Tag Archives: OBD

Connected Car Data: Moving Past the Hype

It is still early in the evolution of collecting and using mobile data from drivers and their vehicles, but many large industries with huge stakes in the outcome are participating and paying close attention.

The Current Conundrum: Many Contestants, Few Prizes

Formed in 1995 as a collaboration between GM, Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Electronics, OnStar was almost certainly the grandfather of the connected car. In 2002, Progressive insurance and General Motors Acceptance Co. partnered to introduce the first usage-based insurance (UBI) program in the U.S. Using GPS and cellular phone tracking capabilities, the Snapshot program offered discounts to low-mileage drivers on the program. What followed – and continues to evolve exponentially – was an explosion of business models, technologies and programs for use in the insurance and commercial fleet industries, with applications ranging from underwriting, claims and fraud to accident management, driver safety and behavioral modification.

While the earlier and still prevalent telematics programs rely on a small communications device connected to the vehicle on-board diagnostic (OBD) port, the proliferation of smartphones has enabled the elimination of these device costs and provided more convenient mobile solutions. In addition, car makers have begun installing software and communications in new-model vehicles, which further simplifies the user experience and expands program capabilities, integrating them into dashboard screen interfaces. By 2020, more than 90% of new cars will transmit telematics data, according to the Auto Care Association. More recently, intermediary technology providers known as telematics service providers (TSPs) have emerged to offer consumers and insurance carriers turnkey connected car programs, and several industry information providers have introduced telematics data exchanges (TDEs), which consolidate drive and vehicle data from a variety of car makers and provide insurers with uniform, normalized data.

This connected car evolution from OBD to embedded to mobile to hybrid is enabling more than just new insurance products; it is transforming the business of auto insurance. Automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), insurers, TSPs, telcos and information providers all seek to monetize the exploding streams of connected car data – but no universal or dominant models have emerged as yet.

Secret to Success: Partnerships

The emergence of insurtechs, with their innovative application of new technologies to solve age-old insurance challenges, along with the implied threat of those solutions to traditional insurers has dramatically changed the way insurance executives think about partnerships. Today, strategic technology-centered partnerships are enabling insurers to transform their core processes and expand into more markets than ever before. In fact, many of the largest carriers have formed or joined dedicated insurtech venture capital funds and accelerators, whose portfolios potentially represent a double win, financially and in process improvement.

In the area of the Internet of Things, of which connected car is a major subset, inter-industry partnerships and alliances are critical – indeed mandatory – for success. Even one-time competitors are seen to collaborate where both parties do better together than separately.

Partnerships between ecosystem participants are inevitable, and desirable – with each segment leveraging its core strengths and expertise in support of mutual business objectives and their common customers. In the case of connected cars, those are the owners, drivers and passengers as well as the policyholders.

See also: 5 Steps to a Connected Car Strategy  

Aligning Interests by Focus on the Common Customer

By focusing on the common customer, each participating segment partner can “win,” defined as achieving their primary strategic objectives. In the case of auto insurers, winning means improving and strengthening the customer experience and relationship while improving underwriting and operating results. For car makers, winning means lowering the total cost of ownership for car buyers – a fundamental strategic objective that has recently emerged – and reinforcing brand loyalty with car buyers and owners. Furthermore, lowering total cost of ownership is a strategic objective that auto insurers embrace, as well.

For intermediaries such as TSPs and TDEs, winning means adding significant value to existing relationships with insurance company clients and adding new customer segments and product revenue streams to their businesses while lifting and reinforcing brand recognition across all segments.

And let’s not forget one more important reality – every connected car program, regardless of the participants, requires acceptance by the same common customer.

Solving the “Many to Many” Challenge

With the increase of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), connected cars and the emergence of autonomous vehicles, data experts, along with OEMs, insurers, brokers and agents, are joining forces to bundle whole-life vehicle costs together to offer new mobility solutions such as car subscriptions, car sharing and other short-term vehicle use models to appeal to changing consumer needs.

The challenge presented by this proliferation lies in the wide range of devices and the variations in hardware and software technologies that are broadcasting data in non-standard structures. This lack of uniformity presents what LexisNexis Risk Solutions calls the “many-to-many” challenge. The torrent of inconsistent data from disparate data sources presents numerous serious impediments to consumer program portability and driver scoring calculations and will eventually impede market confidence and growth of these programs.

