Tag Archives: connected home

Insurance and the Internet of Things

For many, the concept of a “smart home” is a futuristic, and perhaps even frivolous, offering where lights shut off automatically once we fall asleep, thermostats are controlled from your phone and security cameras can show you what’s going on in your home from thousands of miles away. However, as I have written in many previous posts, we are only at the start of the Internet of Things (IoT). Significantly more sophisticated devices are already entering the market and soon consumers will see the benefits of both enhanced personal safety and home protection. Forward-thinking insurance companies are not only recognizing the potential for reduction in non-catastrophic loses, they are embracing the potential by filing smart home discounts to create incentives for consumers who use these technologies.

Let’s look at a few of these enabling technologies and their potential for loss reduction/avoidance around the core perils of water, fire and theft:

1) Advanced home security products — The professionally monitored home security market has limited penetration in the U.S. — a significant number of home owners don’t feel the need to have their homes monitored for theft. However, many IoT devices enable basic self-monitoring features as a secondary benefit. From video cameras with 24×7 recording, to controllable door locks, to lights that are triggered on with motion, home owners are now getting home security features included with IoT products that might otherwise be purchased primarily for convenience.

2) Leak detection — Traditionally, these products focus on single points of failure, providing coverage in specific locations, such as below a dishwasher or a hot water tank. While providing a lot of utility relative to their cost, it’s been hard to programmatically prove loss reduction with these devices as the location of the sensor has so much to do with catching the leak. That said, more ambitious forms of leak detectors are entering the market, enabling whole-home monitoring, from flow sensors installed on mains, to lightweight stripping that can be installed in floor boards. Additionally, a series of whole-home shut-off valves are also being introduced into the market. Most of these valves require professional installation; however, they are capable of automatically closing the water main with the slightest detection of a leak or abnormal usage patterns. Water losses may be greatly reduced if a home could automatically respond to a burst pipe or an overflowed toilet.

3) Connected smoke alarms and “listeners” — Fire alarms have saved many lives, but the original design was intended to notify occupants of a fire so they could quickly exit. Unfortunately, if no one is home to hear a smoke alarm, there isn’t much that can be done by way of stopping a fire before a total loss. But the new generation of connected smoke alarms and “listeners” (an add-on that hears an alarm and sends a signal) can message not only the home owner but also a third party who can dispatch emergency crews on a homeowner’s behalf. It’s not hard to imagine how dramatic loss reductions will be when all homes have connected fire safety devices.

An exciting aspect of all of these enhancements is that they are incremental improvements on already approved safety devices, enabling a fast track of the actuarial analysis/regulatory acceptance of additional discounts. But these improvements are just the start…

See also: Global Trend Map No. 7: Internet of Things  

Connected devices are particularly special because the “intelligence” doesn’t necessarily need to reside on the device itself, but could also live in the cloud, where processing is getting more powerful and less expensive by the day. As such, there is a tremendous amount of innovation in the data analytics space — and here are a few technologies that will almost certainly result in greater loss reduction:

1) Real-time analytics — the more information that can be analyzed in real time, be it from multiple sensors or devices or historical data, the higher the accuracy in early detection of a potential loss situation. For instance, a sharp rise on a temperature sensor might indicate a fire, but it also could be caused from sunlight striking the device. Long-term tracking of that temperature data might quickly indicate what is normal, what is not. Or perhaps a flow sensor might detect a flow of water similar to shower running, but when paired with alarm system that shows the home is unoccupied and the alarm has been in “away” mode for several days could be a clear indication of a burst pipe.

2) Automated response logic — connected devices lend themselves well for automated responses. Homeowners will be able to create steps that are enacted when emergencies are detected. For instance, when a fire alarm rings, the sequence might be something like: a) snap a picture from each camera and take a temperature read from each sensor in the house, b) email/text all of the family that lives there with the data to confirm or override an emergency call, c) if no response within 60 seconds, forward the notifications to a third party for emergency dispatch. Automation combined with human intervention allows for a more accurate and effective response.

