Bribery, or perhaps it’s better described as clever bartering, is at the heart of a number of Smart City applications.

I came across a lovely example of it recently in a service from Glasgow city aimed at improving energy efficiency for the city. The planners wanted to develop a 3D model of the city, with information on building efficiency, roof types, energy use, etc. The goal: “The model would allow energy planners to look at all aspects of energy consumption and building data and use this in planning energy solutions for the city.”

However, although the City of Glasgow had this information for city buildings, and many commercial buildings, they knew that getting the information from households would be difficult.

Their solution? Some clever bartering! They setup a web site which encouraged home owners to provide data on their energy usage, and in return they were provided with a tailored energy report that offered money saving tips as well as pointers to grants and ‘offers’ that could be used to replace old appliances and install energy saving devices.

(There’s a quick overview of the Energy App here , with access to the building energy maps. The background information is contained in the free Smart City overview from the British Standards Institute (BSI PD 8100:2015) –  a great read by the way!)

By linking the website to the 3D model, they were able to harvest household data and use it to augment their city wide 3D model.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 9.47.35 AM

(Screen shot from the Glasgow City Energy App)

Here at Urban Opus, we have been exploring a similar application – Energize – that aims to educate kids about energy usage and get them to reduce household energy use.

The proposal follows a similar barter-based approach. Kids are encouraged to help their parents reduce household energy use – in exchange for a cut of the savings. To make the deal sweeter – and get parental buy-in – savings are also matched by charitable donations.

BC-Hydro-usageIt works by asking parents and their kids to sign up to a deal to split the household savings. Kids then access their household data – which in Vancouver is now available online to all households curtesy of BC-Hydro – and upload it to the Energize app. Tips are offered on how to reduce household energy, and the app monitors progress as new data is uploaded. Monthly spend data is available from BC-Hydro and so any reduction can be computed. The app makes the savings explicit to the kids and their parents, allowing them to share the savings.


By encouraging local foundations to take part, the household saving can also be matched by a charitable donation which incentivizes parents and engages more of the community.

So call it bribery or clever bartering, but hey, it’s a win-win for everyone and all in a good cause!