Tag Archives: Cortana

Are Insurers Ready for Voice Search?

Who do property and casualty insurance customers turn to when they need help?

In the past, answers have included insurance agents, customer helplines and company websites. Today, however, customers are increasingly likely to consult Alexa, Siri or Cortana.

As voice assistants gain popularity in homes, in cars and on smartphones, they’re also gaining traction as a marketing tool. Here, we look at the ways in which insurance companies are using voice assistants as part of their marketing and sales strategy, as well as what to expect in the near future.

How Voice Assistants Are Changing Marketing

Voice assistants commonly come in one of two forms: wireless speakers that can be placed in the home or office, or as built-in tools on smartphones. iPhones and various Android devices have had them for a few years now.

In some ways, voice assistants work similarly to visual or text-based tools like smartphone apps and Google search bars. The user asks a question or enters a command, and the device responds to it. Voice assistants like Alexa even offer apps, or “skills,” that work similarly to smartphone apps — except they rely on audio rather than visuals to share information, TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez writes.

The audio-based approach changes the ways in which both search results and apps work on voice assistant devices. A text-based Google search, for instance, returns a list of links from which the user can choose. A voice-based search, however, tends to return the single response the AI thinks best fits the user’s query.

Some experts praise this option for its speed and flexibility. “Since voice flattens menus, it will make daily tasks far easier to complete,” Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty says. Yet it also puts additional pressure on marketing teams to ensure that their content gets chosen by the various search engines that inform each voice-based device, says Richard Yao, senior associate of strategy and content at IPG Media Lab.

Voice assistants haven’t just changed how search results are presented. They have also changed how users launch searches in the first place, says More Visibility’s Jill Goldstein. While text-based searches tend to focus on two or three keywords, voice-based searches use full, natural-language sentences. These often start with question words like “what,” “how” or “when.”

See also: Insurtech Starts With ‘I’ but Needs ‘We’  

These questions give marketers insight into where shoppers are in their buying journey and how best to meet their needs — but only if marketing teams are collecting and using this information, says Tyler Riddell, vice president of marketing for eSUB Construction Software.

Not only are marketing teams learning to adapt to the differences between audio and visual, but they’re also learning how to adapt to a search tool that adapts itself.

Because voice assistants use artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can adapt to changes in search terms, says Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal. The onboard AI is designed to learn over time, gaining a better sense of how users frame their queries and the sort of information they may be looking for.

‘Alexa, Find Me Auto Insurance’: The Rising Demand for Voice Search

Based on recent sales trends, 55% of U.S. households are expected to have a smart home speaker, with voice assistance enabled, in their houses by the end of 2019, Dara Treseder at Adweek reports. Voice assistants are also a mainstay of many smartphones, from Apple’s Siri to Google’s voice search option triggered by saying, “OK, Google.”

Insurance customers increasingly prefer to include digital channels in their search for property and casualty insurance. With voice assistants occupying millions of smartphones and a wide range of other devices, customers increasingly prefer to rely on these tools, as well.

Nearly half (46%) of insurance customers already use voice search tools at least once per day, according to Shane Closser at Property Casualty 360. One in four want their voice assistants to be able to give them more information on insurance agents and products. One in three wanted to use voice assistants to book appointments with a particular insurance agent.

Service-based companies that offer “highly complex and highly personal” services are uniquely suited to thrive in the voice search era, says Adweek’s Julia Stead. While Stead focuses on travel, finance and healthcare, her analysis applies to P&C insurers, as well, because these companies also offer services that have long been accessed via voice (phone), are tailored to the needs of each customer and often require access at odd locations or hours.

And while the conversation about tech innovation often focuses on younger users, voice assistants are increasingly popular with older insurance customers.

See also: Future of Insurance Looks Very Different  

Lauryn Chamberlain at GeoMarketing.com says that 37% of consumers age 50 and older say they use a voice assistant, often because simply speaking to a smart speaker or phone is easier than tapping, swiping or reducing a question to its key search terms. In other words, older users can think of their voice assistants as a helpful background entity rather than as a device.

In short, voice assistants are cutting across demographics. They’re entering more homes and workspaces. And insurance customers want to use them to secure coverage.

How P&C Insurers Are Incorporating Voice Into Their Marketing

Several insurance companies are already experimenting with voice assistant tools as part of their own marketing process, according to Danni Santana at Digital Insurance. For instance, Nationwide, Liberty Mutual (and subsidiary SafeCo) and Farmers have all launched Amazon Echo Skills.

Progressive, meanwhile, joined Google Home in March 2017, the first insurance carrier to do so, according to Rachel Brown at Mobile Marketer.

