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2015: Pivotal Year for Emerging Technology

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has been the preeminent show for seeing, hearing and feeling what is emerging and hot in consumer electronics. It is the place to go to see new electronic games, mobile devices, TVs, home appliances and other electronics that will be coming to market to amaze and excite us. Remember Onewheel, a self-balancing, one-wheeled, motorized skateboard? Occulus Rift virtual reality? The curved HDTV? Or the best in laptops, tablets and smartphones?

The 2015 show may have been an inflection point, where CES also becomes the leading edge for emerging technology that should be of keen interest for businesses, especially insurance. It is the year where new products will go from science fiction and future thinking to Main Street reality and demand! Move over, George Jetson. For insurers, the future starts right now!

Emerging Technologies

The proliferation of emerging technologies seen at CES is considered by many to contain some of the greatest change agents since the introduction of the Internet, offering breakthroughs that will challenge businesses in many ways. In our 2014 research report, Emerging Technologies: Reshaping the Next-Gen Insurer, insight into the adoption, investment plans and opportunities for business of nine emerging technologies reveals the vast potential for transforming insurance. The research found that adoption is being led by the Internet of Things (IoT) followed by wearables, artificial intelligence (AI) and drones/aerial imagery, with driverless vehicles coming up quickly behind. In fact, five of the nine technologies are projected to arrive at or go well beyond the tipping point within three years, and all nine to surpass the tipping point within five years. CES has reinforced this view. Insurers that have not accepted as fact the fast-paced adoption and impact of these emerging technologies should take great pause. Here are a few reasons:

Autonomous vehicles became one of the hottest items during the show, and even before. Audi drove its autonomous vehicle from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, generating pre-show buzz. Kicking off the show was Mercedes showing a concept car that looked more like a futuristic living room than a car. These and the other major automotive companies all demonstrated their acceptance, commitment and fast adoption of this new form of transportation introduced by Google just a couple of years ago. At this show, many of these automakers announced their plans to offer autonomous vehicles beginning in 2017! Note they did not make the announcement at the traditional Detroit Auto Show the following week. The future of autonomous vehicles will quickly be a reality, and so much sooner than most thought. So share the road, George J!

The Internet of Things (IoT) was everywhere, exemplified in the connected car, connected home and wearables … highlighting a fast paced market that is reinventing how we work, live and play in a connected world. Wearables with fitness and activity bands were prevalent, along with innovative devices like a pacifier that can monitor a baby’s health. Also included were wearables that were integrated with autos to enable the starting of parked cars. But it was the connected car and connected home that had the highest profiles.

The connected car was touted by many major car manufacturers. Ford, Volkswagen, GM, BMW, Toyota, Audi, Mazda, Daimler and others were showcasing their connected car capabilities and the growing array of services that come with them. The media noted that Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO, sees Ford as thinking of itself as a mobility company rather than an automotive company, delivering a wide array of services and experiences via the auto instead of the mobile phone. Added to this are Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems that mimic and integrate the functions of smartphones on the auto dashboard touchscreen. Quite a reimagination of the automotive business!

All the devices and capabilities for the connected home added to the IoT’s momentum. Familiar tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, along with traditional companies like Cisco, GE, Bosch, Samsung and others, are powering ahead with innovative capabilities that will drive rapid adoption. In fact, Samsung Electronics CEO Boo-Keun Yoon indicated that, by 2017, 90% of all Samsung hardware (TVs, ovens, refrigerators, purifiers and more) will be connected, creating a home personalized to your unique needs. Many of the companies also announced the development of connected home hubs to integrate these wide arrays of devices from various manufacturers and third-party providers. Data from the connected home devices can be used to offer new services. The Jetsons’ home is finally here!

And drones were flying everywhere to demonstrate the high interest and potential for many businesses – from phone and video purposes to building inspections, surveying, delivery, weather data gathering, traffic and much more. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had a booth at the event, announcing that it expects well over 7,000 drones in use by 2018. All of this indicated that, literally, the sky seems to be the limit for drones!

Insurance Implications

What does this all mean for insurers? The event emphasized the need for insurers to take these emerging technologies seriously and to quickly explore, experiment and consider their uses in the business. Why? Because traditional competitors like Progressive and USAA made announcements at the event concerning the connected car and connected home and the potential of new competitors that are looking at how they might leverage these new technologies.

The SMA 2014 emerging technologies survey indicated that these technologies would reach a tipping point in three to five years — or from 2017 to 2019. Based on the announcements at the CES about autonomous vehicles by 2017, home hardware being 90% connected by 2017 and large numbers of drones in use by 2018, the estimated arrival time at the tipping point is right on track, or could even come much earlier.

The results? New customer demands and expectations. Decreased risk. New insurance product needs. New service revenues. New competitors. Redefined customer relationships. Reimagined businesses and industries.

