Innovation

Gamification: the joke that is serious

Feb 04, 2019 | 58 views

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the forecast for the growth in demand for global electricity by 2040 should be higher than 25%. This increasing dependence on society for electric energy has given even more emphasis to the need to preserve our natural resources. One of the initiatives used to mitigate the problem is the adoption of public policies that promote energy efficiency.

For distributors, demand control, especially at peak times, also motivates energy efficiency actions with their consumers. Defining programs that really promote energy savings is not always an easy task, especially when it comes to residential consumers. Investing in the dissemination of information related to conscious consumption is one of the strategies often adopted by energy companies. However, the practical results of these programs are often limited and are not capable of promoting expected behavioral changes in consumers.

For many, the evolution of the electric grid to the so-called Smart Grids, through the adoption of Smart Meters, would be a decisive factor in this equation. Unlike conventional power meters, where power consumption is read from time to time, Smart Meters provide consumer information in real time. So, no longer having to wait for the end of the month to access your energy bill, consumers can access the information at any time and take immediate action to control their consumption. However, more recent studies have shown that simply providing information can also have a limited effect on people's eating habits.

Adopting complementary strategies that increase consumer engagement can be critical in this context so that energy efficiency campaigns as well as investing in new systems, such as Smart Meters, bring better results from the energy-saving point of view. One technique that has been used successfully in other areas to increase people engagement and modify their behavior and which can potentially be applied in this context is called gamification.

Gamification in the utilities sector

It is usually much easier to persuade a child to participate in a game than to do his or her schoolwork. With that in mind, many schools have started to use gaming mechanisms to help motivate children. Note at this point that it is not a matter of creating an educational game, but of using elements of games, such as punctuation, badges, progress information, leaderboards, among others, to generate motivation in school activities . Thus, gamification consists of using gaming mechanisms to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. This technique has been used as an efficient engagement tool in several areas, and shows great potential for the utilities sector.

Some utilities have already started using gamification to create more motivating experiences for their customers and employees. An example of use comes from Thames Water, a London utility. The company had the challenge of mapping water meters in a certain reference area, so it created a treasure hunt-like experience to motivate customers and employees to accomplish the task. For that, an App for smartphones was created where people could register the location of the equipment. Elements of games such as score by the number of equipment identified, the quality of information collected, awards such as badges, and the competition between people and teams were used to motivate people in the activity.

The technique has also been used in the context of energy efficiency to create engaging experiences for consumers. An example of use in this scenario was developed by the Californian company Bidgely. The company transformed the problem of demand control and energy savings into a game that promoted behavioral changes. The application generated by the company mixes the availability of analytical information (such as real-time energy consumption, energy consumption by equipment etc.) with game elements to motivate people to analyze their consumption information and define strategies that lead to a real energy saving. The solution was applied in a pilot project with the Australian concessionaire United Energy, and according to Bidgely, managed to reach a large participation of consumers, taking the economy at peak times of around 30%.

The use of gamification involves knowledge of the specific application domain and the goals to be achieved, something usually known to energy utilities or companies in the industry. However, it is also necessary knowledge and skill in game design, which often involves issues such as rule definition, reward system, social connection, graphical interface, performance information, among others.

Companies specialized in game creation and user experience are fundamental in this context. Thus, the success of a project with gamification depends in large part on the creation of a multidisciplinary team that can meet both of these goals, creating a fun and motivating experience for users, without losing sight of the business objectives of the project.