Other insurance companies have experimented with different approaches. Amica Mutual Insurance, for example, launched an Alexa skill that doesn’t connect users to their individual accounts. Rather, it offers information in more than a dozen categories to help users better understand billing, discounts, storm preparation and more.

With the development of Alexa skills and similar tools, brands are thinking about how a voice assistant’s sound affects their brand development, says Jennifer Harvey, VP of branding and communications at Bynder. The choice of voice tone, pitch and speed can all send a powerful message about an insurer’s brand and culture, whether it’s reassuring, serious, cheerful or anything in between.

One of the big opportunities for insurance companies and voice assistants is access. Currently, voice assistants can take on many simple tasks but can’t always handle a transaction as complex as ensuring a customer receives the right home or auto coverage for their needs. Yet developments in AI and voice recognition indicate this may change. “Alexa is already capable of placing a complicated pizza order,” says Inbal Lavi, CEO of Webpals Group, “underscoring that voice assistants will act as more than middlemen.”

For now, however, even the digital middleman approach can benefit potential and current P&C insurance customers and the companies that serve them. “We want to enable easy access for our customers,” says Alexander Bernert, head of brand management at Zurich Insurance. “Consumers do not necessarily think of taking out disability insurance between 9 am and 5 pm, but maybe even shortly before midnight.”

It can be tough to reach an insurance agent shortly before midnight. But a voice assistant can find one, provide information and even schedule an appointment — making it easier for potential customers to turn into actual purchasers.

In a world where insurance customers already do research and contact insurers via multiple channels, voice assistants are a natural frontier for insurance marketing.

The Great AI Race in Insurance Innovation

The rise of artificial intelligence is the great story of our time. Leaving the laboratory after decades in the making, artificial intelligence, or AI, is infusing itself into many aspects our daily lives – from homes and phones to cars and offices. Machines are now able to perform tasks that previously required human intelligence across various industries. Insurance, once perceived as highly resistant to change, has now accelerated the race for innovation.

Placing AI at the forefront of the innovation agenda, insurers have been separating the hype from reality to reinvent business models. Insurance has accepted the fact that AI isn`t coming — it’s here. Companies are racing to apply artificial intelligence to find a 10X improvement.

The following case studies provide a first-hand look at how today’s pioneering insurers are advancing strategic growth and transformation with artificial intelligence:

AI in Consumer Engagement

Insurers are constantly seeking opportunities to enhance the trust and relationship with customers, as the industry has always suffered from a lack of frequent and direct engagement. Today, AI is increasing being applied to collect large volumes of real-time data at very high velocity, recognize patterns of customer behavior and engage in deeper interactions for a more personalized and engaging overall experience with customers.

As AI is vying to become an indispensable part of customers’ everyday life, intelligent personal virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Microsofts’s Cortana, Google’s Now, Facebook’s M and Apple’s Siri are evolving to learn customers’ preferences and behavioral patterns and then making recommendations and potentially acting on behalf of the customer. Using just voice services, customers are now able to interact with insurers through a more intuitive channel, from asking everyday insurance questions to getting an insurance quote, or simply navigating the insurance process.

See also: Insights on Insurance and AI  

AI bots’ are becoming the new user experience (UX). Chatbot technologies are engaging customers on websites, mobile apps and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS using natural language. The advancements in conversational AI agents, including their ability to adapt to speech patterns, vocabulary and personal preferences, have driven insurers to take things to the next level with full conversational interactions powered by AI bots throughout the customer journey. From a customer perspective, it`s truly a game-changing experience as we could now simply ask a question through speech or text and have insurers resolve problems or attend to an inquiry, at any point in time from any digital interfaces (including websites and mobiles apps) instead of navigating our way around complicated websites or time-consuming contact centers. Some insurers have successfully launched Alexa-integration, allowing customers to quickly access important information such as policy premium status, as well as make payments and recommend additional coverage based on lifestyle changes.

Although these advancements won`t be able to replace an agent in the short term, AI agents are learning at unprecedented speed, and this is just scratching the surface of what’s coming. A recent Gartner study predicts that, by 2020, the customer will manage 85% of its relationship with an organization without human interaction. While we know analyst projections may at times be over-optimistic, the reality is that AI likely will be the basis for competing on customer experience from here onward. There’s no turning back.

AI in Automated Advisory

Some insurers will leapfrog the innovation race with automated insurance advisory. With robo-advisers, insurers can now offer real advice without the need for any human intermediaries, anytime and anywhere.

The complexity of insurance often frustrates customers and leads to mistrust. It is also hard to decouple decisions from emotional and social reasons or agent bias.