3) Predictive analytics — ultimately the best way to lower losses is to prevent problems before they start. This is where heavy processing power is required — as well as buy-in from consumers on the use of their data. Connected homes provide streams of output data and, with it, anticipated performance. Variances in this data might indicate early stages of problems. For instance, a packaged HVAC system might be showing degradation of airflow in the summer, which could mean trouble for gas heating as temperatures drop. It might be in the best interest of the insurance company to ensure performance is restored as the winter comes, prior to the risk of freezing pipes. Additionally, as we are seeing in telematics and auto insurance, you can bet that consumer behaviors will also have the potential to be analyzed, no doubt showing correlation between “safe” homeowners and reduced loss.

While more forward-facing than the device enhancements listed in the first section of this article, it’s these enhanced intelligence features that will truly revolutionize loss models. The more advanced the technology becomes, the less dependent the loss prevention becomes on human behaviors.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

Imagine a world where the main perils for homeowners insurance carriers such as water, fire and theft are dramatically reduced through the IoT and smart homes. Yes, consumer mistakes/negligence, even moral hazard, will always be an issue, but at some point it’s very possible the home will become smart enough to compensate even for these factors in a substantial way. We are already seeing rapid advancements in these areas in both telematics for auto insurance and wearables for life and health insurance. Similarly with smart homes, these IoT technologies have significant potential to lower losses from non-cat perils.

Sensors and the Next Wave of IoT

Spies and “bugs” have made frequent appearances in movies, books and television. In the James Bond movie series, we see an array of devices that were designed for 007 by “Q.” In the 1997 movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond’s BMW car and mobile phone provide the first glimpses of the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). He remotely starts and drives the vehicle to escape the villains, while operating a number of built-in devices from the phone as the car views and senses issues. Q was always on the leading edge of new technology for Bond.

Fast forward 20 years, and we now have sensors and capabilities in so many things … in our appliances, automobiles, mobile phones and a host of common wearables. You may not think of these as “bugs,” but they are. They are mini- and micro-technology components employed to see, listen, learn, assess and respond. The only difference between today’s sensors and yesterday’s is that today’s sensors are infinitely better at reading and recording data — and they may be used for the common good.

To prove that they are still considered “bugs,” however, you only need to look at a bill introduced recently by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (VA) and Cory Gardner (CO). The Internet of Things Cyber Security Improvement Act is aimed to protect the federal government from cyber intrusion through the Internet of Things. Their bill raises a great point — sensors need built-in security measures that will allow for the good features to be used without introducing new risks.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

Good Bugs Eat Risk

In the insurance industry, we understand the implications of sensors and their ability to lower risk. “Bugs” and sensors are now our best friends. In our Future Trends 2017: The Shift Gains Momentum report, we examined how IoT experimentation and implementation is reaching into every area of insurance. Here is a short list of innovative ideas introduced by early adopters of IoT in insurance:

  • Progressive, via the Snapshot usage-based-insurance telematics offering, monitored how customers drove using an OBD plug-in device from Zubie.
  • Liberty Mutual partnered with Google to use NEST connected smoke alarms in the home to help customers reduce fire risk and carbon monoxide poisoning while also reducing their homeowners insurance premium.
  • Beam Dental began pricing dental insurance based on smart toothbrush usage data.
  • John Hancock used wearable devices to track the well-being of customers, lowering life insurance premiums and offering an incentive program through Vitality to shop for an array of things.
  • Oscar, a health insurance startup, used wearable fitness trackers and a mobile app to help track and encourage members to be fit, find doctors, access health history, access the doctor on call and connect to Apple Health.

In addition to the last two examples above, companies are using wearable devices and the data generated from them to better assess individuals for healthcare, life insurance, workers compensation and investment rewards based on their activity and lifestyle. Innovative insurers are using wearables to provide improved underwriting discounts, rewards, claims monitoring and new services using real-time data. The new services can include advice on healthy living, real-time healthcare and prevention, real-time monitoring and assistance in treatment or recovery plans and determining return to work timeframes for injuries or other health-related incidents. These all contribute to enhanced customer experiences, longer customer lives and improved insurer investment options.

There’s No Limit to Sensor Growth

This rapid experimentation and use of IoT isn’t just limited to wearables, telematics and smoke detectors. Sensors of all kinds are being born into healthcare environments, construction sites, commercial buildings, roads and bridges, homes and cars.

  • By 2025, the Internet of Things will be worth trillions annually.
  • Connected homes will grow rapidly by 30% per year in the U.S. alone, where 22% of households now have at least one connected device.
  • The wearable device market is expected to more than double over the next five years.

