Tag Archives: mobility

Avanta Ventures’ Steve Bernardez

Steve Bernardez, Partner with Avanta Ventures, talks with ITL Chief Innovation Officer Guy Fraker, about how Avanta—a unit of CSAA Insurance Group—evaluates startups and opportunities through the lens of several key themes, including insurtech, mobility, and products that are ancillary to certain insurance products, such as cyber.


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Mobile Ends Need for Usual Inspections

As I write this article, I hear the lilting melody of Alicia Keys’ tribute to New York City:

“Hail a gypsy cab, take me down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bri-i-i-i-idge…”

Can you hear it? There are just certain things that jump to our minds when we think of New York.

I think of hot dogs, Central Park, awesome shopping, coffee shops, marquee lights on Broadway and “bouquets of sharpened pencils” (yet another New York reference for you movie buffs).

What else comes to mind? Taxis… lots and lots of yellow taxis. In the era of the sharing economy, that also means lots and lots of Uber and Lyft drivers.

But did you know that an outdated law is keeping New York consumers from taking advantage of a convenience that millions of drivers in other states already enjoy?

In New York, a law requires consumers wanting to sign up for new auto insurance coverage to first have their vehicles inspected by their insurance companies. The law was enacted in the 1970s and was designed to protect against insurance fraud.

These days, instead of preventing fraud, the law mostly produces frustration. Individuals must have their vehicles physically inspected by a licensed insurance agent or bring them to an inspection site before they can activate their auto insurance coverage.

This inspection requirement is ON TOP of the annual inspection required for all New York vehicles. So, someone who owns multiple vehicles could potentially be required to do multiple inspections throughout the year!

See also: On-Demand Workers: the Implications  

What else does this mean exactly?

Old Technology for New Times

Well, for starters, a lot of headaches, hassles and inefficiency for consumers. They frequently report:

  • Insurance coverage lapsing due to failure to complete the inspection
  • Missing work to complete the inspection
  • Long wait times at inspection sites
  • Inconvenient hours at inspection sites
  • Inspection sites with inconvenient locations
  • Students at out-of-state colleges needing to drive their cars all the way back to New York to complete the inspection OR re-register their vehicles in another state
  • Insurance companies receiving inaccurate information about inspected vehicles

That’s a lot to deal with for the average car owner, who may be balancing a full-time job, college courses and a family and has precious little time in which to get an inspection done.

But what choice do they have?

For now, none.

Mobile Innovation Changes Everything

But advances in mobile technology are radically changing the world we live in, empowering consumers to get work done conveniently and efficiently. Smartphones are at the core of this radical change.

In fact, according to recent statistics by GO-Global, not only are smartphones being used by more people than ever, but those people are spending 52% of their time on those smartphones using mobile apps.

That’s incredible!

Statistics also indicate that 18- to 24-year-olds use more mobile apps than any other age group.

See also: How to Embrace Workforce Flexibility  

It’s no wonder that the global revenue from mobile apps has risen dramatically over the last few years from $35 billion in 2014 to $58 billion in 2016, and in 2017 is expected to hit $77 billion.

Why Are Mobile Apps so Popular?

1. Mobility comes in all shapes and sizes

Almost 80% of consumers around the world have smartphones, 50%-plus have tablets, nearly 10% have wearable mobile devices and 7% own all three.

That high level of usage has had a significant effect on business practices around the world.

2. Location-Based Services (LBS)

Most devices currently have GPS capabilities that empower users to get real-time information, right here, right now.

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

Again, this advancement in technology provides users with real-time control and information, regardless of where they are.
Forgot to turn your lights off at home? No problem. Just log into your smart home app and do it from the comfort of your office.

4. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR)

This technology is revolutionizing how we interact with each other and with other software systems. Mobile app developers are expecting tremendous growth in this area.

In short, these mobile apps allow people to find the goods and services that they need quickly, easily and cost-effectively. In other words, the middlemen and gatekeepers have been all but eliminated.