Robo-advisers can build a consolidated financial portfolio, often aggregating data from various insurers and financial providers including life and health coverage, annuity accounts, savings, brokerages, etc. Robo-advisers then combine behavioral and external data to simulate future risk preferences, running future scenarios to infer cradle-to-grave financial plans and investment management advice.

AI in Underwriting and Claims Management

Increased automation in claims management and underwriting holds the promise of delivering a more customer-centric experience.

Today, AI-based agents are building predictive models for processing and settlement of claims expenses and high-value losses with far lower costs and heighten levels of efficiency. Tasks that took typically months are now accurately achieved in a matter of minutes, allowing insurers to focus on value-added activities. In early 2017, tongues started wagging when Lemonade used AI to settle a claim in three seconds and Fukoku Life of Japan displaced 34 employees with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI, for a 30% productivity increase.

See also: Seriously? Artificial Intelligence?  

Software developed using machine learning gathers all the details that underwriters need, while also identifying hidden risks.

Insurers are racing to routinize more work with artificial intelligence automation in core insurance business process areas such as fraud detection, policy services and contract administration, claims administration and risk compliance. We foresee increased application of artificial intelligence in any task that’s high-volume and highly repetitive and demands low human judgment, reaping sizable costs savings.

AI in Pricing Risk

Traditionally, insurers use generalized linear models (GLM), with predefined variables such as age, sex, location and occupation class, then fitted with additional factors/variables for predictions.

Today, modern machine learning techniques have increased speed, sophistication and accuracy, accelerating the adopting of usage-based and behavior-based pricing. Motor, alone, has seen a constant stream of telematics data ingested into machine learning models; driving patterns are not only used for accurate pricing of risk but also to prevent accidents by alerting drivers with behavior tips and with information about traffic and road conditions.

Health insurers are capitalizing on wearable technologies such as Fit Bits and Jawbone to drive individuals toward better health. By linking incentives to customers with healthy lifestyle characteristics such as regular exercise, walking, running, cycling, swimming and a healthy body mass index (BMI), insurers are lowering risk — and premiums.

With shorter modeling response time, increased actuarial simulation and the capability to learn, machine-based pricing is marching toward becoming an industry standard much quicker than we anticipated.

The Future

The work in artificial intelligence is just beginning. Insurers are aggressively exploring opportunities.

See also: Convergence: Insurance in 2017  

Winners will be determined by the velocity and scale of their use of AI and by the ability to go beyond pure business results. After all, the fundamental promise of an insurer is to help customers live their lives with peace of mind — healthier and safer.

5 Predictions for the IoT in 2017

The IoT continued its toddler-like growth and stumbles in 2016. Here are five trends to look for in 2017 as the IoT enters its adolescence and how to benefit from them.

1. Ecosystems begin to determine winners and losers

Previously these were nice in-the-future concerns; now they will really count. Filling out a whole product value proposition through partnerships has repeatedly proven its importance across B2B and enterprise software sectors. In the IoT, they will be even more critical.

As an example, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is driving the definition of platforms and test beds and should show results in 2017. In the meantime, expect some IoT companies to fail when they can’t gain traction.

If you’re developing IoT infrastructure or platforms, it’s time to get real, regarding building great partnerships, developer programs, tools, incentives and joint marketing programs. Without them, your platform may appear like an empty shopping mall.

If you’re a device manufacturer or application developer, it’s time to place your platform bets so you can focus your resources. If you’re implementing IoT-based systems, you’ve been through this before. Welcome to the next round of the industry’s favorite game, “choose your platform.” Make sure you also evaluate vendors based on their financial health, business models and customer service — not just technology. Learn more in Monetizing IoT: Show me the Money in the section “Ecosystems as the driver of value.”

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things

2. Vendors get serious about experimenting with business models and monetization

This was a big theme at Gemalto’s recent LicensingLive conference and was further driven home by solution partners like Aria Systems. Tech won’t sell if it’s not packaged so that buyers want to buy. Look for innovation in business models and pricing, including subscription models, pay per use, recurring revenue, subsidization or replacement of hardware device revenues with service revenues, monetizing customer data and even pay-per-API call models. If you’re marketing whole solutions, be sure to avoid the “partial solution trap” as described in my article, The Internet of Things: Challenges and Opportunities.

3. Big Data gets “cloudier” (pun intended)

No doubt there will be a lot more data with billions of new connected devices. Not just text and numbers but also images, video and voice can all add significant monetization opportunities to different participants in the value chain. More devices mean more data, more potential uses and more cooks in the kitchen. This is a complex cluster of issues: Do not expect a resolution of ownership, privacy or value in 2017.

