Smartphone app uses gaming approach to deliver energy savings

March 25, 2013 // By Paul Buckley
An EnergyLife app smartphone application developed through BeAware, a EU funded project, led by the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), in Finland aims to bring gaming dimensions to energy awareness to reduce power consumption .

The app has helped householders in Finland, Sweden and Italy reduce their electricity consumption by up to 19%.

Householders do not always know how much energy they consume. To help improve their awareness, the EnergyLife app was developed through BeAware, an EU funded project, led by the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT), in Finland.

As part of the project, consumers in test groups had their home appliances fitted with wireless sensors. This enabled real-time information on power consumption to be delivered via the mobile app. The app is designed like a game to entice consumer to treat energy saving as a fun activity. By reading tips, completing quizzes and reducing their electricity usage they were able to collect scores and progress through higher levels in the game.

“What we noticed with all lot of energy awareness programmes is that they have an impact for a limited time, but people lose interest over time,” explained Giulio Jacucci, the project coordinator and a professor of computer science at HIIT. “The idea of gamification is to maintain engagement by accompanying the consumer through a process whereby they learn something, achieve some goals and move on to the next level. If they are under-challenged, they will become bored whereas if they are over-challenged, they become frustrated.” He believes the game provides a way of always keeping consumers engaged with the right amount of challenge.

This approach leads to collaboration among players.

“The gamification process introduces some interesting social mechanisms,” Jacucci added. “The users compete one against another initially. But after a while, they start to ask questions of each other, so it becomes cooperative in the way they share new information and knowledge.”

What the results showed was that when users were provided with personalised feedback, they achieved the greatest savings. This, Jacucci believes, is because it crystallised the link between specific behaviour – for example putting something very hot in the refrigerator