Technologies like machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA) and natural language processing (NLP) were already hot topics in P&C insurance before the world was turned upside down in 2020 due to the pandemic. These and many other “transformational” technologies have great potential for insurers in the rethinking and optimization of distribution, underwriting, claims and many other parts of the business. So, it is important to ask the question – how have the initiatives that leverage these technologies changed due to the pandemic?
Are personal and commercial lines carriers still moving forward with projects in 2021? Do executives still have the same expectations about the potential of these technologies to transform their business?
We answer these questions in detail for 13 specific technologies in two new SMA research reports, one covering personal lines and the other covering commercial lines.
However, I won’t leave you hanging in this blog, wondering about the answers to those questions. The short answer is yes – P&C insurers generally plan to move forward in 2021 with projects that leverage various technologies that have the power to deliver significant results and competitive advantage. The technologies we follow closely and have profiled in our reports have been organized into three strategic planning horizons: short-term, near-term and long-term.
For both personal and commercial lines, technologies in the AI family play heavily in the short-term category. Machine learning, NLP, RPA, computer vision and new user interaction technologies all rank high in terms of their potential to transform and in the level of activity underway or planned by insurers. Technologies that fall into the near-term or long-term horizons include wearables, blockchain, voice, AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality), 5G and autonomous vehicles. All have potential in insurance and will likely be incorporated into projects by innovators over the next couple of years but will not make it into broad, mainstream application until midway to late in the decade.
Our research on transformational technologies, when viewed in concert with our SMA Market Pulse surveys, shows that in some cases proofs of concept (POCs) and new projects have been put on hold in 2020, but all indications point to full steam ahead in 2021. Major projects already underway are continuing, and insurers state that they do not want to lose momentum for foundational projects like core systems. Projects that include transformational technologies needed to address digital gaps that were exposed during the pandemic have been raised in priority.
In many ways, the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation across all industries, including insurance. Transformational technologies will play an outsized role in that transformation and look to be important components of insurers’ plans for 2021 and beyond.
Insurance companies long for a way to attract and interact with customers, rather than just hitting customers’ bank accounts every quarter for a premium payment or re-upping a contract at the end of the year. What if I told you that insurers could attract customers with smart home devices that generate interaction seven to 10 times A DAY — and that customers would initiate those interactions? What if that level of involvement in customers’ lives led to a Net Promoter Score (NPS) above 50 for the insurers?
Those numbers are in fact possible, both with homeowners and with small businesses, through an approach that incorporates IoT to help people avoid P&C risks while fitting easily into their home and work lives.
We know because we’ve seen these sorts of numbers at Notion, which we began with a Kickstarter campaign and grew through insurance partnerships with Hippo, Nationwide and others before being acquired by Comcast this year.
While Notion partners with insurers to provide homeowners and owners of small businesses technology to monitor for water leaks, fire, theft and more, there are a variety of ways to win with smart IoT in the property/casualty world.
In our experience, there are two keys to winning strategies: customer-centric technology and a comprehensive economic case for investment.
First, the technology should deliver benefits, such as “peace of mind,” that customers value highly even though the benefits would be hard to quantify. In our case, customers interact so frequently with the Notion app because they’re checking their system to see if the front door opened around the time their child was supposed to be getting back from school, that it is a comfortable temperature across their home, etc. Those benefits don’t show up in losses averted or claims reduced but can do an awful lot to increase installation rates, to bolster loyalty toward an insurer, to boost NPS and to create opportunities for cross-selling other services.
Every company that has led with a “prevent water damage” message has seen very little interest among consumers. Even if insurers provide water sensors for free, the installation rate can be low if that is the only use case. But technology and messages related to broader home coverage and security resonate with consumers.
Let’s walk through Notion as an example of the trajectory that the “smart home” (and “smart” small business) can take. Auto telematics long required a device to be professionally installed and focused just on discounted premiums for good drivers, and had a slow uptake, so we took a different approach: We’ve focused on a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and on making that more-than-economic argument for insurers.
We built an affordable system where consumers can monitor their home or small business from anywhere and easily grow to fit their needs. The Notion sensors monitor for water leaks, temperature changes, opening doors and windows, and sounding smoke and carbon monoxide monitors. All the information is collected wirelessly and is made available to the user through an app on their smartphone.
Most homes and small businesses can have key areas covered with just five sensors — total price for a five-sensor Notion Starter Kit is $199.
Which leads us to the second key to winning strategies: a reasonable economic case for the IoT investment. Many technologies and programs aren’t there yet. For instance, a water shutoff valve that requires a professional installation may not pay for itself for 10 years — the initial cost is a high barrier.
