October 9, 2011

open data and behaviour change

I have an application on my smartphone that keeps track of my data usage for me. It lets me know when I start to get close to the monthly data limit covered by my cell plan. A week ago, it informed me that if I continued on at my current rate, I would use 110% of my allowed limit for the billing period. The feedback helped me to make some changes, such as setting my phone to use wifi instead of the cell network for data where available. Getting realtime feedback from the app made it possible for me to change my behaviour. I moved from unconscious use to paying more attention to what I am doing. It works. Today my app tells me I will be within my use limit.

This is a simple example of an approach that makes a difference for us in areas of concern. For example, we might be concerned about our own electricity use, water use, or carbon production, but not have information available that could enable us to modify our behaviour in these areas.

Think of what would be possible if we had access to our own data, and to data in general about populations similar to us.

I look at my hydro bill each month. I like that my usage data is provided on a month to month basis, and I can compare it to the same period in previous years.  But so much information is missing that could be really helpful to me.

What do I really need from my hydro company? Access to my own data, hour by hour and day by day, so I can see what happens when I run a load of laundry, fill my jacuzzi, or leave the kitchen light on for the evening, or run my desktop computer overnight.  Give me usage data for others in houses just like mine (electric heat, 1940s construction, temperate climate) so I can really compare how I am doing and make changes.

One of the things about open data that is exciting for citizens is having access to data about things that matter to us.  I would love to have better access to data that would help me to make better decisions in areas of consumption and conservation.

No comments:

Post a Comment