Tag Archives: DIY

6 Tech Rules That Will Govern the Future

Technology is advancing so rapidly that we will experience radical changes in society not only in our lifetimes but in the coming years. We have already begun to see ways in which computing, sensors, artificial intelligence and genomics are reshaping entire industries and our daily lives.

As we undergo this rapid change, many of the old assumptions that we have relied will no longer apply. Technology is creating a new set of rules that will change our very existence. Here are six:

1. Anything that can be digitized will be.

Digitization began with words and numbers. Then we moved into games and later into rich media, such as movies, images and music. We also moved complex business functions, medical tools, industrial processes and transportation systems into the digital realm. Now, we are digitizing everything about our daily lives: our actions, words and thoughts. Inexpensive DNA sequencing and machine learning are unlocking the keys to the systems of life. Cheap, ubiquitous sensors are documenting everything we do and creating rich digital records of our entire lives.

2. Your job has a significant chance of being eliminated.

In every field, machines and robots are beginning to do the work of humans. We saw this first happen in the Industrial Revolution, when manual production moved into factories and many millions lost their livelihoods. Jobs were created, but it was a terrifying time, and there was a significant societal dislocation (from which the Luddite movement emerged).

See also: 4 Rules for Digital Transformation  

The movement to digitize jobs is well underway in low-salary service industries. Amazon relies on robots to do a significant chunk of its warehouse work. Safeway and Home Depot are rapidly increasing their use of self-service checkouts. Soon, self-driving cars will eliminate millions of driving jobs. We are also seeing law jobs disappear as computer programs specializing in discovery eliminate the needs for legions of associates to sift through paper and digital documents. Soon, automated medical diagnosis will replace doctors in fields such as radiology, dermatology and pathology. The only refuge will be in fields that are creative in some way, such as marketing, entrepreneurship, strategy and advanced technical fields. New jobs we cannot imagine today will emerge, but they will not replace all the lost jobs. We must be ready for a world of perennially high unemployment rates. But don’t worry, because …

3. Life will be so affordable that survival won’t necessitate having a job.

Note how cellphone minutes are practically free and our computers have gotten cheaper and more powerful over the past decades. As technologies such as computing, sensors and solar energy advance, their costs drop. Life as we know it will become radically cheaper. We are already seeing the early signs of this: Because of the improvements in the shared-car and car-service market that apps such as Uber enable, a whole generation is growing up without the need or even the desire to own a car. Healthcare, food, telecommunications, electricity and computation will all grow cheaper very quickly as technology reinvents the corresponding industries.

4. Your fate and destiny will be in your own hands as never before.

The benefit of the plummet in the costs of living will be that the technology and tools to keep us healthy, happy, well-educated and well-informed will be cheap or free. Online learning in virtually any field is already free. Costs also are falling with mobile-based medical devices. We will be able to execute sophisticated self-diagnoses and treat a significant percentage of health problems using only a smartphone and smart distributed software.

Modular and open-source kits are making DIY manufacture easier, so you can make your own products. DIYDrones.com, for example, lets anyone wanting to build a drone mix and match components and follow relatively simple instructions for building an unmanned flying device. With 3-D printers, you can create your own toys. Soon these will allow you to “print” common household goods — and even electronics. The technology driving these massive improvements in efficiency will also make mass personalization and distributed production a reality. Yes, you may have a small factory in your garage, and your neighbors may have one, too.

5. Abundance will become a far bigger problem than poverty.

With technology making everything cheaper and more abundant, our problems will arise from consuming too much rather than too little. This is already in evidence in some areas, especially in the developed world, where diseases of affluence — obesity, diabetes, cardiac arrest — are the biggest killers. These plagues have quickly jumped, along with the Western diet, to the developing world, as well. Human genes adapted to conditions of scarcity are woefully unprepared for conditions of a caloric cornucopia. We can expect this process only to accelerate as the falling prices of Big Macs and other products our bodies don’t need make them available to all.

The rise of social media, the internet and the era of constant connection are other sources of excess. Human beings have evolved to manage tasks serially rather than simultaneously. The significant degradation of our attention spans and precipitous increase in attention-deficit problems that we have already experienced are partly attributable to spreading our attention too thin. As the number of data inputs and options for mental activity continues to grow, we will only spread it further. So even as we have the tools to do what we need to, forcing our brains to behave well enough to get things done will become more and more of a chore.

6. Distinction between man and machine will become increasingly unclear.

The controversy over Google Glass showed that society remains uneasy over melding man and machine. Remember those strange-looking glasses that people would wear, that were recording everything around them? Google discontinued these because of the uproar, but miniaturized versions of these will soon be everywhere. Implanted retinas already use silicon to replace neurons. Custom prosthetics that operate with the help of software are personalized, highly specific extensions of our bodies. Computer-guided exoskeletons are going into use in the military in the next few years and are expected to become a common mobility tool for the disabled and the elderly.

