When Technology Leads to Behavior Changes

Some might argue technology is making us less human. Others would argue just the opposite. No matter which opinion you share, you can’t dispute the rising trend of personal data collection and its effect on behavior change. But while behavior change might not be your ultimate goal, it can still happen. Take Automatic Link as a for instance, who leverages the OBD-II port in your car to report data back to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The device allows you to monitor your car’s speed, fuel injection rate and more. There’s also an accelerometer in the device, which detects sudden stops and starts and a speaker that beeps in those moments as if the device were chiding you about your driving habits.

The app will alert you when you’re going 70 miles per hour or if you’ve accelerated too quickly after a stoplight. The idea is that you can learn more about your driving behavior, which is distilled into a single score each week. As a bonus, the device can provide you additional information should your car display at Check Engine light and suggest ways to fix the issue. Also useful is a featured called Crash Alert which will telephone an emergency number and transmit your GPS location in the event of a crash.

This type of data is what Nest thermostats brought to your home. Since its launch, Nest reports they have saved US customers on average about 10-12 percent on their heating bills and 15 percent on their cooling bills.

Southern California Edison saw the opportunity to provide customers with additional insight into their utility bills following their rollout of smart meters. In one test, the company identified 30,000 customers whose bills were on track to be significantly higher than expected. Ten days into the billing cycle, the system sent an email with the header, “Your bill is going to be higher than you expect and we’re concerned.” More than 50 percent of customers opened the email. Compared to a control group, satisfaction rose by double digits, energy usage fell, and customer calls decreased. The lesson here is that customers love to learn more about themselves and especially through data. This transparency empowers them to change behaviors that may be costing them money or making them less healthy. Companies who offer this type of empowerment are in an excellent position to improve customer satisfaction and their bottom line.

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