Sensors Should Reduce Claims

With the proliferation of companies innovating and taking new offerings to market using IoT, we are seeing the beginning of a huge boom in insurers using IoT to drive an engaging customer experience through personalized insurance offerings, reduced costs and new value-added services. The Boston Consulting Group estimated that U.S. insurers could reduce annual claims by 40% to 60% with real-time IoT. The key is that insurers will be able to move from paying claims to mitigating or eliminating risk by engaging with customers via IoT devices while also enhancing the customer experience.

What’s Next for the IoT? Better bugs?

Though so much remains uncertain and untested, we should expect to see a rapid evolution of technologies to sort out which sensors are most valuable in which locations and just how IoT can bring cost-effective monitoring to market.

For example, P&C insurers were quick to pick up on OBD technology, with installed devices in vehicles. In many cases, mobile phone monitoring soon became a more cost-effective solution. Most smart phones have GPS capability and an accelerometer. And now automotive manufacturers are embedding sensors and telematics in vehicles to enhance safety and position themselves toward autonomous driving vehicles – just like Bond.

As some wearable technologies are dropping out of the running, life and health insurers will soon be taking advantage of advancements in smart watch design. The first wave of wearables looked like digital tech devices with touchscreens and LED displays. The next wave is the introduction of smart tech into “normal”-looking watches from standard manufacturers like Movado, Tag Heuer, Fossil and Tommy Hilfiger. Android Wear technology will be feeding the data. These would be much more like Q would have designed, and they will undoubtedly be worn by many who wouldn’t normally use an Apple Watch or a FitBit.

A similar technology wave is beginning to hit homes. Currently, sensors are in use in some thermostats, appliances, lighting systems, security systems, computer and gaming devices. But one of the drawbacks to having so many sensors is that most companies haven’t networked all of them to a single IoT data framework. This hinders the ability to aggregate the data across sensors, limiting the potential value. Every new data point requires a new type of sensor. As with OBD devices, attaching a sensor to everything may even become non-essential, in favor of one centrally located device with multiple sensors.

PhD students at Carnegie Mellon University have been developing a plug-in sensor package they call a “Synthetic Sensor.” Plug it into an outlet, and that room is immediately a smart room. Instead of a smart sensor on every item in the room, multiple sensors in the device track many items, people and safety concerns at once. The device can detect if anything seems to be “wrong” when appliances are in use by analyzing machine vibrations. And, of course, it can track usage patterns. The sensor can even track things insurers may not need to know, like how many paper towels are still left on a roll.

See also: How the ‘Internet of Things’ Affects Strategic Planning  

So, would P&C insurers like to be connected to the water heater thermometer, or have access to a device that can hear pops and leaks? Would L&A insurers like to know the lifestyle and behaviors of their customers to encourage healthy living?  Much of this will be sorted out in the coming years.

What doesn’t need to be sorted out is that insurers will want access to device data – and they will pay for it. They will need to be running systems that will readily hold the data, analyze it and use it effectively. Cloud storage of device data and even cloud analytics will play a tremendous role in giving value to IoT data streams.

IoT advancements are exciting! They hold promise for insurers, and they certainly will make many of our environments safer and smarter.

How Smart Is a ‘Smart’ Home, Really?

During this past year, I built a home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and determined early on that it would be a “smart home.” Now, I speak about insurtech trends often, so you would think building a smart home would not be difficult. You would be wrong.

To truly test the possibilities, I took on the task of configuring and connecting my home myself. And I wanted as much remote detection and control as you could possibly get in a home, such as:

  • Temperature control
  • Moisture/humidity detection
  • Motion detection
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detection
  • Lighting controls
  • Door locking controls
  • Remote answering doorbell

I was already familiar with a number of great technologies in the market, but I found interoperability to be low. Some work with hub-type connections, where multiple devices are all controlled through a single source; others are elegant at the service they perform but are closed technologies that could not interoperate with other technologies, leaving me to manage the home using multiple apps.

Add the fact that each technology is changing rapidly. No matter which path you take, you will have to stay on top of the changes. That is the challenging world of IoT. It’s a work in progress.

See also: Home Is Where the (Smart) Hub Is  

My experience shows that the insurance industry can be doing so much more. At a minimum, there is a great opportunity to educate the policyholder.

