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CES2020: Big Themes for P&C Insurance

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES) is where the latest TVs, smartphones and a plethora of smart gadgets of every imaginable kind are introduced and on display. This year, the press is breathlessly reporting on the latest in tech that relates to every area of human endeavor, including areas like sports, transportation, beauty, sleep, baby care, learning, fitness and much more.

There are top themes or top 10 CES innovations articles from every major press outlet – everyone has a perspective. The reason that I personally attend CES every year is to see the technology innovations and then think about them in the context of the insurance industry. While things like 8K TVs or digital appliances are of interest to all of us, there are many other tech products and advancements that have important implications for P&C insurance. Within that framework, let me present what I believe are the big themes of interest to insurance:

  1. Security and Privacy: This might just be the biggest overarching theme of the event. The advent of regulations like GDPR in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), coupled with the intense dialogue in society about these topics, has resulted in many companies coming forward with new or improved products. There were hundreds of new solutions, including those aimed at specific domains like smart homes or connected vehicles, payments and security for personal devices and personal digital data, and others focused on areas like the IoT infrastructure. Expect this area to continue to be a focus as both individuals and businesses grapple with cyber-risk and the issues of data ownership/sharing.
  2. The Expanding Mobility Ecosystem: The automotive ecosystem was already complex before the digital age, but now there are increasing numbers and types of companies offering new capabilities and services. As vehicles continue to become “computers on wheels,” the expectation is that occupants will be able to conduct, from their vehicles, every type of digital interaction that they can now do from their office or their living room couch.
  3. AI and Voice Everywhere: These technologies were prominent at CES2019, but the tech continues to advance and become embedded in more and more products. Voice is poised to become a dominant way that we interact with the smart, digital world around us. AI is becoming not only pervasive but, in many cases, invisible. The Consumer Technology Association describes it as the Consumerization of AI.
  4. Smart Tech for Commercial Vehicles: Just to reinforce what we at SMA have been saying for some time, it looks like connected, autonomous vehicles will have the most practical, real-world applications in commercial vehicles over the next few years. The options for autonomous public transportation vehicles continue to expand, and the use cases in controlled environments are many. Personal automobiles continue to add and enhance automated driver-assist systems (ADAS) features and advance up the autonomy levels. But the many challenges of autonomous personal vehicles on the open roads mean that, while the potential is tremendous, the reality is many years away.

See also: Road to Success for P&C Insurers  

There are many other interesting products that insurers should follow, especially those in the health and wellness areas, drones and AR/VR. Each of these areas will influence customers, risks and operations over time, but the four themes identified in this blog are most likely to have the biggest near-term impact on the industry.

‘Smart’ Is Everywhere, but…

The connected world is here. Everything is “smart.” And for insurers, the implications are huge. Whatever you insure can now be connected, monitored and analyzed. People, places and things, moving or stationary, living or non-living—are all becoming smart. Think that is an exaggeration? Consider the following products announced or displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016, just a few of the thousands of smart products:

  • Smart air vents to monitor and adjust temperature in each room, detect for early signs of mold, etc.
  • Smart drinking glasses to monitor hydration and caffeine intake
  • Neuro-stimulation devices to block chronic pain or alter moods
  • Smart appliances that manage energy efficiency, anticipate failures, conduct e-commerce, etc.
  • Wearable patches to monitor UV rays, toxic exposure and biometrics
  • In-car cameras that monitor a driver’s pupils for signs of stress

Add to that list smart belts, umbrellas and smoke alarms among many other things, and it’s difficult to find anything that doesn’t have a “smart version” today. And it’s all pretty exciting stuff. But here’s the rub—in many cases, the technology is way ahead of the desire and ability of consumers and businesses to use it. A few important considerations emerged as central themes at CES:

  1. Value propositions need more work. Many of the products at CES were narrow-use, high-priced items that work in isolation.
  2. Customer experience is still king. Products must be easy to install, easy to use and engaging. Progress is certainly being made here, especially among wearables, but some of the smart home and car products need to take the experience to the next level to get beyond the early adopters.
  3. Platforms and standards progress are required. Competing platforms for smart home hubs, connected car capabilities, intelligent infrastructure and other areas may impede adoption. The competitive environment is healthy, but widespread adoption will require more interoperability standards and a shakeout of players.
  4. New ecosystems and partnerships are rapidly evolving. Industry boundaries are disappearing, and new industries are emerging. Success in the connected world will require active involvement in various ecosystems as well as a flexible partnering strategy.
  5. Analytics and cognitive computing will be the differentiators. Embedding chips, sensors and devices into everything is creating vast oceans of data. The value will increasingly be based, not on owning proprietary data, but on the ability to gain actionable insights. Cognitive computing goes even further by automating real-time learning, reasoning and recommendations.

