City Peaks uses community gaming to keep you fit at the office

Design studio Digit has created a social game, City Peaks to encourage you to take the stairs to work, mapping your journey to an ascent to some of the highest virtual peaks in the city.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Stand up desks are becoming all the rage in offices.  If you stand up, you burn more calories than you do when sitting at a desk. Our deskbound lifestyle means we need to find other ways to keep fit.

But how do you get to your office?  Do you use the elevator or do you take the stairs to your stand up desk?

Credit: City Peaks

London based design studio Digit has created a social game called City Peaks to encourage you to take the stairs to work. City Peaks maps your journey up and down stairs to an ascent to some of the highest peaks in the city - the skyscraper office blocks in London's financial district.

It is a geeky way of tracking fitness too.  RFID stations are installed around the building and Digit's software tracks the progress of players, mapping workers ability individually and as a team.  Players compete against each other climing up stairs.

Technically it's a simple set up - using Arduino, a cloud based web app and a chip in a card such as an Oyster card.

Hardware used: SM130 (MiFARE Compatible – 13.56mhz), Wiznet based Ethernet shield, 16×2 LCD (driven by 4-Wire) Software: Website/API – PHP (CodeIgniter), Spotify App – HTML/JS

Using NFC technology, players swipe their Oyster cards on readers at the bottom and top of the office staircase that record how far and fast they climb. Each player logs in online to start their climbing mission.

The workers at Digit reckon that they have climbed 7763.22 metres collectively -- almost the height of Mount Everest, according to Digit's Strategy Director Laura Tan.

Virtual mountains

Climbers' progress is mapped as flags on the buildings which are stylised as mountains.

You would not actually need to work in London, or have access to the building itself to participate.  All you would need is an Oyster card or similar, RFID stations around your workplace and the software.

Once you reach the top of the building, all scores get reset and the game progresses to the next building, even higher than the last one.

When all the London City Peaks have been climbed, the game resets, and the climbers compete to beat the time of the conquering mountaineer.

Climbers are represented as flags on the faces of iconic London buildings, visualised as mountains. The first climber to place their flag on the summit conquers the mountain; everyone’s scores are recorded, and the whole group moves to an even taller peak.

Currently the game is for internal use at Digit but it recognises the commercial opportunities.

It would be a easy enough thing to replicate in any city in the world.  Gamification would ensure that everyone stays motivated. The commercial opportunities could be huge as customers compete to win a prize.  Corporates can mobilise their workforce in a cross company, or cross team virtual challenge.

Brands can offer physical challenges to gain achievements and goals, mapped against a virtual environment. In huge expos such as CeBit and SxSW, attendees who take the stairs instead of the escalator could compete individually or in teams for giveaways and recognition.

Community rewards

You have to physically pass the RFID station to record your progress, so your scores can't be fudged in the way that they can on Foursquare.

Each climber’s overall distance is recorded to give a personal sense of achievement. Players are also rewarded with medals and messages of encouragement.

It is not just about climbing stairs - it is about building a sense of community amongst your co-workers. It is about achieving milestones in the real world and translating them to the virtual world. Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to conquer Mt. Everest, said: ‘you don’t have to be a fantastic hero to compete. You can be an ordinary person, sufficiently motivated.’

And gamification in the office might even get you away from your funky stand up desk to go tot the coffee station on the next floor above you, just to scale that virtual mountain...

As City Peaks note, you don’t have to travel far to climb great heights. You could just take the stairs.

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