Sunderland – towards a social credit system?

Erik Strand 13.10.2022

In March this year, an app was released in the British city Sunderland. It is an app that tracks your movements if you activate the app. As a citizen of Sunderland, one can be rewarded by using “sustainable” transport like walking, bicycling or public transport.

This is how Sunderland city council presents the app called ‘BetterPoints’:

“Sunderland residents will be able to earn rewards for using more active and sustainable modes of transport. The city council has teamed up with BetterPoints, an app that tracks your travel movements via GPS using your smartphone and rewards you with points for using more sustainable modes of transport like walking, cycling and using public transport. Points can then be exchanged for rewards such as discounts in local shops, free coffees, vouchers or charity donations.

Sunderland users can sign up to the BetterPoints – Sunderland challenge, which runs from March to August 2022 and will see points awarded, to anyone aged 14 or over, for active or sustainable journeys made around Sunderland, Washington, Hetton and Houghton. Active travel can include walking, cycling, running, or using an e-bike, while using public transport like the bus, metro or train counts as sustainable travel.

Search ‘Better Points’ to download the free Better Points app from the play or apple store. Or visit BetterPoints – Sunderland for more information.”

A screenshot of a presentation of the

One can read more on BetterPoints’s own website:

“BetterPoints technology is designed to drive multi-faceted, complex interventions that accelerate engagement in campaigns and motivate ongoing participation, anywhere and at scale.

Our mobile apps combine tracking, motion sensing and user interaction with sophisticated server-side algorithms that verify activities and characteristics.

We then link this information to different types and levels of incentives that are awarded to people when they meet certain behavioural goals, such as exercising, completing an activity or trying something new.

We can combine the goals and rewards in myriad ways to meet the client’s objectives and budget.”


“Behaviour change that works

Each BetterPoints campaign typically lasts for 3 months or more, and uses a mix of goals and rewards to deliver your objectives.

Within the core challenge there can be any number of mini challenges, games and events to maintain engagement. All challenges work by cycling repeatedly through four key steps:

The system has been developed alongside behavioural scientists at University College London (UCL), and through more than a decade of partnerships with businesses and local authorities, and is continuously evolving.”

A screen shot of a tweet presenting the system can be seen here.

The use of BetterPoint is completely voluntary. The gradual implementation of social credit systems is nonetheless a phenomenon to be aware of.