These five considerations along with other factors will affect adoption rates and opportunities for businesses and consumers. But it would be a mistake to conclude that there are too many complications or barriers to progress. In fact, the opposite is true. Advances are being made at breakneck speed, and barriers are being knocked down on a regular basis. If anything, this means that insurers need to be even more diligent and aggressive in shaping the future.

So, innovate to create new value propositions. Seize opportunities to transform the customer experience. Weigh in at relevant standards and platform discussions. Join new ecosystems and seek partnerships with unconventional allies. And build up your enterprise analytics expertise and capabilities.

The digital, connected world is here. If you want your company to thrive in this new era, you must jump in with both feet. The possibilities are endless, but you must play a role in shaping and capitalizing on them.

Home Is Where the (Smart) Hub Is

The smart home was all the rage at the 2016 CES (Consumer Electronics Show). The exhibit space and products devoted to smart homes was absolutely mind-boggling.

Well-known products such as the Nest Thermostat, the Roost Smart Battery for smoke alarms and Amazon Echo were displayed alongside a wide variety of other products to make every “thing” in your home smart. Want your refrigerator to assemble a grocery list for you by bar code scans of items about to run out? No problem – the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator can do that. Looking for a bed with biometric sensors to track your sleep, monitor physiology and make adjustments to improve your night’s rest? Look no further than the Sleep Number-it bed. Need to separately monitor and manage the temperature and environment for each room? The Ecovent system has that capability – and can even alert you if your home is at risk for mold. The list could go on and on.

Given unlimited time and money, you could truly make your home an Internet of Things showplace with smarts everywhere you turn. Of course, you would probably not have enough room on your smartphone to manage all the apps that control the smart things. So how to make sense of all the options? And how should insurers capitalize on the smart home trend? For starters, it is useful to think of smart home devices in four categories:

  • Security/Safety: Existing home security companies are all evolving to provide smarter systems using wireless technologies and more sophisticated sensors. In addition, companies like Ring and Glue provide smart locks and doorbells for secure entry. Others focus on safety through monitoring and pre-emptive alerts for leaky pipes, smoke alarms, failing sump pumps and other things.
  • Entertainment/Information: Smart TVs are already a fixture in many homes, with availability from a variety of suppliers. The Amazon Echo responds to voice questions and prompts to provide news, weather and information, among other capabilities. Devices for gaming are incredibly powerful, and virtual reality headsets are gaining in adoption.
  • Energy/Environment: The Nest Thermostat device has led the way in providing a smart, connected way to monitor and manage the temperature and environment throughout the home for comfort and energy efficiency. Others, such as Lutron, offer controls for lights, shades and temperature, aimed at saving energy.
  • Commerce: The Amazon Dash Button may seem to be a gimmick, but it has opened up possibilities for e-commerce by allowing homeowners to reorder items with literally the touch of a button. Smart appliances and embedded touch screens automate the ordering of parts before they fail or common supply items before they run out.

Then come the questions about how (and even if) all of these devices will work with each other. There is a great deal of overlap and potential interaction between devices both within and between these categories. Enter the smart home hub. There are a number of companies and devices purporting to be hubs to connect the smart things in your home. Some operate well within just one domain – coordinating security-related devices, for instance. Others are broader and have the capability to connect a wider range of smart devices. The Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings Hub and Amazon Echo are a few of the well-known hubs, but others are emerging.

The take-home is that insurers should consider three actions to better understand the smart home space and its potential opportunities and threats.

First, monitor the evolution of the companies and products in the space and the product adoption trends. It probably goes without saying that this is easier said than done.

Second, make sure your tech guys follow the standards, communication protocols and tech issues as they progress (especially related to data-security concerns).

Finally, actively partner with and invest in companies in the smart home space. First-hand learning and experimentation is paramount if you want to gauge the opportunities to offer new insurance product offerings or services that will set you apart from your competitors.

Voice of the Customer: They’re Not Happy

Early in November 2014, immediately following the release of the SMA research report Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation: Powering the Sharing Economy, which explored the shared economy and its implications for insurance, I received an interesting email from the CEO of a shared shipping start-up. The CEO stated, “I just wanted to let you know that I have found the hardest problem to solve as the CEO is that, after talking with 12 different insurance companies, I am still stuck on finding someone to write a policy for me! I am not sure you can overstate the tsunami of change that insurers are trying to avoid. It is frustrating to me as a CEO trying to get my company going.”