Very few insurer websites deal with connected homes. Policyholders are hearing and seeing more about these devices – and it is all about the technology. Many people are really pursuing the capabilities that a connected home device can provide. They are installing remote locks to make it easier to get into the home while balancing two kids and groceries. They are coming home from work and want the lights on before they arrive.

To be sure, this desire-to-be-connected revolution is more focused on the convenience aspects and what it can do for the policyholder than all of the safety aspects combined. But therein lies the benefit for insurers!

The greater the adoption of these platforms and technologies, the greater the opportunity to truly prevent and mitigate risks in each connected home.

The Insurance Model in 2035?

On June 1, there was a high-level conference organized by the alumni of the three most prestigious business schools in France, HEC, ESSEC and ESCP Europe, whose title was “How to run an insurance company in the context of digital, societal and regulatory transformation?” The most burning issues were addressed with depth and perspective, including issues relating to the impact of digital revolution, the clash of generations and the new playground imposed by Solvency 2 on insurance.

The three major French insurers, AXA, Allianz and Generali, compete to operate as quickly as possible while the digital transformation of their business lines and organizations face an environment of increased uncertainty and threats from the emergence of new competitors—GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) or startups—which have mastered the art of customer relationship.

Should we fear Google or an insurtech?

According to many insurers, GAFA may be strong competitors for insurance companies. Indeed, they have undeniably strong assets: a market capitalization among the highest, expertise not only in customer experience but also in algorithms and data and a very high level of agility. What would be similar to Google – the first advertising agency of the Internet – in a rich yet complex industry like insurance, which is highly regulated and whose confidence is only acquired after many years and millions of dollars of investment?

See also: 8 Exemplars of Insurtech Innovation  

The insurtech? Besides Oscar and Lemonade, which are true insurers, the vast majority of insurtechs are brokers that cannot work without an insurer’s support. And even if some startups succeeded, it would take time, and they would not be independent for quite some time.

Where is the real threat? In 2035, we might see a world with little risk

As we know, the heart of the insurer’s business is risk management. However, technological innovations will likely reduce risk levels significantly.

According to a KPMG report on autonomous cars, there could be as much as an 80% reduction in car accident frequency by 2040 if auto and safety trends continue. Another example suggests a scenario where the personal auto insurance sector could shrink to 40% of its current size.

According to Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google and futurist, we will reach a point around 2029 when medical technologies will add a year to people’s life expectancies. Some believe that the adoption of these innovations will be hindered by people’s refusal to allow invasion of privacy. However, another could argue that, who would hesitate to provide more personal data, such as DNA, if that person was guaranteed, in exchange, an additional 20 years of life?

Connected homes that are bristling with sensors inside and out and that also populate smart cities of tomorrow, could contribute to a decline in claims by 43% by the year 2025, according to McKinsey.

Whether for life or P&C, over the next 20 years the risk level will significantly decrease, which will result in a drastic reduction in the value of the insurance market.

The twilight of insurers?

Can we therefore announce the end of the insurance industry? Certainly not. However, the share of insurance and the income of insurers could drop significantly. To maintain the same level of business will require finding new sources of profit.

From insurers to “preventers”

Indeed, the insurer of tomorrow will be one that will transform its business model around prevention and become a prevention specialist. The decrease in risk will become a major challenge that will require considerable investments in people, infrastructure and technology. New prevention services charged on a subscription basis will likely be the new source of margin for insurers. One can imagine that the new standard of performance for the new model of “Prevention as a Service” will be the ratio of prevention fees to insurance premiums. Then, we will see the complete reversal of the traditional business model.

See also: Insurtech: One More Sign of Renaissance

The question that then arises is: Should a manager of an insurance company not make the leap and skip the step of digital processing in an insurance context to strive for refocusing its business model around prevention?

Are You Ready for the New Paradigm?

Italians want connected insurance policies; they are not afraid of “Big Brother.” According to the Ania-Bain Observatory, insurtech can take off in the home and health sectors. Now is the time for both the model and management of connected insurance to be structured.

As of today, 22% of Italian households that have no home insurance are inclined to buy it—if it were connected insurance. This was the starting point of July’s meeting of the Connected Insurance Observatory, an Ania–Bain think-tank, which has put together executives from 30 insurance groups within the Internet of Things (IoT) sector to discuss the great potential of connected insurance, as well as the challenges it poses to the insurance business.