Instead, approach this by building a clear vision of what you want and don’t want with respect to data rights as you enter these discussions. And try to anticipate the genuine needs of your partners. Device manufacturers will likely have a going-in desire to own data produced by their devices; and apps developers, the data they handle; others may be okay with aggregated info. Buyers should make sure they understand what’s happening with their potentially sensitive data. We have already started to see partnerships and deals stall out over intense discussion on data ownership and rights.

4. You’ll need to prove your security, with privacy not far behind

2017 IoT systems are going to need to up their game. No one is going to stand for hacked doorlocks, video cameras or Mirai botnet/DDoS attacks via connected devices much longer. Similar events will come with very high price tags. So far, the IoT has dodged any major incidents with large losses suffered directly by end users.

We could see growth flatten if a major hack of thousands of end users occurs in 2017, especially if hardware devices are ruined or people get hurt. At that point, users will need to receive greater guarantees of security, privacy and integrity. This risk needs to be mitigated if the industry wants to avoid an “IoT winter.”

Vendors will need to invest more in security development and testing before deployment and offer assurances, possibly including insurance. Installers and integrators will need to ensure ecosystem integrity, and buyers will look for these guarantees. Just one flaw could be very expensive: Gartner believes that by 2018 20% of smart buildings will suffer digital vandalism through their HVAC, thermostats and even smart toilets.

5. Voice-powered, AI virtual assistants drive a next round of platform wars

Voice will become increasingly important to control IoT systems and computing infrastructure. Google Assistant, Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s Viv Labs acquisition underscore the importance of these new AI-assisted voice interfaces. They’ll be used across multiple devices like phones, PCs, tablets, cars, home appliances and other machinery. By 2020, Gartner believes smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. This is the beginning of a new round of platform battles that you need to recognize, internalize and prepare for.

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

What do you think? Email me with your predictions, comments or war stories.

You can find the original article here.

6 Technologies That Will Define 2016

Please join me for “Path to Transformation,” an event I am putting on May 10 and 11 at the Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley in conjunction with Insurance Thought Leadership. The event will not only explore the sorts of technological breakthroughs I describe in this article but will explain how companies can test and absorb the technologies, in ways that then lead to startling (and highly profitable) innovation. My son and I have been teaching these events around the world, and I hope to see you in May. You can sign up here.

Over the past century, the price and performance of computing has been on an exponential curve. And, as futurist Ray Kurzweil observed, once any technology becomes an information technology, its development follows the same curve. So, we are seeing exponential advances in technologies such as sensors, networks, artificial intelligence and robotics. The convergence of these technologies is making amazing things possible.

Last year was the tipping point in the global adoption of the Internet, digital medical devices, blockchain, gene editing, drones and solar energy. This year will be the beginning of an even bigger revolution, one that will change the way we live, let us visit new worlds and lead us into a jobless future. However, with every good thing, there comes a bad; wonderful things will become possible, but with them we will create new problems for mankind.

Here are six of the technologies that will make the change happen.

1. Artificial intelligence

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There is merit to the criticism of AI—even though computers have beaten chess masters and Jeopardy players and have learned to talk to us and drive cars. AI such as Siri and Cortana is still imperfect and infuriating. Yes, those two systems crack jokes and tell us the weather, but they are nothing like the seductive digital assistant we saw in the movie “Her.” In the artificial-intelligence community, there is a common saying: “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet.” People call this the “AI effect.” Skeptics discount the behavior of an artificial intelligence program by arguing that, rather than being real intelligence, it is just brute force computing and algorithms.

But this is about to change, to the point even the skeptics will say that AI has arrived. There have been major advances in “deep learning” neural networks, which learn by ingesting large amounts of data. IBM has taught its AI system, Watson, everything from cooking, to finance, to medicine and to Facebook. Google and Microsoft have made great strides in face recognition and human-like speech systems. AI-based face recognition, for example, has almost reached human capability. And IBM Watson can diagnose certain cancers better than any human doctor can.

With IBM Watson being made available to developers, Google open-sourcing its deep-learning AI software and Facebook releasing the designs of its specialized AI hardware, we can expect to see a broad variety of AI applications emerging because entrepreneurs all over the world are taking up the baton. AI will be wherever computers are, and it will seem human-like.

Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about superhuman AI yet; that is still a decade or two away.

2. Robots

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The 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge required robots to navigate over an eight-task course that simulated a disaster zone. It was almost comical to see them moving at the speed of molasses, freezing up and falling over. Forget folding laundry and serving humans; these robots could hardly walk. While we heard some three years ago that Foxconn would replace a million workers with robots in its Chinese factories, it never did so.

