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Winterthur households save energy thanks to app

In the Social Power project, households in Winterthur and Ticino tried out a fun way to reduce their power consumption using a game app and Smart Meters. In three months, the participants reduced their energy consumption by 5 per cent on average, while the control group used 10 per cent more power than usual in the same time period.

Projekt Social Power

From the beginning of February to the end of April 2016, 60 households in Winterthur and 60 in Ticino tried to reduce their power consumption by playing a game on a newly developed app. The app not only showed participants their individual power consumption and the potential for saving energy in their households, it also allowed them to collect points and interact with each other while doing so. One half of the households played as a team and focussed on reaching a common goal, while the other half competed against each other. This three-month game phase of the Social Power project, which is funded by the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, yielded the following results: while the power consumption of the control group, which did not use the game app, rose by more than 10 per cent on average, the households taking part in the Social Power project reduced their consumption by an average of 3 per cent in Winterthur and by as much as 7 per cent in Lugano. However, there was only a small difference in the results achieved by the groups playing the cooperative version of the game and the groups playing the competitive version. The biggest savers, a household with children in an apartment building in Winterthur, reduced their consumption by 37 per cent. They were among the winners who were awarded a prize at the beginning of June.

Changing behaviours in the long term
An initial survey among the participants has shown that most of them have gained a greater awareness of their own power consumption and of energy saving in general. Whether this playful approach can have a long-term effect on energy saving is being investigated by researchers at the ZHAW in collaboration with the Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI) as well as the two energy suppliers Electric Agency Massagno SA (AEM) and Stadtwerk Winterthur. The project is due to last until mid-2017. “Besides the long-term changes in behaviour brought about by the game app, we are also studying which energy-saving measures the participants took and why they chose to reduce their power consumption”, says ZHAW researcher Vicente Carabias. The project is already having an impact on the Smart Meters installed in the participating households. These were designed to measure power consumption every 15 minutes and transmit the data directly to the game app. Their algorithms are now being adapted to take more frequent measurements so that users can access real-time information on their individual power consumption.

Information on the Social Power project:

ZHAW Social Power Team, phone: 058 934 45 87, e-mail:

Vicente Carabias, Institute of Sustainable Development, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone: 058 934 70 15, e-mail:

Devon Wemyss, Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, ZHAW School of Management and Law, phone: 058 934 46 29, e-mail:

Media Relations:
Manuel Martin, ZHAW Corporate Communications, phone: 058 934 75 75, e-mail:

Melanie Geiger, Stadtwerk Winterthur, Marketing, phone: 052 267 62 58,