Among those challenges is the protection of auto insurance telematics data, a topic that the Data Protection Authority has recently tackled, promising to offer clients appropriate visibility into the usage of collected data.

But there are no real obstacles to innovation, because there has been an explicit acceptance of the validity of a try-before-you-buy application in auto insurance from the Italian regulator — except when it comes to the rights of the insured, which have to be respected. (Of course, this includes the provision of a detailed explanation to insurance customers of the business purpose for which the data is being collected.) In Italy, if there is the will, innovation can be achieved just as easily as in Silicon Valley.

See also: Not Your Father’s Insurance Industry  

A new model

On one hand, insurtech and connected insurance are transforming insurance business lines. On the other, it is essential to create the conditions needed for insurers and other specialized players to fulfill their role as providers, each in its own sector: from e-health to antifraud and from driverless cars to electronic payments and product design.

“A new and more connected insurance model has to be defined In order to achieve this, so that the full potential of the technology can be exploited,” says Luigi Di Falco, head of life and welfare, Ania. “In our opinion, there are many opportunities and areas to be explored within connected insurance that would allow for a more client-centric offering to be created. The demand would be easier to aggregate, and thus more client categories that are not insurable today would become insurable. Last, it reduces claims through the use of sensors with advantages for both the insurer and the insured.”

Managing an ecosystem

There are still plenty of challenges. Chief among them, according to Ania, are the evolution of rules and regulations on privacy, the risk of data monopoly from players like Google, the arrival of new insurance start-up competitors and the danger of insurance disintermediation. Di Falco warns that “the Observatory has to look at understanding both the advantages and the dangers that come with insurtech.”

At the foundation of everything is the synergy between numerous partners that drives insurance toward becoming the coordinator of a highly complex system. Insurers today are aware that using external providers is simply not enough and that the orchestration of the whole ecosystem needs to happen. This is a relatively new trend that represents the next frontier of connected insurance and is essential for reaching full potential.

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Less Privacy, More Services

Regarding privacy issues, the accepted principle states that if the client wants additional services, he or she needs to enable the insurer to provide them. As Di Falco says, “If the insured believes that a service is useful, he or she will be ready to renounce the privacy of his or her data. But this has to be reflected by a legal framework that specifies that the loss of privacy is strictly connected to perceived benefits on behalf of the client.”

Innovation are moving to the home and health sectors

Being aware of this, 76% of the insurance carriers participating at the Observatory expect to see significant innovation activity related to home products (the “connected home”) in the next 12 months. Also, 43% of companies believe the health sector—(“connected health”)— will be ripe for innovation, whereas, in the life and industrial sectors, the potential for innovation is expected only in the medium term. Some specialized insurance companies are already offering health insurance coverage related to wearables, claim detection and sideline services, starting with health monitoring, second opinions and medical consultation via chat and continuing with access to networks of healthcare structures and drug stores. Di Falco underscores the point: “In a country where the proportion of people over 65 will grow to become a third of the entire population, it is important to develop forms of insurance protection in rehabilitation and long-term assistance where the state is less present and the nuclear family is not holding together as it once did.”

The Connected Insurance Observatory was created with the purpose synthesizing Italian excellence in the connected insurance sector. It has three main goals: first, to rationalize existing industry knowledge and experience; second, to identify together with the companies what needs to be improved, what the main challenges and critical points are and what the main ambitions are; and third, to promote a culture of innovation in the insurance sector by encouraging dialogue between all players involved. We have created a think-tank centered on the insurance sector that boasts the participation of more than 15 other players—including the Italian Association of Insurance Brokers (AIBA)—coming from different backgrounds that are interested in sharing their own experiences with the insurance carriers.

See also: How Connected Will Connected World Be?  

Intermediaries’ interest on the rise

Forty percent of Italian brokers believe that connected insurance represents an interesting business opportunity in the medium term. A recent survey developed by AIBA and the Connected Insurance Observatory shows that, other than the growing interest of intermediaries in connected solutions, larger brokers are more likely to see the business opportunity within connected insurance: 67% of big brokers expressed this, compared with 60% of medium-size brokers and 40% of small brokers.

(The original version of this article appeared in Insurance Review.)