So, we started from scratch and came up with a program design that produces full ROI in just under two years — the kind of ROI that any business can appreciate. Just looking at water damage, there are about $10 million in claims each year per 50,000 homeowners policies. By investing in an $85 smart monitoring kit and program for customers, insurers can practically cut their water claims in half.
The ROI looks even better when you consider the other benefits to insurers outside water claim reduction: customer acquisition, customer loyalty, data insights and the potential for selling other services.
The large returns our insurer partners generate by preventing claims allows them to offer a kit at a discount plus offer discounts of roughly 3% to 15% on premiums to help drive adoption. Our partners say discounts could grow substantially as they gather data on losses prevented. (The high end of the discounts goes to those who fully outfit a house or small business, who have professional monitoring and whose setups can be verified by the insurer to make sure they’re actually being used.)
While the discounts alone aren’t enough to generate full adoption even of free sensors, a curated flow of customer communication with a “what’s in it for me” message drives installation way up. (The same was true in telematics: Once messaging switched from discounts to security issues such as driving behavior, adoption finally picked up.)
While regulators were initially careful about what could be given away and what bundles should be allowed, they have become more comfortable with the IoT and understand that we’re all working together to benefit consumers.
They have thus cleared a path for far greater adoption of the IoT, at a time when all trends were already pointing in that direction. According to Statista, the number of homes in the U.S. using smart security systems will nearly triple from 12.8 million in 2017 to 36.7 million by 2023 — meaning that more than a quarter of U.S. homes will have them. Revenue from smart home devices is expected to grow 17% annually for the foreseeable future.
The trend is very much toward DIY: 47% of security system owners report self-installing their system in 2019, an increase from 27% in 2014, according to Park Associates.
The pandemic seems to even be accelerating the trends, both toward the use of IoT (because people are spending more time in their homes) and toward DIY (because people have more time, without their daily commutes, because people want to keep strangers’ potential infections out of their homes and because videos and chat capabilities on smartphones make “telemaintenance” easier).
A platform like Notion can become the hub for all kinds of services that can be bundled with hardware or sold separately to make the lives of homeowners easier — for example, connecting a homeowner with a plumber when they have a water leak. With Notion, we have taken this one step further and created a direct integration in our app with HomeAdvisor. Once a leak has been detected, the homeowner can connect to HomeAdvisor’s network of certified professionals with one click.
But that kind of service is just the beginning. In the same way that Tesla bundles insurance with its cars, I can imagine lots of maintenance-related services that could fit nicely into an IoT-based “protect my property” platform. When I say good night to my Google Home, it may remind me to do certain things around the house; why couldn’t insurers help inform homeowners and small business owners?
Now there are winning structures for insurers to leverage IoT smart devices to connect and provide value to their customers — a win for customers and for P&C insurers.
So many gurus and their ilk are looking for, hoping for, any technology or group of technologies to “disrupt” or otherwise upend the insurance industry. One of the latest hopes for transforming the insurance industry is IoT: the Internet of Things.
Unlike mobility, social media, cloud computing, big data and associated data science-driven analytics, or blockchain, IoT will definitely upend the insurance industry. The IP-enabled sensors will help people stop or reduce losses before they occur or soon after the losses occur. Traditional insurers will run for the hills because their industry will be in shambles. Shambles, I tell you !
The reality is uglier, of course
There certainly are an expanding number of IoT devices appearing in homes throughout the country. A veritable panoply of devices popping up in the basement, the attic and every room in between. Even the front door bell !
(BTW, is anyone with an IoT door lock looking forward to the day when the cloud service maintaining the door lock goes down? Perhaps when you have bags of groceries in your arms or after a long day at work, and you just want to get into your OWN HOME?)
The reality is a tad uglier, of course, than the gurus tell us, as reality always is. The IoT-laden Pom Pom wavers neglect to pay as much attention to the ugly realities. Don’t you just want to tell them what they can do with their Pom Poms?
Ugly realities of IoT
The panoply of IoT devices is actually an expanding zoo of varied species that are blind to the existence of the other species in the zoo. The IoT devices don’t ‘talk to each other.’ There are no standards, including data standards that would enable the IoT devices to actually be …., well, useful. (Yes, I know that Apple, Amazon and Google are working on this issue – but today’s situation is like cooking some hot dogs and finding out that the mustard is on the shopping list but that none is actually in your refrigerator.)
Beyond not being part of a coherent integrated whole for the homeowner, each of the IoT devices represents a wonderful opportunity for hackers to spy on the family, and the devices create opportunities for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on other targets by using the IoT devices as cyber-zombies or for other sorts of havoc (if the IoT device can alert the homeowner about water leaking, why can’t a hacker cause the IoT device to actually start the water leaking?)