Combining Mobility With Manpower

So, let’s apply those capabilities to the New York, with its outdated law that requires drivers to obtain a vehicle inspection before they can activate their insurance coverage. With today’s technology, the answer just isn’t that hard. Drivers in other states already have an alternative: smartphone-based vehicle inspection.

WeGoLook has developed mobile technology that puts a large mobile workforce at the fingertips of consumers who are too busy or simply too far away to obtain in-person inspections. Others may have their own solutions; ours looks like this:

  1. A client needs an inspection, and orders a vehicle inspection report from WeGoLook via the website or mobile app.
  2. A “Looker” is dispatched to perform the inspection. (The number of Lookers has grown from 7,400 in 2012 to more than 30,000 in 2016.)
  3. The Looker manages all aspects of the inspection from scheduling to coordinating the different parties to preparing the final report.
  4. Throughout this process, the client can monitor real-time progress on the inspection via the mobile app’s online dashboard.
  5. The WeGoLook app also has photo and text support so that clients can capture the right angles and desired information needed for the report.
  6. A management team reviews the report for quality assurance and accuracy.
  7. The client receives the detailed report, quickly and conveniently and can download it directly from the app.

Given the power behind mobile technology and flexible workers, like WeGoLook’s Lookers, there is no reason consumers should be locked into doing their inspections at traditional inspection sites.

The use of flexible mobile inspectors can solve the problem of drivers having to physically take their vehicles to an inspection site. Mobile apps like WeGoLook’s also allow for “app consistency” — that is, if a policyholder, insurance carrier and third-party inspector are all using the same platform, there is a better chance of a successful transaction. For savvier consumers, technology like WeGoLook’s app even opens the door for the consumer to self-inspect the vehicle. Certain states already allow self-inspection via smartphone for home inspections and claim inspections after an auto accident.

See also: A New Way of Thinking on Assets  

In New York, however, for the pre-insurance inspection requirement, a new law would need to be enacted to empower consumers to self-inspect their vehicles using a smartphone app. This dream scenario would give consumers the option of using a WeGoLook Looker to complete their inspection, of self-inspecting the vehicle using WeGoLook’s app or of completing the inspection via the traditional route.

WeGoLook: On-Demand Solutions That Save Time and Energy!

The beautiful thing about a mobile app service like WeGoLook is that it will offer consistent and trustworthy results regardless of who requests the report — the policyholder, a third party or the insurance carrier.

So, if you’re a busy and productive citizen of New York state, why not save yourself a heap of time and energy? Smart use of technology benefits everyone involved.

So, this spring, I urge Albany lawmakers to enact a new law that would help consumers put today’s smartphone technology to better use. Let’s give New Yorkers smartphone-based options for their pre-insurance vehicle inspections.

Moving Closer to the ‘Smart City’

Judging by the reported 11,000 attendees at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, representing companies and cities from around the world, there is great interest in governance, mobility, society, sustainability and technology. The trade show was very crowded even with sunny Barcelona beckoning with a perfect 71 degress Fahrenheit. The event gave me the opportunity to see many interesting technologies.

Many innovations focused on smart traffic routing and parking supported by sensors. Solutions in this category address the need to decrease traffic congestion or enable drivers to find available parking spots – problems afflicting many cities. Car-sharing initiatives by city communities were shown and explained. Autonomous vehicles were on display and got a lot of attention while raising questions about financing and insuring some of these new developments.

With the tragic events in Paris fresh in people’s minds, city officials were very interested in any offerings dealing with crisis or incident management. One example was IOmniscient’s 3D high-accuracy cameras that count people present in a specific location in real-time (very handy for crowd management). Other solutions include facial recognition capabilities to locate lost children or people of interest to law enforcement. These, and other applications, can assist local governments and citizens in preventing, managing and mitigating incidents.

