Tag Archives: augmented reality

A New Burst for Augmented Reality

Augmented reality and I go way back, to when it burst on the scene in the early 1990s. As a technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal, I was a skeptic especially about virtual reality (where a headset provides an immersive experience unrelated to the physical world around the wearer) but also about augmented reality (where goggles add images or other information to what the wearer sees through the glasses).

In fact, while the VR/AR concept was clearly powerful, the technology wasn’t close to good enough yet to provide even a useful experience — the computing power in the devices was about one-millionth of what is available today, thanks to the exponential improvements in electronics.

In the last decade, enthusiasm returned. Facebook bought Oculus for $3 billion in 2014, when the VR company still barely even had a product. Pokemon Go had hundreds of millions of people in 2016 trying to “catch” Pokemon projected onto the real world via an AR app downloaded onto their phones. But interest faded again. VR/AR made only modest inroads, primarily in some video games.

Just in the past week, though, an announcement suggests that augmented reality may be close to becoming very real. There could be significant changes in how clients operate and, eventually, in how insurers themselves do business.

The announcement came from the U.S. Army, which said it is buying $21 billion of AR headsets from Microsoft “to help soldiers map the battlefield, select targets and stay aware of possible threats by overlaying intelligence information directly onto their field of vision.” Even beyond the Army’s hefty endorsement of the technology, the contract for AR headsets will give Microsoft a lot of real-world experience with AR and will finance a great deal of continued research and development. Microsoft might initially focus on providing AR for its growing video game franchises but will surely look for ways to bring AR to its bread-and-butter corporate customers, too.

I suspect that early uses in the business world will be at the fringes, rather than in routine work, where augmentation would help far less, if at all. For instance, AR could allow measurable improvement in certain types of inspections.

Perhaps someone repairing equipment that he doesn’t see often, or that may even be decades old, will have his AR glasses project schematics on the device, with information from the manual projected just off to the side. Perhaps someone conducting an inspection could look at a valve or pipe and, right next to it, have an image projected showing what it should look like. There could even be some interplay: An artificial intelligence or a centrally located expert person could be viewing the same scene through the AR’s “eyes” and offer guidance.

There has long been optimism about AR applications in medicine, especially surgery, given that the surgeon doesn’t know exactly what she’ll find inside until she cuts into a person — amalgamating all the pre-surgery scans into an image that could be projected onto the patient could provide some initial guidance. I think of Sam, my closest friend growing up, who is wonderfully educated and trained (Harvard undergrad, Yale med school, surgical residency at Massachusetts General), but who petrified his mother when he became the chief resident in the cardiac unit and was the one using a jigsaw to cut through patients’ sternums at the beginning of heart surgery. “Do those doctors know he flunked wood shop?” Sam’s mother once asked me.

In time, AR could work from edge cases into the mainstream. For instance, workers in industrial settings might start wearing goggles that are designed to provide technical information, as summoned by the user, but could also then head off accidents — maybe a flashing stop sign is projected onto an intersection in a factory because an overhead camera has spotted a forklift speeding toward it right as you’re about to get in the way. Once AR glasses earn their way onto the bridges of people’s noses, all sorts of workplaces can become not only more efficient but safer.

The same sorts of warnings could be provided for cars, where AR glasses could give drivers the sort of heads-up display that fighter pilots have on their windshields. I don’t imagine a reprise of Google Glass, which tried to do too much, hoping to provide a new way of looking at the whole world. But I can see the value of glasses that would warn the driver of an accident ahead or even of a blind intersection known to be dangerous. People could use some combination of voice and head movements to control the car environment so they wouldn’t have to take their eyes off the road. As so-called connected cars begin communicating with each other and with “smart” infrastructure, the AR could also deliver warnings of a car that you can’t see but that is braking hard on a crowded freeway just ahead of you. Or the AR could alert you that a car recently skidded on some black ice on a stretch of road you’re about to reach.

Once AR becomes widely adopted, adjusters could well use the glasses to not only help assess damage on site but to have estimates of repair costs and timeframes appear right next to what they’re seeing.

And, as always, clever people will come up with a far broader list of potential uses as the technology takes hold, both among clients and in the insurance industry itself.