This brings us to another superb attribute of the IoT devices: Their security truly sucks. (That’s the technical term, folks; what can I tell you?) Can you (easily) reset the password on each of your IoT devices? Will the IoT device use two-factor authentication?
But, hey, insurers should still fear the Big Tech companies coming into the loss-prevention space, right?
Why not fear these non-insurance players? Assuming security, privacy and trust become commonplace with each and every IoT device (and how many decades before that happens?), the firms offering loss prevention bundled with the IoT device (i.e.. warranty on steroids) only have to, at a minimum:
Augment their devices with networks of vendors that can repair/replace the IoT device OR the appliance itself
Ensure the vendors are bonded or have other insurance in case they don’t show up when they say they will or don’t actually do the repair/replace job the homeowner expects
Instill confidence in the homeowners that the vendors can be trusted to come into their homes in the first place
I imagine there might be Big Tech or platform players who want to get into the loss-prevention business. (OK, I can’t.) They might erroneously believe that setting up a FAQ web site will do the trick. Have a problem with the IoT device/appliance? Not a problem – click to this FAQ web site. And let us know if the FAQ page(s) were helpful.
Oh, and augment that FAQ web site with voice-recognition units (VRUs) or chatbots that stick to their scripts. Yup, that’s the ticket: Make it hard for someone with a broken IoT device/appliance to actually talk to a human. That will endear the customer to the firms providing the service.
Moreover, I hope that firms realize that if anything goes wrong repairing/replacing the IoT device/appliance, they will be sued. Oh, wait, that’s another opportunity for traditional insurance – these firms will need to purchase liability insurance (drat it all).
Why not upend the insurance industry?
What has the insurance industry ever done except keep society, families, individuals and businesses operating in times of war, famine, plague and recessions?
What a horrendous societal effect: helping clients manage or mitigate risk in a legal, regulatory manner through the centuries of civilization.
Don’t insurers realize that an integral part of their value-add is helping VCs and other investors (and conference organizers) to generate revenue off the insurance industry? Why can’t the insurance industry accept that even these human vampires have a right to exist and profit? Oh, why??
What will happen? Really?
Will IoT upend the current insurance industry? Will being able to prevent losses upend the current insurance industry?
The league tables of P&C insurers (whether personal or commercial P&C) will remain as they are for many, many, many decades to come.
I believe that traditional insurers will create or strengthen their own networks of vendors to repair/replace either IoT devices or appliances and potentially bundle lower premiums (where insurance regulators allow).
So, sorry … no upending or disrupting of the insurance industry. Not an iota of upending.
To some, it is magic. To insurance, it is reality. The ability to accurately discern the past and predict the future based on nothing but data points and the long-lived experience of actuaries and adjusters has served the industry well, allowing insurance to become a multibillion-dollar industry. The picture has changed dramatically in recent years, however, driven by the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT): technologies that collect, record and transmit live and granular data about their surroundings. The technologies may already seem ubiquitous, but estimates of how many IoT devices will connect our cars, homes, communities, medical services and work lives by the year 2020 range from 30 billion to 50 billion. Whatever the precise number, the IoT will generate a huge amount of data to be analyzed and monetized.
Already, writing policies can now be far better informed by what is known about the risk level of an individual or entity, as opposed to simply what is known about the claims generated by an entire class of risk. John Hancock, for example, announced in 2018 that all new life insurance policies must use digital fitness trackers to monitor policyholders. Using the high-quality, objective data derived from IoT, it is now possible to assess claims more accurately and efficiently, and in some cases, even prevent them from arising entirely.
“IoT is already enabling customers to avoid bad things happening to them,” said Nick Ayrdon, head of strategy and development at Aviva. “Some people call it prevention. I see it as empowerment of customers.”
Insurers are changing how they interact with customers, both before and after a claim. One executive predicted that that we are in fact “shifting from a claims-handling business to a claims-prevention one.” As the value proposition of exchanging data for value becomes more concrete, it could drive uptake of connected insurance products. And yet, already operating in an environment of squeezed profits, high regulation and low consumer trust, the industry is witnessing something of a perfect storm. The tools for insurance carriers to stay relevant and appeal to today’s consumer do exist, but uncertainty over how best to implement such profound strategic transformation is holding many back.