My instant reaction was … what a powerful voice, and what a compelling, if troubling, customer statement! I immediately reached out to him to discuss his predicament.

In our SMA research, we have written about how the shared economy is empowering individuals and businesses to access specialized skills, resources, goods or services from anyone, anywhere, at any time based on an instantaneous need. The change is spawning new business models and leveraging the combination of crowdsourcing, open innovation and technology. These new business models are challenging decades of business assumptions, models, pricing and growth that were based on the principle of ownership, rather than access or subscription. As a result, the fundamentals of insurance, from risk models to pricing, products and services, are feeling shockwaves. My discussion with the CEO about his business provides a great but jolting example of the need for these new business models, new risk models and (especially) new insurance products. He agreed to do a webinar to describe his needs and his frustrating experiences for our SMA Innovation Communities.

During the webinar, the CEO shared his experience and powerful insights for insurers:

It was easier to obtain $2 million for investment funding than to find insurance. The funding would likely be completed within 30 days. Contrast that with finding insurance coverage: After talking to more than 20 insurers, brokers or agents, over nearly 12 months, there is still no coverage. He found two companies, one of which works with Peers (the non-profit company backed by shared economy companies), that are bringing insurance to this market segment. But he is still awaiting confirmation.

Outdated insurance business models don’t fit today’s market needs. The old models are based on historical actuarial models, rather than real, point-in-time data (i.e. coverage when driving and shipping something). The lack of visibility into capabilities of insurers and independent agents and the language barrier (the coverage needed is inland marine, which implies the use of a boat rather than land surface shipping) make it especially difficult to find exactly the right coverage.

Finding the right independent agent is “tricky” because of referral chains, lack of skill sets, unclear representations, and agent incentives. In seeking coverage, he was told by many in the industry that, “Insurance has not updated the business model since the 1800s, so you won’t find anything.”

What does this mean for the insurance industry? Mildly put, listening to the voice of the customer should be a wake-up call. The lack of understanding and inability to respond rapidly to new market needs opens the door to new competitors and the potential loss of customers.

Just like many other industries that are being disrupted and transformed, insurance must reimagine its business models – from the mission to the customer to the product, pricing, operational and revenue models. Historically, insurance has been about the transfer of the risk of a loss from one entity to another in exchange for payment. In today’s fast-paced, changing world of emerging technologies, new business models and shifting industry boundaries, is that focus limiting our opportunities? This experience by a “could-be” customer clearly suggests we are at least limiting our future, if not risking it altogether.

Other industries (and companies) are noticeably redefining their visions and focus to compete in this new world. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, the media noted that Ford CEO Mark Fields sees Ford as rethinking itself as a mobility company rather than being defined by its legacy as an automotive company, and Ford is delivering a wide array of new services and experiences via the auto. Even Google’s CEO, Larry Page, has acknowledged that its vision statement – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – is too narrow, as reported in a Nov. 13, 2014, Fortune magazine article, “Google’s Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe.” Page is creating a future by leveraging emerging technologies to reshape the business beyond the legacy as a search engine.

Yet the view that insurance vision and business models are shackled in decades or even centuries of tradition is, unhappily, very real. This notion is reinforced in a Jan. 21, 2015, Forbes article titled “Insurance: $7 Trillion Goliath” that compares banking with insurance relative to change and innovation. The article notes that 15 years ago banking was a lumbering, vertically integrated giant that was largely untouched by the technology revolution. Today, however, there are a group of “Davids” like CoverHound, Lending Club and Square that are challenging traditional banking “Goliaths” with some digital “slingshots.” The article further observes that insurance has also remained largely untouched by the technology revolution, but that we are beginning to see the emergence of “Davids” who will challenge the traditional “Goliaths,” leveraging the technology revolution to disrupt the traditional business assumptions and models of insurance.

Insurers must redefine their vision and reinvent their business model, taking into consideration the new and emerging technologies, the growing amount of real-time data, new market trends and much, much more. If they do not, they risk facing a disruption that will be devastating, when it could have been transformational, creating new relevance in a rapidly changing world.

The reimagination of businesses in the context of today’s world and tomorrow’s potential are already defining and revealing future market leaders and winners. Will insurance remain focused on risk transfer products? Or will we look more broadly toward offering products and services that provide much more, enhance the lives or businesses of our customers and meet the needs of a reimagined business model, like the shared economy?

The possibilities are significant. Are you reimagining your business, considering the impossible as the new possible? Insurers need ingenuity and outside-in thinking to reimagine their business as a Next-Gen Insurer and ignite a vision of possibilities.

If not you, then someone else will. So dream the impossible and become a Next-Gen insurer

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!