“Gamification” got significant interest. Virtual reality environments supporting driving education or enabling urban planning were in high demand. There were also long lines for learning how to drive a real tram in a virtual city (not as easy as it looks). And Microsoft partner Geodan NEXT demonstrated how children were educated in smart-city development and how kids assisted in real-life design of schools and playgrounds by use of a Minecraft-based solution. In a more adult world, this same tool is being used for collaboration between professionals and citizens working together around a big touch table to address urban planning issues.

It is not often that I get to attend conferences outside of the insurance or technology space. It was refreshing to see the enthusiasm of professionals for innovation in a different industry. And many of the technologies that we frequently discuss, such as driverless cars, resource sharing, gamification, drones or Internet of Things, are equally relevant for smart cities.

I was also pleased with the balanced approach the people I spoke with took regarding opportunities for innovation and risk mitigation. Assisted by big data and technical developments, historically more disconnected industries such as technology, insurance, government, health or energy will quickly become more connected to each other, and the people of the world will collaborate in smart communities to capitalize on innovations.

The show in Barcelona was an uplifting experience, even with the sun beckoning.

How to Find Mobility Solutions (Part 2)

Before continuing from the “How to Find Mobility Solutions (Part 1)” post, I want to repeat my bias: I think that until insurers, and insurance agencies/brokers, can operate entirely using apps on smart device they can’t really call themselves “mobile-next.”

Potential insurance mobility solutions

Focus on enabling producers to use a smart device that has the requisite apps to:

  • Manage their day (and week and month) — seeing list of sales opportunities, setting up appointments, finding meeting locations and going to meetings, using the native calendar/GPS/mapping capabilities of the smart device
  • Get notices about traffic conditions and suggested alternative routes to take if the producer is driving to a meeting
  • Get alerts about severe weather
  • Pull information about the customer from an agency management system or a carrier’s customer relationship management (CRM) system before the meeting
  • Note comments about the progress of each sale after each meeting, whether by using the keyboard, stylus (if applicable) or voice entry
  • See charts showing progress-to-date or progress-to-goals
  • Pull all relevant forms into a “potential sale area” on the device — forms related to the sale of a specific line of insurance and required by the insurance company or regulators
  • View the status of each sale in process and see the steps the carrier still needs to complete, with time estimates of each step
  • Get a quote for any insurance products the producer is allowed to sell
  • Walk a prospect through a policy application form either on the producer’s device or by sending it to the prospect’s smart device
  • Coordinate a 3-way video session with a subject-matter expert, the prospective client and the producer to answer questions the prospect or producer might have about the insurance product
  • Start a video session with a customer-service representative (CSR) or other colleague in the agency or in the carrier to ask questions or collaborate on an issue – from campaign management to new products to new requirements triggered by new regulations
  • Complete the policy application form, including getting the prospect’s e-signature if that can be done at the moment. If completion isn’t possible at the time of the meeting with the prospect, then enable the producer to store the policy application and filled-in data on the producer’s smart device and also upload the information to the relevant agency or carrier systems
  • Get alerts about any of the producer’s customers filing a claim, including the “when, where and why” of the claim
  • See how much time until the next meeting takes place (this is specifically for a smart watch) and get an alert (sound or haptic touch on the wrist) when the producer is close to or at a meeting location.

I realize this is only a starter list of mobile applications for a producer. What would you add?

Location, Location, Location – It Matters in Insurance, Too

Location plays a critical role in the insurance industry. The issue of place is central to business acquisition, channel management, underwriting, and claim adjudication, to name a few insurance business functions. However, most insurers are challenged by how to find, access, and use the requisite geographic information to improve decision-making, operations, and customer service. Fortunately, one potential solution to the challenge is emerging through the use of three groups of technologies – social media, location intelligence, and mobility – which some technology and telecommunication firms are beginning to support and/or package together into one set of interdependent capabilities called SoLoMo. Ovum's recently published report SoLoMo: Social, Location, and Mobility Join to Enhance Insurance Commerce and Service describes what SoLoMo is and discusses SoLoMo's stages of engagement, major capabilities, and revenue opportunities for insurers. One revenue possibility is offering telematics value-add services such as discounts at restaurants to reward good driving behavior.

