Moving Toward Prevention, With IoT

IoT devices, and the sensors and algorithms they contain, hold the promise of enhancing our eyes and ears to perceive all things at all times.

The spirit of “insurance,” as we know it today, developed in response to a need to mitigate risks related to international maritime trade: treacherous waters and storms, piracy, war, physical handling of goods at ports, etc. While many of these risks have become obsolete and while new, more modern versions have appeared (think cyber security), the function of insurance companies has remained as old as the idea itself: to compensate for the effect of financial loss after it has been caused. Insurers that wish to remain competitive in the 21st century, however, must supplement their offerings to mitigating the cause before the effect. Workplace injuries and property loss will continue to happen, but the future of insurance is, quite palpably, preventing these events from happening in the first place. To this end, companies have begun to leverage technology to aid in this process, and a whole new category of devices – dubbed the Internet of Things (IoT) - has emerged. These devices, and the sensors and algorithms they contain, hold the promise of enhancing our eyes and ears to perceive all things at all times. These new sources of data, and the analysis performed on them, hold the key to alerting customers of potential loss BEFORE it occurs. While the traditional insurance definition would say “this is not our responsibility,” the reality is that insurers can be uniquely equipped to use these new technological advancements to significantly reduce their losses and greatly improve the customer experience. See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things Let’s take a consumer use case – roughly one-third of all household claims relate to water leaks. Several companies such as Water Hero or Gems Sensors make a small connected device that attaches to a home’s main's pipes and can seamlessly monitor water flow, continuously. If any anomaly is detected, both the customers and insurer can be alerted to take action before a catastrophic event occurs. Some devices can even turn off the main's supply or make an automatic call to a plumber. While these devices won’t stop every incident, this low-cost technology can reduce the cost of claims to the insurer and provide a better experience for the home owner. This mutual benefit will make prevention a strategic advantage. In commercial lines, similar examples can be found. Wearable technology and the valuable data it offers about worker safety can lead to a reduction in workers' compensation claims while offering significant value to employees. For example, Kinetic has developed a wearable device for manual laborers to detect high-risk ergonomic movements and postures that can cause injury, gently alerting workers in real time. Data from the pager-sized device is fed into Kinetic’s software, which can identify ways of revising processes and workflows to reduce or prevent that risk in the first place. Deployments at manufacturing and logistics sites have shown reductions by up to 84% in the number of high-risk postures performed daily by workers. These postures are known leading indicators of musculoskeletal injuries, and customer sites have seen injury reductions of up to 60% for employees that have worn the device for over six months. Similar lessons can be drawn from telematics systems installed in vehicle fleets, which monitor driver activity through cameras and sensors. These systems provide feedback when certain activities or motions are detected, such as exceeding the speed limit or aggressive driving. As drivers start to modify and improve the way they drive, both accidents and the associated claims can often be reduced. See also: Global Trend Map No. 7: Internet of Things   While some effort is needed to navigate, deploy and maintain these IoT devices in a cost-efficient manner, these products can change the nature of the relationship between insurers and customers from merely transactional to partnerships, where both parties are invested in preventing costly incidents. In this booming, digital era, it seems now is the time for insurance to seize the opportunity and light the way into its own future.

Haytham Elhawary

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Haytham Elhawary

Haytham Elhawary is the cofounder and CEO of Kinetic. His professional experience includes the development of medical robots at both Philips Electronics and Harvard Medical School as well as being the executive director of the Zahn Innovation Center.

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