October 3, 2019
Has a New Insurtech Theme Emerged?
Progress has mostly been an evolution of technology that has been around a while, but the industry will still look quite different in a decade.
After three intense and exhausting days at InsureTech Connect last week, I’m a little conflicted. It was quite exciting. And there are many fascinating companies and ideas that are truly transforming our industry. But then King Solomon’s words (from the Bible) come to mind – “There is nothing new under the sun.”
I don’t mean to express negative sentiment regarding the state of insurtech and innovation in insurance. Virtually everyone is talking about AI/machine learning. Digital transformation is high on the list of activities and discussions. New options for distribution, the evolution of ecosystems and the continuing progress of the new era of computing are compelling topics. And the potential and progress of transformational technologies like the IoT, autonomous vehicles and wearables fueling But I still wonder whether I saw anything fundamentally new at ITC or whether we are just seeing increasing maturity in the insurtech movement.
There were a few announcements and companies that raised some eyebrows, to say the least. Here is my list of those that the industry should take note of:
- USAA and Google partnership. These companies have collaborated to create computing visioning/machine learning capabilities for auto vehicle damage assessment. As far as I know, this is the first instance of Google actually developing or co-developing a purpose-built insurance solution. Sure, the company tried Google Compare and has invested in Applied Systems. But this is a case of Google leveraging its deep machine learning capabilities to provide a capability specific to insurance.
- Mitchell/Qualcomm smart glasses. Augmented reality for use by repairers at auto collision repair facilities is a very cool solution from two well-established, incumbent tech companies, demonstrating that there is substantial innovation coming from these corners (in addition to the startups).
- The spread of great use cases. Although not new, we are seeing many examples of innovative uses of machine learning, aerial imagery, the IoT, new digital brands, interesting products and more. In past years, there might be one or two examples to cite in a particular line of business or business area, but now there are many insurtechs, incumbent tech companies and insurers that can cite multiple examples of business value delivered.
See also: Can Insurtech Reach Escape Velocity?
So, I suppose any evaluation depends on your definition of “new.” I prefer to think of our progress as the evolution and maturity of ideas and technology solutions that have been around for a while. But now they are real. And that is a great thing for the industry.
The last few years have been revolutionary for insurance in some ways, but based on the trajectory that I am seeing at ITC and elsewhere, there is tremendous innovation and transformation yet to come. This industry is likely to look quite different a decade from now.