As history shows, AR will take time to spread — but I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in 30 years.

Stay safe.


P.S. These are the six articles I’d like to highlight from the past week:

Want Some Insurance With That?

Insurance is becoming the French fries in a meal deal–offered as part of another transaction at a moment of need. The change is profound.

The Digital Journey in Personal Lines

Personal lines insurers are focusing on self-service capabilities for policyholders, especially for policy service and claims.

Post-Pandemic: 4 Tips for Independent Agents

There is an opportunity to improve on objectives like paperless processes, remote relationship building and digital communications.

Rational Ignorance and the Protection Gap

Insurers need to acknowledge rational ignorance as a major sales obstacle; that could be a first step in a recovery for life insurance.

In Search of the Digital X-Factor

How commercial insurers capture, clean and use data across their distribution channels will become their competitive lifeblood.

The Cost of Uncivil Discourse

The successful rollout of vaccines worldwide will calm many but will not, alone, decrease the risk of civil disturbances and riots.

Expanding Options for Communications

Most P&C insurers have gradually expanded their options for digitally communicating with prospects, policyholders, producers and employees. As the industry moves beyond the web, portals and email, there is a growing recognition that a whole new world of digital communications options can be applied in insurance. Messaging and collaboration platforms, business texting, chatbots, voice, personalized interactive video and even augmented/virtual reality are now on the palette. Add these communication options to the zillion different ways to make or receive a payment, and a great thing happens. These options often simultaneously improve the customer experience while reducing expenses!

Technology options and solution providers are plentiful, but the big question for insurers is how to leverage the right mix of these across the enterprise. There are three really important components for successfully leveraging the new communications options: 1) a digital communications strategy, 2) digital content capture and creation and 3) content management and e-delivery.

Digital Communications Strategy: The methods of communications have often been driven by the requirements of specific areas of the business. Marketing uses a variety of tools and approaches to reach prospects and customers. Distribution uses another set to interact with agents and other partners. Claims has many types of external participants to communicate with during the claims life cycle. Underwriting and other areas of the business have their own needs and favorite technologies. But, now that digital transformation is accelerating, a comprehensive digital communications strategy is needed to determine how and where to best leverage capabilities like chatbots, messaging platforms and other tools. The capabilities for delivering customer documents and communications via email, portals and other traditional methods will continue to be equally vital.

See also: Will COVID-19 Be Digital Tipping Point?

Digital Content Capture and Creation: Inbound communications, such as submissions or first notice of loss, benefit from intelligent capture solutions that can efficiently gather and organize the information sent to insurers. Also, the ability to create and manage forms, documents and customer correspondence is essential. Communications that are created must adhere to branding guidelines, enable regulatory compliance, provide a modern customer experience and have the flexibility to support today’s array of outbound channels (including print and digital channels).

Digital Content Management and E-Delivery: Managing the digital content used for customer communications is an important capability. Insurers must be able to efficiently create, store and (re)use content objects such as visual branding elements, signatures, text blocks and the templates that they support. Moreover, in a world of many digital delivery options, the digital communications platform must support the delivery to the recipient through any technology option or channel, including messaging platforms, business texting solutions and chatbots, as well as traditional print, email, the web or mobile.  

Traditional options for communicating (such as portals, email and even print/mail) are not going away. But establishing a digital communications strategy and implementing a platform solution for creating and managing those communications is even more important in an era where the world is more rapidly shifting to digital due to the pandemic and work-from-home environments.

8 Key Insurtech Trends for 2019

The industry used to be a tech laggard. No more. Though there’s still much work to be done, most insurers are now better-positioned to capitalize on their investment in technology.

Here are eight key tech trends that continue to shape the industry:

  1. Greater stress on cybersecurity

An Ernst & Young security survey revealed that 59% of respondents had encountered a significant cybersecurity incident in their organization. Because insurers store so much sensitive personal and business data, they’re a prime target.

Cybersecurity strategy should be focused on proactive measures rather than reactive strategies. Cyber-crooks are relentless and inventive. Security has to be a top priority for insurers of all types and sizes.

