Gamification and telematics

Gamification and telematics

Gamification is a tech buzz word, but it’s also a solid idea: One of the best ways to get people to change their behavior, learn something or do something that’s good for them is to make it fun.

In other words, make a game of it.

It has recently taken off in the realm of fitness and health, most notably with the Nike+ FuelBand that lets people set goals and track their activity levels.

Now, car makers are discovering the potential of gamification to help people save fuel, drive more safely and stay loyal to a brand.

“The essence of gamification is about information that can be used in a way that changes user behavior,” says Masaichi Hasegawa, a principal at Deloitte Consulting. “The other angle in gamification is marketing and building loyalty, engaging consumers in a way that gets them hooked.”

ECO game 

The digital instrument cluster for the Kia Optima Hybrid shows how game principles can be used to encourage eco-friendly driving, for example. Kia’s designers could have used a rudimentary gauge to show when the driver is wasting fuel. Instead, they created a digital representation of a globe that gets greener with improving fuel efficiency.

“It’s a great way to involve the customer in something and also has an appeal to a younger demographic that has already experienced video games and innately understands this,” says Steve Kosowski, manager of long-range strategy and planning for Kia Motors America. “It becomes a little bit of a game: How green can you be?”

What’s more, drivers can track their eco-driving over time and compete against themselves. “You can drive the way you want, but if you want to drive more efficiently, the information screens become a coach,” Kosowski says. “You become engaged with the car and enthusiastic about driving efficiently.”

The Nissan Leaf has another version of this concept: a tree that is built in layers as driving efficiency increases. Meanwhile, Ford’s EVs and hybrids use blue butterflies to reward fuel-efficient driving.

Gamification can also help shape people’s attitudes. According to Kosowski, the Optima’s globe getting progressively greener can encourage people to “be more mindful of a global point of view.”

(For more on eco-driving, see Telematics and eco-driving solutions.)

Upping the game 

The next step, Hasegawa says, is allowing some of the information that the driver consumes in the vehicle to be shared outside of it, whether that’s via a portal the driver can log into or a data feed to a third party, such as an insurer.

“Enhancing the safety and environmental impact of driving starts to spill into peripheral industries like insurance, where what you do in-vehicle has direct consequences to what you pay,” Hasegawa says. “The insurance industry wants to collect as much data as possible, help us be more intelligent drivers and shape the risk profile of individual drivers. Letting the driver consume that information later makes things more interesting.”

USAA Insurance does exactly that with its Young Drivers Intelligence program. It includes a free telematics device that wirelessly transmits data about driving, such as acceleration, braking, location and time of day, to a central server. Both the hardware and software were designed and implemented by Intelligent Mechatronic Systems.

Parents can log onto a portal to look at individual trips and driving parameters, and are offered a variety of coaching tips. “If it’s about speeding, we might give them some talking points about the danger to help facilitate the dialog with the teen,” says Rod Gonzales, lead property and casualty staff underwriter at USAA Insurance.

Teens have their own portal, and that’s where gamification comes in. Young drivers can see how their trips were rated according to a number-of-stars system, and they also get a numeric score they can track over time. The star system is familiar to kids, Gonzales says, and “They do tend to associate it with scholastic achievement.”

(For more on insurnace telematics, see Industry insight: Insurance telematics.)

Insurance loyalty 

As usage-based insurance becomes ubiquitous, insurers could use gamification as a differentiator for their products as well, says Bob Mathe, president of HIMEX, a company that offers a gamification-enabled, usage-based insurance and fleet-management platform.

He says that getting drivers to engage with games or feedback systems can engender the kind of trust and attachment that will keep them from switching insurers just to save a few dollars. Meanwhile, straightforward rewards can motivate drivers to drive better.

Hasegawa adds, “The best way to take advantage of the gamification concept is to make sure there is a very clear and tangible benefit to the user, whether you [are] in the vehicle or outside the vehicle.”

For example, HIMEX could enable a service for a fleet owner that offers employees perks for good braking styles and staying inside the company’s geo-fence. Rewards could include days off, a bonus or a simple recognition. “You could report results on a leaderboard on the company phone that each employee had,” Mathe suggests.

He thinks insurers might also want to take pay-how-you-drive to the next level, by providing constant feedback and dynamic pricing. “An insurer could take two or three key performance indicators that are key drivers of a usage-based rating program, ask the customer to set his target and give routine feedback. That customer could end up seeing daily an opportunity to reduce his insurance price,” he says.

HIMEX is in talks with one insurer about developing a rewards program for teen drivers that would help cement the insurer’s relationships with local communities. The idea is that the insurer would partner with a customer, such as a high school, to create a high school prom contest. Kids would participate in the month-long contest via a mobile app branded by the insurer and supported by signage in local stores.

The app would encourage the kids to make smart choices during the last month of high school, such as safe driving and obeying curfews. Participants would get recognition via a leaderboard, where they could compete, for example, section by section or boys against girls. Rewards could include trips, store discounts, free food or a limo for the prom.
Says Mathe, “The game produces more potential customers, while all the kids in a high school are benefitting from your branded, game-based application.”

Social competition 

This kind of competition is a central element of gamification, and there’s definitely room to add this into telematics in the future. Already, drivers can compete against themselves to improve their eco-driving. Someday, maybe they’ll be able to compete with others.

There are two kinds of score-keeping in the Kia Optima Hybrid. First, the in-dash display lets the driver track how economically she’s driving. Then, if she can get the dashboard ECO level to the top, she’ll get a point on a saved ECO score. Points accumulate over time, making it potentially more engaging than the simple per-trip display.

Right now, the accumulated points are only available on the car’s dashboard. While Kia doesn’t operate forums or a website where drivers can brag, it’s easy to find Kia owners doing so online at independent forums.

This gamification could be enhanced even more if Kia, for example, let drivers opt into having their scores displayed on a portal that could be accessed by others – similar to how players of online multiplayer games such as “Call of Duty” can see how their scores stack up. This social competition aspect would be icing on the cake, according to Hasegawa. “It’s what hooks people into this, so they continue to use it and draw upon it, and that’s where loyalty is built.”

But creating the out-of-car infrastructure that would, for example, automatically post someone’s ECO score on a website’s leader board requires the kind of evolved vendor ecosystem and cross-vendor collaboration that the telematics industry is still struggling toward, he adds.

There is also something to be said for not going overboard with gamification. OEMs and insurers need to balance fun with safety, Hasegawa warns. “If you’re in a vehicle, it needs to be safe,” he says. “It needs to provide information useful to the driver in real-time; and it needs to be something that draws a real benefit.”

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on Sept. 4-5 in Chicago, Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2013 on Sept. 11-12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan/China 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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