Tech that Drives Good Behavior

9/8/2011

M2M (machine-to-machine) technology is a wondrous thing: it can help you get to where you want to go, it can help you save time and money in your business, and it can even alert you to a flood in your basement. But have you noticed how motivating it can be? Connected devices enable realtime feedback, which is a powerful tool that can influence human behavior.

Consider connected fitness devices such as the Garmin, www.garmin.com, Forerunner series of GPS-enabled sport watches. By tracking a runner’s time, distance, pace, and calories burned in realtime and feeding the information back to the person, these devices can motivate, encourage, and generally maximize a workout.

The same goes for other devices such as BodyMedia’s, www.bodymedia.com, FIT armband BW weight-management system, which uses sophisticated sensors and Bluetooth technology to measure a person’s calorie burn and provide realtime data to the wearer.
 
Mike Ueland, vice president and general manager of Telit Wireless Solutions, www.telit.com, is a proponent of a concept called behavioral economics and the role connected devices and M2M can play in such a concept. Behavioral economics suggests human behavior can be swayed by forces such as emotion and convenience. In regards to the role M2M plays, Ueland believes the technology can provide incentives that could ultimately modify a person’s behavior.


For instance, pay-as-you-throw garbage programs use wireless sensors to create economic benefits for reducing waste. The sensors weigh the amount of trash and recycling homeowners take to the curb each week, then the municipality charges each residence accordingly. Those that throw less, pay less, and vice versa, incentivizing communities to think before they create trash.

“The most effective M2M applications work behind the scenes as intelligent agents with the user’s and society’s best interests in mind,” says Ueland, “(therefore) demonstrating the real-world results of … behavioral economics as they encourage beneficial decisions for today’s connected consumer.”

Pay-as-you-drive programs serve a similar purpose, using telematics information supplied by M2M solutions to report driving behavior to an insurance company, which charges accordingly. Such systems reward drivers for driving less, and more economically, by offering adjustable pricing in the place of a flat fee.

In-vehicle telematics solutions, such as the system found in the 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Chevy Volt, also offers incentive by providing realtime feedback based on how efficiently a person is driving. After all, if you can see that putting the pedal to the metal is draining your gas tank (or battery), you might begin to modify that behavior.

Earlier this week on The Peggy Smedley Show, www.peggysmedleyshow.com, an Internet talk radio show that covers M2M and connected devices, Ueland discussed the theory of behavioral economics in M2M, as well as a number of other topics relevant to today’s burgeoning marketplace. The topic will be covered in depth in an upcoming article in the November/December issue of Connected World magazine.

Technology sometimes gets a bad rap for encouraging negative behaviors, such as texting while driving or playing games on your tablet instead of spending time with your spouse. However, technology can also help us reach our goals, maximize our productivity, and in some cases, help us become better citizens.



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