IoT Making a Game of Life

Games make life fun. Even in a make-believe world, you formulate strategies on how to succeed, very much aware that every move and decision you make would affect your character in one way or another. Now, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), you are able to get data and information that allow you to gamify your life.

In recent years, gamification has become a strong trend. So much so that even processes that are not traditionally related to games have been gamified. You are seeing gamification in marketing, in employee retention, in training, and in just about every aspect of the workplace. It has been used for customer engagement, in education, in entertainment, and in other areas as well.

The IoT will amplify this trend. Bryan Kirschner, Apigee Institute director and avid gamer, puts it succinctly: “Gamification in the workplace and classroom isn’t a new concept. But with the rise of the IoT data, we may be seeing gamification spread to life-somewhat of a real-life game stacked on top of reality.”

The game no longer involves decision making to increase imaginary wealth, or have successful fictional characters. Instead, you are moving the game to involve you, your health, your finances, and other aspects of your life. Kirschner provides examples: “Will eating this brownie set me back from my weight loss goals for the week? If I forget to take my pill, will my smart health device penalize me or alert my doctor?”

And we are already seeing some good examples of how gamification makes life interesting. For instance, Fitocracy is rewarding users with level ups for losing weight, while HabitRPG punishes you for forgetting to floss.

Gamification goes beyond power ups, level ups, and penalties, though. Some manufacturers are really stepping up to make gamification and the Internet of Things really impressive. For one, the Ford Fusion Hybrid is teaching drivers about greener driving by showing a digital tree that dies or grows depending on the driver’s use of the energy saving features of the car. And Walgreens’ has its Balance Rewards program, which gives you points and badges when you achieve your fitness goals.

What does gamification give you? Kirschner explains that it gives you “certain and immediate positive reinforcement… just like what you might get from a carefully architected game world in which every action is automatically tracked.”

Gamification is making its greatest mark in the wearables market. The problem with wearables, such as a smart watch or a fitness band, is that it is difficult for one to differentiate itself from other smart watches or fitness bands. For instance, a smart watch can have pretty much the same features as another smart watch, and sometimes they have roughly the same price as well. As time passes, there would be no distinguishing feature among the many smart watches out there.

Gamification would be the killer feature that would help manufacturers get their wearables a step above the competition. Done right, gamification could give wearables the edge they need to become the wearable of choice. But manufactures would need to think what they could do with the personal data that these wearables wear, and how they could turn these personal data into an application that the wearers would want.

This gamification would also address another issue that we are seeing now with wearables, which is that users often find that the novelty wears off after a while. You could be excited about getting a fitness band that tracks your steps and activities, even the quality of your sleep. After a while, however, you get tired of it and may rarely use it. With gamification, there is a psychological reward for every milestone that you reach or achievements that you accomplish. For example, you can tweet automatically when you reach a goal, or about getting a much-coveted badge when you run your 1,000th mile.

According to Kirschner:

Gamification is the wearable industry’s killer app. As wearables are able to collect more sophisticated information about our daily behaviors, ranging from steps taken each day to hydration levels to biometric data like blood pressure, gamification of life can be realized in very interesting ways by wearables.

But it does not stop at just level ups, badges, and bragging rights. You could soon expect to be rewarded by insurers and medical providers as well. As Kirschner puts it, “With ‘big data’ analytics, you can literally learn how much you’re extending your lifespan — and insurers, medical providers may have a strong incentive to reward you for improved health.” So could we expect Aetna to start offering badges for every fitness goal that you achieve, and then you can exchange these badges for rebates? Or how about offering lower premiums depending on the number of badges you have collected?

The bottom line? Gamification makes things interesting. It uses rewards, achievement, and competition to make sure that you are sufficiently engaged to keep working at the task at hand or to keep playing the game long after the novelty has worn off.

Life, however, is not programmed or controlled like games are. This is where the Internet of Things proves useful. By collecting personal data and sophisticated information about your behaviors in daily life, it can provide a good way to effectively gamify your life. Kirschner gives an unlikely example: blood sugar testing. He says:

Wearables could gamify testing blood sugar levels for diabetics, making the process fun and efficient by turning it into a game. For example, some apps and websites reward weight loss and meeting fitness goals with virtual badges and “level ups” — this could be applied to keeping blood glucose levels on target.

You are not just testing blood sugar levels, but you are also getting rewarded for keeping your blood sugar in check. This kind of interaction between your own behavioral data and the psychological, and sometimes tangible rewards such as discounts and reward points, can help change your behavior. This helps you succeed in your finances, keep better tabs on your health, and improve just about any aspect of your life. And you can manage to do all these in a fun way.

In the end, it is the Internet of Things that makes it all possible.

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