Five things to glean from Pokemon Go (for your utility's mobile app)

Posted on August 01, 2016

Don’t know Pokemon Go? It’s the latest game craze where you go out to “capture” Pokemon creatures using an augmented reality overlay on your smartphone. And, in less than a week, it’s taken over the world, we swear. (OK. It just got released in Europe and has yet to be released in Japan. So, maybe not the world … yet.)

So, looking through all the news on this craze, what can you learn for the mobile app you’re building for your utility?

1. Try and make that app fun … and maybe you’ll go viral, too.

Granted, you are building a large, complicated application that involves billing, data use, and likely outage information … and none of that really sounds like any fun at all. But, it can be. I’m not suggesting you take the Pokemon Go approach so that you have people chase their bill information down the street outside at midnight, but no one says a little basic game or two on electricity and/or an infographic or so on the power of power is a bad thing to add in to spice things up. And maybe an emoji or a cute little mascot. (Seriously. Mascots are uber popular.)

2. Cash in on that love of augmented reality.

We’ve been looking for years at practical augmented reality options for the power industry---potential overlays for field work that tells me the life of a system or the quirks of a substation transformer. Pokemon Go is just proof that you can make it fun, too. Perhaps you should think about using the augmented reality of your field apps for customers, too. How about having their use info pop up when they hover their phone over their thermostat? Or perhaps even tell them the average power use of appliances as they hover their phone over those in the house? Something to think about, at least.

3. Realize that the right mix of fun in your app can breathe new life into your overall brand.

Last week, Pokemon was pretty much over and done. It was a stale brand tromped on by Frozen and Shopkins. One little augmented reality app comes along and it’s now the hottest thing of the moment. (According to MarketWatch, Pokemon Go has added $9 billion to Nintendo’s market cap in just the last two days.) Now, I’m not saying your best billing app will instantly make you Nike or Apple, but it could give your customers a new vision of the new you: a smarter, younger, more flexible, not so ancient utility. In the words of my mother, you’ll look “hip and with it.”

4. Think about the problems that your new app could create.

Pokemon Go is great fun, but I’m sure no one really thought about how it could be used for evil. But, let’s be honest, there’s always going to be someone out there ready to use whatever you build nefariously. It’s just how the world works these days. And four guys in Missouri have already found the best way to be evil with Pokemon Go. (They used it to anticipate where people might be with the popular PokeStops part of the game and then robbed those distracted little gamers when they showed up.) There have also been reports of traffic accidents from distracted driving. So, definitely give some thoughts to the potential downsides to the mobile app you have on the drawing board.

5. Keep building on that app. Don’t let it go stagnant.

One of the Pokemon Go co-creaters, Niantic (which worked with Nintendo to bring the game to life) was inspired by a Google-ran 2014 April Fool’s Day game where you could locate Pokemon on Google Maps. And Niantic founder, John Hanke, wondered if a whole Pokemon hunt game might work out. Hmmm. Eight million downloads and counting. Yep. We think so. So, run with some of those fun ideas, build on the positives and don’t just “hit it and quit it” as James Brown sang. Return to make it better, make it more adaptable, make it more user-friendly. And follow up on some of those crazier ideas your team has. Might pay off.

Get more lessons on building a better app (and other mobility insights) at Energy Central’s upcoming Mobile Utility Summit Sept. 27-28 in Denver. Want more info? No need to wander out into the street to capture it. Just click here.

Pokemon Go gaming imagery courtesy of the press kit available online here. 

Authored By:
With nearly two decades writing about the power business, Kathleen Wolf Davis has covered just about every industry topic imaginable from European DSOs to Brazil's smart meter markets. She combines a T&D special focus with her MFA in creative writing for a unique viewpoint in every article. Originally hailing from the wilds of Kansas, she has three too many college degrees, has helmed two industry conferences (one in Europe) and

Other Posts by: Kathleen Wolf Davis

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