Potatoes win Prizes – Gamification, Loyalty and Viggle

Over the past few years I’ve been working in the mHealth and smart energy sectors.  Both have a common belief, which is that consumers will do things that are in their own interest – namely spend time and effort in order to save themselves money and keep themselves fit.

That mantra has seen a raft of new companies appear in each sector, directly targeting the public with products that attempt to change consumer behaviour or lock them into a brand.  In the mHealth sector most have realised that medical or clinical approaches are too difficult, so have euphemistically renamed exercise and dieting as health and fitness.  Meanwhile, energy utilities are attempting to improve their image by rolling out customer engagement programs, whether that’s in the form of green button apps in the US, or in home energy displays in the UK.  Both hope that this will result in customer loyalty for their brand, attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.

In recent months both sectors have latched onto gamification, often as a result of hiring strategic marketing people from web and mobile phone companies.  They’ve taken to gamification like enthusiastic bricks to water, hoping it will change the way consumers value their products and buy from them.  I think they’re sadly mistaken.  As proof, I’d cite the success of Viggle, which illustrates exactly what the average consumer wants from gamification.  Viggle let’s you win points by watching TV.  It’s nothing to do with better health or savings on your energy bill – it’s the couch potato dream of free pizza for mindless inactivity.

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Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth – battle to the death?

The media lapped up the recent press release from the Wi-Fi Alliance, announcing the birth of Wi-Fi Direct.  Almost to a man, they decided once again that it would kill Bluetooth.  I suspect that Bluetooth will prove to have something in common with Mark Twain, being able to sit back and calmly repeat that “the report of my death is an exaggeration”.

For many of the reports, that analysis seems to be based on little more than the relative number of press releases that the two organisations send out.  For some reason known only to itself, the Bluetooth SIG is remarkably reticent about publicising its technology, preferring to sit quietly on its laurels of shipments of over a billion chips per year (1,050 million in 2008 – IMS).  Wi-Fi tends to be more vociferous about its plans, possibly stung by the fact that it manages to ship only just over a third of that (387 million in 2008 – Instat).  As is often the case with young pretenders, noise can be rather more noticeable than actions.  (Incidentally, no other short range standard gets within an order of magnitude of the lower of these figures.)

A few articles dug down a bit more into the technology itself, and came to less of a conclusion as a result.  None of them thought about what really matters, which is what the user experience will look like.  So let’s do exactly that…

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Usability through Dance

It’s August, so I’m doing what I do every year and spending a couple of weeks at the Edinburgh Festival, seeing as many shows as I can manage.  It’s rare to see much that says anything about technology or design, but this year I was blown away by a show that should be compulsory viewing for anyone concerned with product design.  Even more surprising is the fact that it was a dance piece.

ME (Mobile/Evolution), written and performed by Claire Cunnigham is about crutches.  Since a bicycle accident at the age of fourteen she has been using crutches.  Four years ago she took up dance and since then has rapidly gained fame as a disabled performer.  I should add that, having seen her, the adjective disabled seems utterly inappropriate, as what she manages to do far surpasses most people’s physical capabilities.

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Designing Consumer Medical Products


To coincide with the Medica exhibition I wrote a White Paper called “Trust me – I’m not a Doctor” to explore some of the changes that I think are necessary for the development of usable consumer health devices.  One reader came back to me with a very pertinent question – “It’s one thing to say what needs to change, but what steps can manufacturers take in order to keep up with the latest developments in technology?”


It’s a very good question.  Much of the medical industry concentrates on gradual evolution.  It’s not an industry that is either particularly fast moving, or prone to disruptive influences.  Certainly Medica was very much about more of the same and not doing anything new.


That poses a real problem, and to address it I think you have to take a deliberatively disruptive approach by thinking outside the box.  Rather than asking how to keep abreast of technology, which is only likely to increase the pace of the current linear evolution, I’d suggest the more heretical view of thinking about what happens to the market when the clinician is excluded from it. 

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