When Emerging Tech Is No Longer Emerging

Technologies such as drones are often classified as emerging but are, in fact, relatively mature--and being widely adopted.

At SMA, we have been tracking what we and others have called emerging technologies for the better part of the last decade. However, the question arises, “When is an emerging technology no longer emerging?” Technologies such as drones or mobile payments are often classified as emerging tech, but these technologies are, in fact, relatively mature. And their adoption is becoming widespread. Artificial intelligence is also touted by many as an emerging technology, which is quite odd given that the term AI was coined in 1956. But maybe classifying technologies as “emerging” misses the main point anyway, which is how technology transforms industries. Thus, rather than approach the topic from a pure technology perspective, we believe it is more important to take an insurance business perspective. This is why we at SMA now discuss a category we call transformational technologies. From this point of view, when the technology was created or how far along it is in the development cycle becomes irrelevant, although those are still interesting facts. Instead, the focus on transformational technologies places emphasis on which technologies are now having (and will have) the most impact on the insurance industry. What, then, are examples of transformational technologies? There are a large number of technologies that fit the bill, so perhaps it is more useful to sort them into categories. First, a major point before identifying the four key categories of transformational technologies – data is at the center of transformation and is fueling every transformational technology. Whether the data is proprietary or generally available, structured or unstructured, or gathered from traditional or new sources, it is essential to every single transformational technology. See also: Emerging Tech Is Poised for Growth   The four main groups of transformational technologies include:
  1. The connected world: sensors, devices, platforms and solutions that are related to buildings, vehicles, people and other physical things in the world
  2. Access, transfer and security tech: technologies such as 5G, edge, blockchain and biometrics that are vital for information in a connected world
  3. Insights and actions: the analytics and AI technologies that derive meaning and drive actions
  4. New UI technologies: tech that now includes voice, chatbots, augmented reality and more
It’s important to understand how these technologies in combination with foundational technologies address specific insurance business problems and opportunities. The following examples show the power of applying a business use case lens to identify potential solutions that leverage transformational technologies. Claims fraud: Technology to address this age-old problem has been evolving for decades. There are now solutions that combine machine learning with existing claims administration systems, damage estimation systems and data – to take fraud detection and management to new levels of effectiveness. Property underwriting: Aerial imagery captures digital data from drones, satellites and fixed-wing aircraft, which is then analyzed by AI/image recognition/machine learning algorithms to present insights to underwriters on property characteristics and risks. These technology systems are integrated with the foundational systems and data that underwriters use today. See also: Insurtech’s Lowest Common Denominator   Change is sweeping through the insurance industry, which is likely to continue full steam ahead for the next decade. The transformational technologies that are the catalysts for much of this change will continue to evolve and be applied to more and more use cases across the insurance enterprise. And whether we call them emerging, transformational or something else will make no difference: These technologies are ushering in a new way of doing and experiencing everything.

Mark Breading

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Mark Breading

Mark Breading is a partner at Strategy Meets Action, a Resource Pro company that helps insurers develop and validate their IT strategies and plans, better understand how their investments measure up in today's highly competitive environment and gain clarity on solution options and vendor selection.


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