I recently commented on the idea to reward users if they in return offer flexibility to the management of the system they use. For instance, a congested road could pay people not to ride to work during peak hours. Or in energy management, consumers can offer that they use less energy than they originally planned or a generator offers to supply more.
The general idea is of course not new, but in the IT-congested world we live in now, it becomes possible to negotiate compensations with users in advance and identify them while they actually use the system. This new timing of such approaches makes it necessary to think about novel mechanisms (e.g. what negotation procedure makes sense, which compensation scheme will probably work for both sides).
This approach is not applicable everywhere, for good reasons. In some systems, like the road example, it is hard to track people and probably overall not a good idea. Common approaches like car-polling and toll houses (or simply taxing fuel) can also work to some extent. In other systems, like the energy example, it is not a new idea per se, but how to implement such mechanisms (such that they are usable and serve the existing infrastructure in the best way) is still under heated discussion.
Anyway, there are now two recent examples of this idea being brought to existence in novel circumstances. No idea if these experiments will be deemed a success, though. Time will tell.
- The Dutch railway company wants to pay people if they don't use the train during peak times. This is feasible because the whole system is being switched over to digital passes, so it actually becomes technically possible to track if a specific customers is using the train during peak hours. They are in a trial period. Having to pull a wagon less can make a significant difference to operation costs, I assume.
- Amazon will pay people (with vouchers) if they are willing to wait longer for their package. This might actually stick, since Amazon has the capabilites (technical and organisational) to actually make this an integral part of their strategy. Personally, I think that Amazon becomes a bit too big, but I must admit that they seem to be where they are because they do the things they do pretty well, much like Google.