See also: Blockchain Technology and Insurance  

We will tattoo sensors into our bodies to track key health indicators and transmit those data wirelessly to our phones, adding to the numerous devices that interface directly with our bodies and form informational and biological feedback loops. As a result, the very idea of what it means to be human will change. It will become increasingly difficult to draw a line between human and machine.

This column is based on Wadhwa’s coming book, “Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future,” which will be released this winter.

IoT Is Game Changer for Insurers

The Internet is now an integral part of our daily lives, and we would struggle to imagine life without it. However, to date, growth has largely been driven by access to content and by speed.

We are now moving into the new phase of growth where the everyday “things” around us will be connected to the Internet. This is the Internet of Things (IoT) – it will have a profound impact on our daily lives and change the way we interact with our environment. It will also have a big impact on how industries operate and relate with their customers. This is particularly true for insurance companies, where there is an opportunity to move from being passive and reacting to losses, to being proactive and helping prevent them.

In short, the IoT will be a game changer for insurers.

In the commercial sector, we are familiar with the benefits of connectivity in smart buildings. When we go to a hotel, door locks are controlled with smart cards, and there are links to lighting and air conditioning to save energy and improve security. Fire systems are networked to sprinklers. Indeed, I’m not sure I’d book a hotel that gave me a metal key. More significantly, most modern commercial buildings would struggle to get insurance coverage without new technology.

The IoT will bring this same level of intelligence to the home.

Standard devices such as light switches, thermostats and door locks are being networked. Smartphones allow us to monitor and control air conditioning, as well as access and monitor security and lighting, with alerts if there is a problem. The first wave of connected appliances is now starting to roll out. Just as with commercial buildings, “interoperability” will become standard in homes because it makes them safer, more energy-efficient and easier to manage.

The smart home is already going mainstream. Big-box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and Sears have started to offer their own DIY smart home solutions. They are competing with the major service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, TWC and others that have developed their own consumer offerings. The entry of Apple, Google and Microsoft into the space with different consumer strategies is a clear sign that the market has arrived.

Many of these new entrants have recognized that data will be key to their future success in a connected world where devices will generate as much as we can handle and the ability to refine and exploit it will decide the winners and losers in many industries. This data is going to be particularly important to insurers, which have traditionally based their pricing on risk assessment. If a competitor has better data on which to base judgments, it will have the edge.

The IoT and access to data will reshape industry boundaries and create opportunities.

The IoT will allow insurance companies to move from the traditional passive role of underwriting risk to take a more active position by supplying smart home products and services. Other industries have already adopted this type of strategy. For example, the major cable companies and telcos now offer smart home products over the top of their broadband. These provide new revenue streams, leverage their core competencies, increase customer loyalty and provide a platform for growing new value-added services. Insurance companies could take a page out of the service providers’ playbook and offer their own solutions to realize similar benefits.

The IoT and smart home can give insurers a more direct relationship with the consumer through daily interaction using touch points in apps and messaging. Insurers could also become more competitive by adopting pricing strategies that include direct sourcing and bundling with policies. Contrast this to consumers’ traditional negative experience of bill paying on an annual or semi-annual basis for something they most likely didn’t use.

Consumers would see insurance companies as a logical source for products and services that protect people and their property. Smart home systems can be DIY, offering protection for security, fire and flood. Moreover, they bring new levels of protection with innovation. For example, low-cost leak detectors and temperature sensors can automatically shut off the water supply when triggered.

The IoT is a real growth opportunity, and any business can scale as new connected devices come along. This can be done by offering devices and sensors that improve in-home healthcare and appliances that can be remotely monitored to reduce warranty support costs. These products and value-added services can drive new revenue streams, improve customer retention and reinvent the way consumers perceive their insurance provider. More importantly, the IoT secures access to the data from the things in the home that would help insurance companies manage risk.

If there is a nervousness to step outside the traditional industry boundaries, the alternative is to forge new partnerships with the companies that are deploying smart home solutions.

These companies have access to the data that will help insurance companies manage risk. For example, Lowe’s has partnered with a number of leading insurance companies to trade data from the Iris smart home system. Clearly, data privacy is a major issue, so customers have to approve sharing. This can be achieved by offering a benefit on the policy, usually in the form of a discount.

Clearly, the IoT market is moving extremely fast, and it will challenge conventional wisdom. Just five years ago, the only connected device in home improvement retail was a smart door lock, and now there are hundreds – even dog bowls and toothbrush are becoming connected. If the IoT grows as predicted, every powered device will be IP addressable in the next 10 years. Ignoring this market is not a smart move.

