Microsoft and Schneider Electric Partner on “Appathon” Aimed at Promoting Energy Efficiency and Changing the Way We Use and Experience Energy

The way we use, consume and experience energy in cities hasn’t changed much in almost a century. Schneider Electric and Microsoft believe it’s time for a change.

What the world needs is a compelling user-friendly way for consumers to get a handle on their energy use and learn about steps to become more efficient. To get there, we’re asking energy consumers to tackle the issue, everyone from green enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, creative types, coders, engineers, idea seeders and others.

Schneider Electric is once again partnering with Microsoft on this energy efficiency effort. Along with the City of Barcelona and in conjunction with the Smart City Expo World Congress, we are launching the Efficient Energy Appathon. The idea is to invite a creative community interested in energy efficiency to come up with ideas for creating more awareness of the need for energy conservation as well as concrete solutions that help deliver it.

The Appathon will be similar to a hackathon, where developers try to create programs in a short timeframe. However, there are some key differences. For starters, we’re providing more time than a classic hackathon. We’re also offering the support, structure and incentives required to turn ideas and projects into full-fledged applications that help solve real problems.

Creating Apps Focused On Sustainability

We believe that simple solutions can help drive awareness and increase knowledge around energy sustainability. The idea behind the Appathon is to have participants create tools or apps that address one of the following:

  • For residents: The core problem we seek to address is the lack of energy literacy. Because nearly everyone uses electricity every single day but very few people really understand how electricity is produced, distributed and consumed. We believe this knowledge vacuum is a major obstacle preventing consumers from realizing where savings can be had.
  • For the community: Make use of recent social sciences findings using tools such as gamification and peer-to-peer social pressure around energy conservation. Our goal is to create a tool that helps form a community of “Energy Heroes,” driven not only by an individual economic incentive, but also by the desire to be part of something larger that benefits everyone. The tool should encourage and actively promote greener products and services, through vehicles like rewards programs.
  • For the municipality: The core problem we seek to address is providing residents with a friendly way to visualize and understand the city’s overall energy performance and strategies. We believe this lack of awareness is a major obstacle in changing behaviors and driving people toward a more sustainable future. The goal is to create a tool that makes it simple for residents to explore the energy performance of their city and propel energy policy conversation to a new level, ultimately leading to better citywide policy decisions.

The deadline to submit project proposals is today, Nov. 18, 2014, but the actual apps will be developed over the course of more than two months.

Schneider Electric and Microsoft have formed a team of local mentors to give advice on the technical feasibility of proposed projects, as well as assistance in developing apps. This team will be coaching participants in person during initial launch sessions and online during the app creation process.

Finished apps must be ready for publication in the Windows Store by Jan. 31, 2015. All apps successfully published by that date will be eligible to compete for cash prizes ranging from €4,000 (nearly $5,000) for first place to € 1,000 (about $1,200) for third, fourth and fifth place.

I’m excited to be working with Microsoft on this effort and can’t wait to see what kinds of innovative apps result from it. I’ll be sure to report back on what we come up with in the new year.

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