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Using data to harness social pressure can be a powerful force for good

Written on:June 4, 2013
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For the past five years Opower has been conducting the largest behavioral science experiment in the world, says Opower co-founder Alex Laskey during his TED talk this year, which was just published online. Opower uses software and data to send messages to utility customers to convince them to lower their energy consumption, and far and away has found that using the social pressure of how much energy someone’s neighbors have saved, is what commonly drives the biggest results for its users.

Many people in the tech industry, and energy circles, are familiar with Opower. As I wrote last year, they’re the big data energy player to beat. But it’s good to see Laskey’s TED talk — in which he shows the actual volume of the coal needed to power a light bulb for a year — get some more mainstream play. I’m also excited about the emergence of competition in this energy data and efficiency field, as that will lead to even more innovation in using data and software to reduce energy consumption. Watch the video!

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