While competing in the smart home space by offering consumers new products and services may seem daunting, the IoT will disrupt traditional industry boundaries, and attack is sometimes the best form of defense. Moreover, actively entering the market has the biggest upside. At a minimum, there is a need to find ways to partner to protect your position and get access to data to remain competitive. The leading insurance providers will be those that embrace the IoT and its impact.

Don’t Do It Yourself on Property Claims

It’s okay to get help!

Recently, we hired a business development professional. In learning our business model and marketing strategy, he asked, “Who is your biggest competitor?” We said: our customers — the “do-it-yourselfers.” This struck him as odd, but it is the absolute truth.

We are in the business of preparing property claims that usually involve physical damage and business interruption. This is a very specialized practice that is part accounting, part insurance and part art. However, the companies we approach often feel they are in the best position to handle this process and do not need outside assistance.

Why is that?

When a claim is reported, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to the claim — either an inside adjuster or an independent adjuster — sometimes both. The adjuster is hired by and paid for by the insurance company to make sure the claim fits within terms and conditions of the insurance contract. The adjuster will rely on specialists of his own — usually forensic accountants and forensic engineers. The specialists allow the adjuster to focus on his job of interpreting the coverage, reporting back to the insurance company and negotiating settlement on behalf of the insurance company. The specialists are there to verify the details of the claim that is presented to them by the policyholder. The insurance adjuster alone cannot and does not take on all of the responsibilities. The adjusters are the experts at this process — it is their business and they do it every day — but they still get specialized help.

So if the insurer handles claims this way, why would the insured not get expert help?

Think of the “do-it-yourselfer” project at home. Let’s say you’re pretty handy around the house, so you look at that bathroom that needs remodeling and decide, “I’ll do it myself this weekend.” Technically, you CAN do it yourself — you can take your crowbar and sawzall and do the demolition; you can handle laying the tile; and, with a little research, you could figure out the plumbing. The first weekend you go out to buy the extra tools you need and some supplies, and you get to work. Maybe the demo will go easily, but if you’ve ever tackled a home project, you know nothing is as easy as it seems, and it always takes more time than expected.

If you make it through the demo, you spend the rest of the weekend figuring out your strategy for the new bathroom. Because you have a day job, each evening that next week you try to make progress, but by the end of the week you are bleary-eyed from the stress of this unfamiliar work and the late nights of trial and error. The next weekend, you cannot get back to the work, because you have family activities. When the vanity arrives, you realize it does not quite fit the way it should. Next, you realize you need more tools. Your weekend project turns into months of disarray. If you stay the course, months later you’ll have a functional bathroom, but there are usually a few steps that you decide you’ll have to get to eventually. At this point, you’re getting busier at work, and you just don’t have the bandwidth to get back to the myriad of subsequent bathroom issues, so you consider bringing in an expert to bail you out.

Preparing a claim is very similar, if you do it yourself. In addition to saving time, stress and compromising the results, your claim preparation expert has the tools of the trade, the skills and the experience to achieve an accurate and timely recovery. In contrast to the home improvement example, though, your claim preparer’s fees should be covered, in part or in full, by your property policy. So, if you’re not saving time or money by doing it yourself, and an expert will get you a better result, why would you not engage a professional claim preparer?

That question seems like a no-brainer, yet so many still take the DIY approach to property claims.

To sum up, it is okay to ask for help. The policyholder is not expected to be able to “do it yourself.” That is why you have professional fees coverage. The insurance company assigns its experts to adjust and audit your claims, and they’ll be better-equipped to meet their objectives than you will if you take the DIY approach. They are the insurers experts, so it is advisable for you to bring in your experts to represent your interests.

Here are a few suggestions of what to look for in a firm to prepare your claims.

  1. A loss accounting specialist, because insurance accounting is a unique trade. Typically, the firm will identify itself as forensic accountants.
  2. Experience with the types of property claims you have, in your industry or similar ones, and with at least 10 years in the field.
  3. Independence. This will ensure the firm is on your side with no conflicts of interest. Avoid allowing your insurer’s accountants to calculate your losses. The same hold for any other party that may have a conflict.
  4. A firm that qualifies for professional fees coverage. The fees should be based on an hourly rating scale, not on contingencies. Property policies will have specific exclusions, such as public adjusters and broker affiliated services.
  5. A firm that is respected by insurers, adjusters and brokers. Your accountants should not threaten your relationships to achieve the result.

If you see the benefit of engaging a team to prepare your property and business interruption claims, do your due diligence ahead of a loss. Interview any qualifying candidates and make your choice. The firm should be involved in your claim from the very beginning.

If you take this advice, your claims will go much smoother, and the claim will be free of leaks and loose tiles.