder and product head, Guy Balzam, says several small apps are using it. His company is working to bring it to some larger apps as well. Balzam says the information it collects isn’t personally identifiable or linked to a user’s identity.

Cary Stothart, a Florida State University graduate student and the lead author of a recently published paper on disruptive cell phone notifications, says that his research indicates that simply knowing you’ve received a notification can pull attention away from whatever you’re doing at the time. If Triggerhood can figure out how to hold off on sending notifications to people who are driving or working, he says, that could help reduce distractions.

He doesn’t think it will lead to an overall reduction in the notifications we get, though. “Ideally, these apps shouldn’t send notifications unless it’s important,” he says. “But they have to compete with each other, so there’s no stopping them.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept
AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept

The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere

The mainstream approach to driverless cars is slow and difficult. These startups think going all-in on AI will get there faster.

biomass with Charm mobile unit in background
biomass with Charm mobile unit in background

Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal

The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.