Let's face it: scrimping and saving on energy isn't fun. It takes hard work and a lot of effort to see even small changes on your utility bill. But a new partnership between an energy company, one of the largest environmental organizations, and world's biggest social network is about to change all that.
Facebook, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and OPOWER, a company that uses game mechanics to encourage people to use less energy in their homes, recently announced the impending launch of a new app that will allow people to share and compare information about their electricity use with friends via social media.
The idea is to use the power of social networking, gaming and competition to get users engaged with ways to reduce their energy consumption. Think if a Facebook could app could bring the social power of Farmville to home energy management.
Dozens of companies, including Google and Microsoft have tried to locate the sweet-spot of technology and socialization that would compel people to become interested in their energy consumption, but none had the built-in power of 800 million Facebook users on its side.
People are addicted to sharing personal data on Facebook, from their current musical playlist to the location of their dinner date. It makes sense the ability to publicize low energy consumption rates would be attractive to sharing-addicts, and could inspire friendly competition between friends.
But that's not all the Opower app can do.
According to the NRDC, the initial set of features will allow consumers to:
• Compare Energy Use to Similar Homes: People will be able to benchmark their home energy use against a national database of millions of homes. All benchmarking will be done on an aggregate level, ensuring complete data privacy.
Publish Conversations About Energy to the Facebook Newsfeed: People will be able to share information about their energy use, rank, group participation, and tips they've completed.
• Group Development – Cooperation and Competition: Communities of people will be able to form teams to help each other achieve collective goals, as well as compete against other groups. Teams will be rewarded and incentivized by their utility or other network partners.
• Automatically Import Energy Data: Customers of participating utilities will be able to import their energy data into the application automatically. (Customers from utilities that are not participating will also have the option to input their energy usage into the app manually.)
The application is in Beta now, and will be available to the public early next year. Over the next few months, NRDC and Opower will work to bring utility companies on board.
"We are pleased that thus far ComEd, City of Palo Alto Utilities and Glendale Water and Power, have committed to working together to engage their customers more directly in this venture, and we anticipate that others will join us, stated Brandi Colander of NRDC. This will help people cut monthly electric bills while being part of a collective effort to cut pollution at the same time. We hope the 800 million people on Facebook agree."
What do you think about the Opower app? Would you use it? Share your thoughts in a comment!