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What Smart Speakers Mean for Insurtech

Are the Amazon Echo and Google Home insurtech? They sure are!

The two top-selling smart speakers have become so competitive that, in Canada during the past holiday season, each company undercut the other by offering the smaller versions, the Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, for as little as $39.99. For that price, why not buy one and try it out?

A recent report from Canalys states that the smart speaker is now the fastest-growing consumer technology. It is growing faster than augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and wearables, with smart speaker shipments expected to top 56 million units in 2018.

See also: Global Trend Map No. 5: Analytics and AI  

Since the launch in Canada of the Google Home in July 2017 and subsequently the Amazon Echo in December 2017, the following insurance services have been made available:

  • Aviva Canada — Aviva made a skill for the Amazon Echo to help consumers find answers to common insurance questions and to get an insurance quote. If a person is curious about accident benefits, for example, all they have to do is ask, “Alexa, what is accident benefits coverage?”
  • Manulife — Manulife’s skills for the Amazon Echo advise customers on what is left on their health benefits. Need new glasses but not sure how much coverage you have? Simply ask, “Alexa, ask Manulife Benefits how much do I have left for glasses?”
  • Kanetix.ca and InsuranceHotline.com — Both comparison websites made Google Assistant actions to support comparing car insurance quotes. Drivers just have to request a quote by saying, “Hey, Google, ask Kanetix.ca for a car insurance quote.”
  • RateSupermarket.ca has a Google Assistant action that supports finding the best mortgage rate in any province. All one has to do is say, “Hey, Google, ask RateSupermarket.ca for the best mortgage rate in Ontario.”

Not only is the smart speaker convenient for finding information, it is also spurring the sales of smart devices and IoT (Internet of Things) technology for the home such as smart plugs, smart appliances and smart entertainment…basically, smart everything. The Amazon Echo and Google Home can be used to turn on the lights, turn on the TV, change the channel and even find the best science fiction on Netflix.

Here is some recent data from ComScore and Statista showing the likelihood of IoT ownership for smart speaker households.

See also: What I Learned at Google

Google rarely has any presence at the Consumer Electronics Show, but this year Google is out in full force going head-on with Amazon Echo. Smart speaker adoption and integration to IoT devices is expected to be a megatrend at this year’s CES, which began yesterday in Las Vegas.

The adoption, sales and marketing of both Amazon and Google smart speaker assistants is clearly making this device a must-have in the home. Insurance providers cannot ignore this opportunity to develop smarter, more convenient ways to service their customers. If the smart speaker can really fire up IoT adoption in the home, insurance providers can’t ignore the data it can collect to create better products that improve the management of risk and claims for the household.

Sharing Economy: Playing Out in Canada

According to a new study from the Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC), the sharing economy presents both an opportunity and a threat to the insurance industry. In the U.S., the sharing economy has already created 17 companies valued at $1 billion or more, including Uber and Airbnb. Some 27% of the U.S. population participate in this type of consumption. Now, with millions of Canadians who use the sharing economy seeking unconventional coverage as a result, innovative startups are threatening Canadian insurers.

See also: Opportunities in the Sharing Economy  

Opportunity – Widespread Use

Forty-five percent of Canadians report being interested in sharing underutilized assets to generate income. In Montreal alone, Uber provides roughly 300,000 rides per month. This means that new types of insurance policies are needed to support the emerging car-sharing and home-sharing industries. For example, because the sharing economy often includes short-term asset sharing, there is an opportunity for insurance companies to provide unconventional coverage options.

Some insurers are already creating products to satisfy this demand. For instance, Aviva Canada has a policy for ride-sharing drivers, and Square One Insurance developed a product specifically for Airbnb hosts.

Threat – New Competition

All of this new opportunity is fueling the creation of nimble and mobile-friendly insurtech startups such as Prvni Klubova, Lemonade, and Metromile. These companies provide insurance in innovative ways using mobile and AI-driven technology. Companies like these three are potential threats to traditional insurers in Canada. In fact, Lemonade has already gained more than $59 million in funding and is quickly becoming a major player in the industry.

According to a recent study, nearly half of traditional insurance companies are concerned that as much as 20% of their businesses could be lost to new insurtech players. If insurers fail to adapt to new competition, these fears could become reality. And insurance carriers are not the only companies experiencing disruption. Insurance brokers also face competition from new platforms such as Friendsurance.

The Solution

There are two options for traditional insurers to consider when it comes to dealing with swift insurtech startups — compete or partner. Competition has been attempted by a number of traditional insurers, such as Economical Insurance, who launched Sonnet Insurance, an online-only insurance provider. However, due to the rapid pace of emerging technologies, head-on competition presents many challenges. Launching an insurtech solution from the ground up is resource-intensive, especially for companies who are not as familiar with a technological terrain.

See also: Sharing Economy: The Concept of Trust  

Partnering can be a more productive endeavor. Many traditional insurers have recognized this and have already formed key partnerships. For example, Intact and Aviva Canada have partnered with Uber. Intact is also a partner with Turo and an investor in Metromile. Additionally, Northbridge has partnered with RideCo, a Waterloo-based ride-sharing startup. Through this partnership, ride-share drivers can receive as much as $1 million in third-party liability coverage.

Final thoughts

Sharing economy valuation is projected to top $335 billion by 2025. Its impact on the Canadian insurance market will only continue to grow. While many Canadians will benefit from the expansion of the sharing economy, traditional insurance companies will need to adapt in order to keep up with new competition from insurtech newcomers. As a result, we are likely to see more partnerships between traditional insurers and insurtech companies in the years to come.