To stay in the game, let alone win it, insurers must aggressively find a way to embrace these technologies and uncover their potential. And, to do so, they must have modern core systems as the foundation to integrate the use of these technologies for innovation, as well as plans to pilot some of these technologies, because the future is coming fast.

The Consumer Electronics Show 2015 has foretold that 2015 will be a pivotal year for many businesses and industries, including insurance, for emerging technologies. Adoption of the emerging technologies is on track or accelerating toward the tipping point. It is no longer science fiction. It is science reality. Welcome to the future … today!

9 Technologies That Will Change Insurance

“We’re at maybe 1% of what is possible. Despite the faster change, we’re still moving slow relative to the opportunities we have.”

This compelling statement from Larry Page, CEO and co-founder of Google epitomizes the power and potential of emerging technologies. Yet most insurers have difficult comprehending how fast emerging technologies are being introduced. And the pace is gathering speed, having a profound impact on our lives, our businesses and our industry. Moore’s Law tells us that computing power doubles every 18 – 24 months, but even that seems to be irrelevant compared with the power of emerging technologies, because they are coming faster, and they are more formidable than ever before.

This rapidly accelerating pace comes at a time when the convergence of advancing technologies, increasing customer expectations and access to capital for new technology start-ups are magnifying the extremes, and the impact to the insurance industry is more game-changing than ever before. Never before has technology advancement had as much influence as what we are experiencing now.

Technologies promise breakthroughs that will challenge long-held business assumptions and shift the boundaries between business and industry – creating completely new businesses and industries. SMA is actively tracking nine emerging technologies: 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones/aerial imagery, driverless vehicles, wearable devices, “gamification,” artificial intelligence, semantic technologies and biotechnology. We are following them from a perspective inside the industry as well as taking an “outside-the-industry” view. 

Not surprisingly, adoption is being led by the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is followed by artificial intelligence (AI), drones/aerial imagery and then gamification. The insurance industry’s rapid adoption is impressive. Five of the nine technologies are projected to arrive at or go well beyond the tipping point within three years. All nine are projected to surpass the tipping point within five years.

Adding to the momentum, individuals and companies that are a part of SMA’s Innovation Ecosystem and represent outside-the-industry perspectives see an even faster rate of adoption and greater potential for the transformation of insurance. This underscores that the insurance industry is on the crest of a massive wave of change.

Over the next five years, these emerging technologies, just like the Internet, smartphones and social media before them, are expected to drive new business models and foster the formation of companies from unexpected combinations of companies and industries — capturing the customer relationship and revenue. The astounding influence of these technologies — over a relatively short period — will begin to delineate a new generation of market leaders within and outside the insurance industry. Who will be the next Facebook, Uber or eBay?

So how should insurers respond to this rapid adoption? Insurers must quickly begin to develop strategies and experiment with and invest in these technologies today. If not, many insurers will be placed at significant risk, because there is typically a minimum two-year lag time between leaders and the mainstream and a minimum four- to five-year lag time between leaders and laggards. And given the pace of adoption of these technologies by insurance customers, the lag time carries more potential for damage than it did in the past. Consider that Apple introduced the iPhone just seven years ago, in June 2007. The result has been massive destruction and transformation that has created new leaders while forcing others into increasing irrelevance.

While it may be difficult to grasp the sheer magnitude of the change coming from the emerging technologies, remember that Larry Page of Google says we are only seeing 1% of the potential. Insurers must aggressively find a way to engage these technologies and uncover the potential, first to stay in the game, and then to win it. To do so, insurers must have modern core systems as a foundation to integrate the use of these technologies.

Consider these questions: How will product liability need to be redefined for driverless vehicles? If individuals or businesses no longer need auto insurance, what is the impact on other products? Multi-policy discounts? Will the driverless car encourage shopping for alternative options? Will it drive commoditization into other products? How will insurers assess the value and risk of a 3D-printed structure, body organs or vehicle parts? How will biotechnology-based agriculture change risk factors? How will drones help underwriting and claims? Can drones also provide resources needed during catastrophes, creating new services and value? Could gamification be a new channel to help drive increased market penetration through engagement and education about life insurance, health, medical, liability, home, umbrella and more?

These are but a few of the implications for insurance. They are inter-related and complex. They stress the significant disruption that is coming, and coming fast, as represented by the five out of nine emerging technologies that will reach the tipping point within three years … and some much sooner. Insurers that have not begun to pilot these technologies are already lagging behind and will struggle to keep up with this accelerated pace of adoption, not just from today’s competitors, but also from tomorrow’s competitors, as well as their customers. That poses a question: Will you remain relevant, or become the next Kodak, Blockbuster Video, Borders or CNN of insurance – the iconic brand that dies?

The coming years hold unparalleled opportunities for innovation and matchless potential for becoming market leaders that leverage emerging technologies to increase customer value, engagement and loyalty to insurers. As Steve Jobs stated, “Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” The question to you is: Will you influence the future or be a remnant of the past?

This article is adapted from a new research report, Emerging Technologies: Reshaping the Next-Gen Insurer.