2. Filling a gap in employee benefits automation

While group proposals and policy administration are both well-automated, between the two comes group onboarding, which has not been automated.

But solutions are being developed and implemented. Onboarding solutions will be built on automated data capture and importing. Data integrity is crucial. Employee information must be correct and complete when entered.

The solution must also offer robust data security and comply with privacy regulations to securely gather and store employee information. Flexibility is also mandatory because integrating onboarding closely with both proposal and policy systems is essential to efficient workflow.

See also: Connected Insurance Comes of Age in 2019  

3. Cloud computing

Cloud computing will continue to be adopted widely by insurers and insurtech providers as it is cost-effective, speedy and flexible. Cloud providers will continue to improve their technology to deliver sophisticated capabilities.

The security risks associated with housing data off-site via a third-party, however, can present challenges. While cloud storage companies are expected to protect data, ultimately insurance IT departments are responsible for their cybersecurity. That requires constant vigilance, hiring skilled people and spending enough money.

4. Internet of things and big data

IoT continues to become more useful. Insurers can use real-time data to meet and enhance business objectives. This can boost efficiency and revenue and promote better customer service.

As the Big Data revolution continues to expand, IoT adoption in the insurance industry is expected to grow. It will enable collection of data in real time, resulting in lower premiums for insureds willing to participate. There will be continuing adoption of connected devices for loss prevention and pricing in property-casualty, life and health insurance.

5. Analytics

Analytics can transform big data into actionable insights. As analytics and data science advance, insurers can better extract value from the huge amounts of data that now exist. Insurers can then leverage sophisticated information analytics to gain a competitive edge in the market.

For insurtech providers, there is a huge opportunity in the coming years to develop advanced analytical technologies that can make sense of unstructured data such as real-time video, social posts and live blogging.

6. Artificial intelligence

In 2018, more insurance and insurtech companies found effective ways to integrate AI. In 2019, companies will complement a significant part of their structured data decision-making with AI data analysis and decision-making.

Robotic process automation will begin to gain a wider application facilitating automation of repetitive processes across the entire IT infrastructure. Robotics and AI can offer improved productivity, shortened cycle times and better compliance and accuracy.

See also: How Insurtech Helps Build Trust  

7. Augmented reality

Augmented reality is starting to have a presence in insurance. An article by software development company Jasoren identifies several AR use cases, such as warning of risks, explaining insurance plans, estimating damages and increasing brand awareness. Alternate forms of AR such as virtual reality, mixed reality and extended reality are shaping how AR is being used.

8. Blockchain

The technology behind cryptocurrencies will be adopted for more promising applications. They include “smart” contracts and secure, decentralized data collection, processing and dissemination. While I do not expect to see a full-scale implementation of blockchain technology any time soon, many insurers and insurtech companies are launching projects and initiatives to test its applicability and effectiveness for insurance.

Whole New World for Customer Contact

Common things we hear these days: “If you really want to reach me, text me.” “Send that file to me via Slack.” “I live on Facebook, so send me a message on Facebook Messenger.”

We also observe that many people never answer voicemail, virtually ignore emails and throw away mail without even looking at it.

These are samplings of the communication patterns that are evolving in our society today. Meanwhile, how do we in the insurance industry communicate with our policyholders, agents, claimants and others? Email, phone calls and documents in the mail predominate. Web portals are also common. Some of the newer options for interaction are not on the radar of most insurers. Now, there are certainly individuals who still want to receive information in the traditional ways, and there will continue to be a need for these options, but the tide is turning.

See also: The Missing Piece for Customer Experience  

SMA has been investigating some new communication options and their implications for insurers. Our new research report, Advanced Customer Communications in the Digital Age: New Options for Insurers, explores how communications have evolved, how the insurance industry is using these options (or not), example use cases and what it all means in the context of an omni-channel environment.

