Would gamification work in the smart grid? Possibly. Others have asked the same question. But some would ask, why do you need to incent people to save money? Because people’s self-interest might not be aligned with the smart-grid as currently envisioned by vendors and utilities.
Gamification’s value is to do something against one’s self-interest without realizing it. At the same time, people play games to accomplish something aspirational. How can these two, somewhat contradictory, precepts be applied to the smart-grid?
People resist the smart grid because of its perceived complexity, expense and intrusiveness. They are acting in their self-interest. Secondly, the smart-grid is supposedly about giving the end-user controls over their own consumption. Unfortunately, utilities are scared by this future, since it runs counter to revenue growth.
Enter gamification where everyone might win. If introduced into the design of smart-grid solutions from the get-go it could have a fundamental impact on penetration, acceptance and ultimately revenue and profit growth for the utility industry. Why? Because the demand for electricity is potentially unlimited and the easier and more efficient the industry makes consumption the greater the growth potential.
So what might gamification of the smart grid look like? It would need to satisfy the following conditions: personal growth, societal improvement and marketing engagement. Right now solutions I’ve read about focus on individual rewards (see Welectricity and Lowfoot), but there is a growing body of evidence that people respond better when their use is compared to their neighbors. So why not turn efficiency and production into a contest? Research is already underway in Hawaii and Chicago. Small, innovative app-driven solutions are entering the market; even supported by former US Vice Presidents.
To get as much participation and ensure wide-spread rewards smart-grid gamification contests should be held at home, neighborhood, city, county, state, all the way to national levels. It should provide for both relative and absolute changes to provide ALL users an incentive to win; not just the largest users. And not just individuals, but groups as well. Contests could also get down to the appliance level and ultimately should include contribution/cogeneration (here’s another example).
Utilities have done a poor job of getting customers to look at their info online; less than 10% on average. Playing games with customers and following recipes like this might be a way to change all that. Win, win, win.
Gaming across all industries