Breakthroughs may, however, be at hand. To begin with, a new generation of robots is being introduced by companies—such as Switzerland’s ABB, Denmark’s Universal Robots, and Boston’s Rethink Robotics—robots dextrous enough to thread a needle and sensitive enough to work alongside humans. They can assemble circuits and pack boxes. We are at the cusp of the industrial-robot revolution.

Household robots are another matter. Household tasks may seem mundane, but they are incredibly difficult for machines to perform. Cleaning a room and folding laundry necessitate software algorithms that are more complex than those required to land a man on the moon. But there have been many breakthroughs of late, largely driven by AI, enabling robots to learn certain tasks by themselves and by teaching each other what they have learned. And with the open source robotic operating system (ROS), thousands of developers worldwide are getting close to perfecting the algorithms.

Don’t be surprised when robots start showing up in supermarkets and malls—and in our homes. Remember Rosie, the robotic housekeeper from the TV series “The Jetsons”?  I am expecting version No. 1 to begin shipping in the early 2020s.

3. Self-driving cars

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Once considered to be in the realm of science fiction, autonomous cars made big news in 2015. Google crossed the million-mile mark with its prototypes; Tesla began releasing functionality in its cars; and major car manufacturers announced their plans for robocars. These cars are coming, whether or not we are ready. And, just as the robots will, they will learn from each other—about the landscape of our roads and the bad habits of humans.

In the next year or two, we will see fully functional robocars being tested on our highways, and then they will take over our roads. Just as the horseless carriage threw horses off the roads, these cars will displace us humans. Because they won’t crash into each other as we humans do, the robocars won’t need the bumper bars or steel cages, so they will be more comfortable and lighter. Most will be electric. We also won’t have to worry about parking spots, because they will be able to drop us where we want to go to and pick us up when we are ready. We won’t even need to own our own cars, because transportation will be available on demand through our smartphones. Best of all, we won’t need speed limits, so distance will be less of a barrier—enabling us to leave the cities and suburbs.

4. Virtual reality and holodecks

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In March, Facebook announced the availability of its much-anticipated virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift. And Microsoft, Magic Leap and dozens of startups aren’t far behind with their new technologies. The early versions of these products will surely be expensive and clumsy and cause dizziness and other adverse reactions, but prices will fall, capabilities will increase and footprints will shrink as is the case with all exponential technologies. 2016 will mark the beginning of the virtual reality revolution.

Virtual reality will change how we learn and how we entertain ourselves. Our children’s education will become experiential, because they will be able to visit ancient Greece and journey within the human body. We will spend our lunchtimes touring far-off destinations and our evenings playing laser tag with friends who are thousands of miles away. And, rather than watching movies at IMAX theaters, we will be able to be part of the action, virtually in the back seat of every big-screen car chase.

5. Internet of Things

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Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to create his own artificially intelligent, voice-controlled butler to help run his life at home and at work. For this, he will need appliances that can talk to his digital butler: a connected home, office and car. These are all coming, as CES, the big consumer electronics tradeshow in Las Vegas, demonstrated. From showerheads that track how much water we’ve used, to toothbrushes that watch out for cavities, to refrigerators that order food that is running out, all these items are on their way.

Starting in 2016, everything will be be connected, including our homes and appliances, our cars, street lights and medical instruments. These will be sharing information with each other (perhaps even gossiping about us) and will introduce massive security risks as well as many efficiencies. We won’t have much choice because they will be standard features—just as are the cameras on our smart TVs that stare at us and the smartphones that listen to everything we say.

6. Space

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Rockets, satellites and spaceships were things that governments built. That is, until Elon Musk stepped into the ring in 2002 with his startup SpaceX. A decade later, he demonstrated the ability to dock a spacecraft with the International Space Station and return with cargo. A year later, he launched a commercial geostationary satellite. And then, in 2015, out of the blue, came another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, whose space company Blue Origin launched a rocket 100 kilometers into space and landed its booster within five feet of its launch pad. SpaceX achieved the feat a month later.

It took a space race in the 1960s between the U.S. and the USSR to even get man to the moon. For decades after this, little more happened, because there was no one for the U.S. to compete with. Now, thanks to technology costs falling so far that space exploration can be done for millions—rather than billions—of dollars and the raging egos of two billionaires, we will see the breakthroughs in space travel that we have been waiting for. Maybe there’ll be nothing beyond some rocket launches and a few competitive tweets between Musk and Bezos in 2016, but we will be closer to having colonies on Mars.

This surely is the most innovative period in human history, an era that will be remembered as the inflection point in exponential technologies that made the impossible possible.