Some of the new(er) forms of communication that have been gaining adoption and setting new expectations for customers include:

  • SMS texting and online chat: Although it is difficult to classify these as “new,” the insurance industry still has very little use of the technologies outside of the enterprise.
  • Messaging and collaboration platforms: These have been proliferating over the past decade or so, with tools like Skype, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Zoom and many others gaining large followings.
  • Voice assistants and chatbots: As voice and AI technologies have leapt forward, the opportunities to leverage AI-driven chatbots and voice assistants has increased dramatically. Much experimentation is underway in insurance.
  • Smart documents: Documents in many forms will continue to play a major role in communicating information to prospects, producers and policyholders. Rethinking those documents from a customer perspective and making them interactive and parametric provide great opportunities for the industry.
  • Augmented/virtual reality: Although a bit further out in terms of adoption and implications for insurance, there are already pilots and projects underway in the industry.

See also: How Customers Buy… and Why They Don’t  

The way the world communicates is rapidly changing, and everyone has their favorite options. Insurers would be wise to consider these in their customer journey and omni-channel strategies and plans.

4 Ways Connectivity Is Revolutionary

The Internet of Things (IoT) is predicted to support more than 20 billion devices by 2020, according to Gartner. This is a market that covers 60% of consumers worldwide, creating huge opportunities for industries to connect and engage with their customers.

Connecting with consumers hasn’t always been easy. Contact typically took place at points of sale, during claims and during renewal periods. Now, with the use of wearables, smart homes and telematics, insurers are connecting with customers on a continual basis and providing valuable feedback – and prices – based on activity levels. The business of insurance is complex, with core factors such as risk evaluation, long-term contracts and unpredictable settlements. However, the benefits of insurtech and the unlimited availability of new sources of data that can be exploited in real time have fundamentally altered how consumers interact with their insurance providers.

IoT devices are helping consumers and insurers get smarter with each passing day as these technologies bring promising results in helping insurers reshape how they assess, price and limit risks and enhance customer experience.

See also: Industry 4.0: What It Means for Insurance  

Connectivity and Opportunities

Numerous technologies have shown how improved connectivity can generate opportunities in the insurance industry beyond personalized premium rates. If implemented properly, IoT applications could possibly boost the industry’s customarily low growth rates. It may help insurers break free from traditional product marketing and competition primarily based on price to shift toward customer service and differentiation in coverage.

Several technology trends that are increasing connectivity in insurance include:

Extended Reality (XR) — XR technologies are altering the way consumers connect with society, information and each other. Extended reality is achieved through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which aim to “relocate” people in time and space. Eighty-five percent of insurance executives in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 survey believe it is important to leverage XR solutions to close the gap of physical distance when engaging with employees and customers.

Wearable Sensors — Reports indicate that the average consumer now owns 3.6 wearable devices. These technologies can mitigate claims fraud and also transmit real-time data to warn the insured of possible dangers. For example, socks and shoes with IoT apps can alert diabetics on possible odd joint angles, foot ulcers and excessive pressure, thus helping in avoiding costly disability and medical claims and even worst-case scenarios such as life-changing amputations.

Commercial Infrastructure and Smart Home Sensors — These sensors can be embedded in commercial and private buildings to help in monitoring, detecting and preventing or mitigating safety breaches such as toxic fumes, pipe leakage, fire, smoke and mold. This increases the possibility of saving insurers from large claims and homeowners from substantial inconveniences such as lost property or valuables. Savings can be passed to insureds who use these sensors.

Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) Model — Cellular machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity and telematics link drivers and automobiles in entirely new ways. Traditionally, auto insurance has relied on broad demographic features such as gender and the driver’s age, plus a credit score, to set premiums. Now, through IoT devices, insurers can not only offer reward-based premiums but can provide a connected car experience to customers with feedback on weather, traffic conditions or driving habits.

See also: 3 Ways to an Easier Digital Transformation  

Strategy will play an important role in connectivity as insurance carriers transform legacy core systems into digital platforms that support deeper connectivity with their customers. This strategy must address a carrier’s ability to handle, process and analyze the new types of data that will emerge from the use of these technologies. Artificial intelligence will also have a big impact.

According to a recent study, 80% of insurance customers are happier and more content when they can connect with their insurance providers through various channels such as phone, emails, smartphone apps and online. Through the use of the IoT and connected devices, insurers will improve customer experience by shifting from reaction after an event has occurred to preventing losses digitally.