To provide a comprehensive overview of the progress and prospects of connected insurance, Insurance Nexus has produced the Connected Insurance Report, an in-depth study of the progress of insurance technology globally, based partly on a survey of over 500 people working in insurance and related industries, as well as on the insights of 20 thought leaders, including Matteo Carbone (founder and director of the IoT Insurance Observatory), Cecilia Sevillano (head of smart homes solutions for Swiss Re) and Boris Collignon (vice president, strategy, innovation and strategic partnerships, Desjardins General Insurance Group).
Access the Connected Insurance Report today for in-depth insights, analyses and case-studies on the technology-led transformation of insurance, including:
How the Benefits of Technology Confer to Insurance: More data, fewer claims and lower costs. Discover how the application of technology to insurance is changing the relationship between insurers and insureds and where extra value can be created.
The State of Play of Technology in Insurance Today: What progress has been made so far across the different lines of insurance? Which lines are most developed and where is ripe for transformation?
The Practicalities of Embedding Technology in Insurance: From proving the business case to organizational restructuring and digital transformation, explore how carriers have succeeded in leveraging the benefits of insurance technology.
Making Sense of the Insurance Tech Stack: Provide value to customers by maximizing the worth of all data throughout the value chain. While challenges to each entity and line of business are unique, discover and overcome the principal challenges to embedding technology as reported by the industry.
The Long-Term Opportunities: From claims prevention to customer engagement, what will the technology-led future of insurance be like? Discover what is on the management “to-do list” to ensure readiness for the era of “insurance 2.0.”
A few years ago, it was estimated that in a normal day another 127 devices are connected to the internet each second. This trend toward an Internet of Things is growing exponentially.
Many global insurance companies are working on integrating IoT-based services into their insurance offers. Unfortunately, how to use this technology has been largely misunderstood.
I’ve been lucky to work with some of the few players that have been successful in their usage of IoT. Through traditional distribution channels, these players are selling products that are bundles between insurance coverages and IoT-based services. Many have been able to get the service paid for by the policyholders, according to research by the IoT Insurance Observatory, an insurance think tank that has aggregated almost 60 insurers, reinsurers and tech players between North America and Europe.
Those that have managed to develop a product with a portfolio of a significant size and considerable penetration have had a very specific approach. They first use interesting storytelling about successes that justifies additional fees. This is the case with car telematics in Italy and with the South African Discovery Drive, which represent global best practices in terms of telematics use in auto insurance: The customer pays an annual fee for telematics-based roadside assistance and a range of other services.
In auto insurance telematics, for example, data is needed to provide assistance, to provide traffic information and to find a car. This data can also be used to manage claims better and avoid fraud, to influence the customer’s driving style or to establish more accurate pricing. On top of that, if you focus your storytelling on some tailor-made services, you can encourage lower risks to select your product. All these elements – I call them five value-creation levers (fees for services, loss control, change of behaviors, risk-based pricing and risk self-selection) – boost profits. All the successful products have shared the value with policyholders through discounts, rewards, cash back….
In the life sector, the discourse is different. The IoT Insurance Observatory mapped more than 20 initiatives over the course of 2018, and there are more failures than successes. However, there is a best practice that has managed to integrate data from wearable devices, with contextual data on customer behavior that is collected in a variety of ways. This best practice is the South African Discovery. They have created life insurance products where the client’s price increases year by year as a result of age, but could stay stable or even decrease if the customer’s physical activity is sufficient. A U.S. company has implemented a process where a customer who requests a quote finds the option to share the data he has collected on his physical activity, to obtain a personalized offer.
Commercial Lines Still at an Experimental Level
Many successful IoT-based approaches in personal lines can be applied to commercial lines. However, applications are still experimental. I expect these experiments to end in complete IoT insurance products in the U.S. before Europe, but it will take a few years before significant portfolios are created.
The most interesting experiments are in workers’ compensation and commercial property. In the world of SMEs, it will be necessary to specialize by sub-sector: It is one thing to talk about schools, another about residential skyscrapers and yet another about offices. Another area with potential is manufacturing, because of what is being called Industry 4.0. This megatrend is not yet mature, but some members of the IoT Insurance Observatory are scouting 4.0 technologies. The need for installation and tailoring of the technological and service components on the premises of a company will be a key.
The World of Ecosystems
The largest international insurance groups are closely monitoring ecosystems. As of today, IoT usage is sold as a closed option: The insurer chooses its own black box, the set of sensors, the app or the specific wearable items and obtains the data necessary to optimize its own use cases. To understand how an insurer could interact with emerging ecosystems is a key issue that will be addressed in the coming years by the IoT Insurance Observatory. I think that, rather than imagining which insurance product to offer, the first issue to address is how to sell customers products related to offers that come from the ecosystems.