Tuesday, 01 December 2015


All posts from: November 2011

A shower-fresh approach to monitoring behaviour

Wed, 23 Nov 2011

My favourite parts of the older James Bond films (the ones prior to the Jason Bourne-influenced re-imagining) were the bits where MI6’s resident boffin Q would demonstrate his latest invention – typically a high-tech piece of kit cunningly disguised as a harmless, everyday object, like a pen or a desk lamp.

Unilever’s R&D department takes a similar approach when it comes to inventing devices to understand consumer behaviour.

In March this year, we heard the tale of Unilever’s spy toothbrush, which used in-built accelerometers to record when and for how long people in China would clean their teeth. This week the company unveiled the “shower sensor”.

Behavioural scientist Hilde Hendrickx told the BBC how Unilever designed a piece of kit to pick up on the noise water makes when running through a pipe and to detect changes in water temperature so as to monitor people’s shower habits without the need for surveys.

As with the toothbrush experiment, Unilever was looking to get round the unreliability of self-reporting and avoid the need for in-person monitoring. “People would not take too kindly to someone standing next to them with a clipboard” while in the shower, said Hendrickx.

The company logged 2,600 showers by 100 families over a 10-day period and found that the average shower lasted eight minutes – longer than previously assumed.

Click here to read the article in full.

What's all this then?

Fri, 11 Nov 2011

Police in Cleveland, in the northeast of England, are under fire from the chairman of the local Police Federation for spending over £25,000 for a year-long project measuring confidence in the force among residents.

Steve Matthews, chairman of the Cleveland branch of the Police Federation has criticised the expenditure as “unnecessary” as the force wrestles with budget cuts of £17m over the next two years.

Matthews said: “In these times of austerity, this does seem a little bit unnecessary. There are other ways of measuring police confidence without having to spend this sort of money on random calls to the public.”

The Northern Echo reports that Cleveland Police hired SPA Future Thinking to run the survey. It says there is already a callback system in police which re-contacts victims of crime or people who have called the police to find out if they were satisfied with the response they received.

The police stand by the survey, saying it has provided them with “a great deal of valuable information”. I guess the question is, how valuable? Is the information something you can put a price on? Or, as our cover story last month put it, what’s it worth?