SoLoMo is a set of capabilities that “knows” about the longitude and latitude of a geographic area and, to some degree, knows in real time about the tangible assets (e.g. buildings, vehicles, livestock) within it, whether those tangible assets have embedded sensors or not. SoLoMo creates and delivers its knowledge in a real-time, geographically defined context. The contextually determined knowledge is created by streams of information captured on a device as a person travels to or moves through a location. That information includes the needs of the person using the device, the device's location, and the location's tangible assets. The information also includes social media and business enterprise social network feeds about the location and its tangible assets. Currently, a SoLoMo device could be a smartphone, tablet, or vehicle with an embedded sensor.

There are four stages of real-time engagement between a SoLoMo device and its surroundings. SoLoMo devices can already support some of the capabilities of the first three stages of engagement:

  • Stage 1 – Passive engagement: This is the basic level of SoLoMo engagement, and it offers a “for your information” purpose about the location of homes or businesses.
  • Stage 2 – Active engagement: This level of engagement includes the commonly available turn-by-turn directional guidance with or without voice navigation. However, it could also include receiving information from other smartphones or tablets in the geographic area.
  • Stage 3 – Interactive engagement: This level of engagement enables insurance stakeholders to receive and incorporate information from sensor-embedded tangible assets in the geographic area concerning their state (e.g. damaged or destroyed).
  • Stage 4 – Autonomous engagement: This level of engagement enables the SoLoMo device to accomplish everything in Stage 3 but without human intervention.

SoLoMo will need to encompass six major capabilities to support insurance company commerce and service requirements as the levels of engagement evolve through the four stages. The objective of each capability is:

  • Determine: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to determine if a physical artifact exists in a given location, whether the person using a SoLoMo device is stationary or moving through the geographic area.
  • Share: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to share ideas with personal social media or enterprise social network (ESN) members about the state of the physical artifact and its content.
  • Capture: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to capture information about the location and its tangible assets (and possibly the contents of each tangible asset).
  • Interact: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to interact with a digital avatar representing the tangible asset and its content. The digital avatar would store the date and nature of the interaction as well as the name or other identification of the SoLoMo device (or person using the device) engaging with it.
  • Integrate: This capability enables users of a SoLoMo device to integrate third-party data sources (e.g. NOAA, Marshall & Swift/Boeckh) and information from the insurer's ESN, core administration, and customer relationship management or customer experience management (CRM/CEM) systems together on the device.
  • Personalize: This capability enables the user of a SoLoMo device to receive personalized information based on the insurance stakeholder's needs and the geographic area.

SoLoMo offers insurers an opportunity to provide fee-based value-added services. This is important because it helps insurers diversify their earnings from being primarily risk-based premium revenue. Examples of value-added services that insurers could offer policyholders or prospective clients include the following, which could be augmented with social media feeds or, where appropriate, the insurer's ESN content and real-time commentary:

  • Telematics services – Insurers could offer: (1) discounts at restaurants based on good driving behavior; (2) safe driving programs that provide discounts on automobile insurance premiums to policyholders willing to install a device, or an app on an existing device, that prevents the driver from using a smartphone while the vehicle is in motion; or (3) information about the closest authorized automobile repair shop.
  • Remediation services – Insurers could provide a buying service for requisite items to restore retail customers’ homes or commercial clients’ business facilities, including bundling reviews from other policyholders or the general marketplace about the quality of products and services from companies selling the replacement products.
  • Child or elderly parent safety monitoring – Insurers could offer clients monthly geo-fencing monitoring of children or elderly parents' movements within a target location.
  • Business interruption cost estimation – Assuming the enterprise has a sufficient number of embedded sensors in the facility's structures and content the enterprise sells, insurers could estimate the state of each of the enterprise's tangible assets (existence, destruction, damage), compare that with data sources relating to labor and material cost to replace or remediate the tangible assets, and wirelessly report that information to the enterprise's CFO and chief risk officer (and to the insurer's actuarial and claim departments).