How this data is managed and converted from raw driving data into reliable rateable factors for use by auto insurers is crucial in determining how OEMs and insurers will collaborate to support the future of connected car programs for consumers within both insurance and auto industries.

The solution that presents itself is a central hub that is capable of ingesting, cleansing and contextualizing driving data regardless of data source to resolve the many-to-many problem. With access to the entire insurance market for both insurers and OEMs, the potential exists to ultimately transform the mobility-insurance market into one connected ecosystem to the benefit of all participants – including consumers.

Telematics Data Exchanges to the Rescue

As connected car programs continue to evolve, the challenge insurers will increasingly face is that the number of sources and collection methods for telematics data will continue to grow as programs evolve and all of the resulting data will need to be standardized. Telematics data exchanges, such as the LexisNexis Telematics Exchange, are able to help insurers and OEMs navigate evolving technology by providing them with normalized data and advanced insights that are most relevant in growing their business.

To succeed, these telematics data exchanges will have to be developed and managed by trusted, well-established information providers that already do business with a majority of insurers, that have a deep understanding of the automotive industry, that have sophisticated and powerful data processing assets and that have a culture of innovation as well as a corporate commitment to data privacy and security. When you consider all of these qualifications, there are really only small handful of companies that qualify.

See also: Advanced Telematics and AI  

Telematics data exchange providers enable insurers, auto manufacturers and drivers to benefit from the evolution of UBI programs. These platforms provide insurers with driver scores through a single point of entry and leverage existing system integrations, regardless of each customer’s data collection preference. They also enable OEMs to collect and seamlessly integrate vehicle data into insurers’ existing UBI programs. In addition, auto manufacturers can gain valuable insights, improve return on investment (ROI) and access data analytics expertise that provides them speed to market to provide value-added products and services to their customers. OEMs will also have a practical opportunity to encourage safe driving and enhance customer ownership experiences.

Everyone Wins

In summary, professional management of connected car data and the wide variety of telematics solutions will enable consumers to confidently share their driving scores across a range of carriers and maximize the benefits of participation in current and future programs.

In addition, it will allow the claims process to evolve from its current state to instant crash notification, touchless claims and eventually to claims mitigation. Telematics data exchanges will help to build customers’ loyalty to their chosen carrier and OEM brands. Additionally, a telematics exchange will enable participants to innovate and quickly execute by providing the vital ingredients and processes required to fast-track transformation at scale and deliver real value to customers. Successful telematics exchanges will bring together OEMs and insurers for the benefit of consumers in their seamless digital lives.

The authors wrote this article in the run-up to the Connected Claims USA Summit in Chicago, where both spoke this week. 

End of the Road for OBD in UBI Plans?

I recently attended a telematics event in Brussels and had an interesting discussion about the future of on-board diagnostics (OBD) in auto insurance. I have been in the European telematics usage-based insurance (UBI) space for a long time and have seen all sorts of solutions adopted by insurers when launching programs to consumers: hidden black boxes, windscreen devices, battery-mounted devices and tags, all with different types of success.

I have rarely seen OBDs succeed. In theory, there are benefits from reading vehicle data and being connected to the car, but the reality has proven massively different.

First of all, OBDs prove to be inconvenient for consumers. Each vehicle has a different position for the port, and unless consumers are carefully guided they simply won’t find it. If they do, the ports can be in inconvenient places, which either makes the device an eyesore in the car or annoying because it can detach when the driver gets into and out of the car. Some less-expensive OBD models, without GPS and GSM, can be paired with phones, but even this experience has never been straightforward due to different Bluetooth standards. So the promise of self-installing really did not work out.

Car manufacturers don’t help the situation. They continuously update their vehicle software, which can cause compatibility problems for OBD makers every time a new model comes to market. Guess who discovers this first? Consumers.

OBDs proved to be inconvenient for insurers. When insurers launch a new UBI program, they want to make sure the data is standardized across all available vehicles. But with all their issues with compatibility and installation, OBDs in Europe have never been able to deliver the standardization that make the driving data interesting for insurers on a large scale.

See also: Advanced Telematics and AI

OBDs have had some success in countries like the U.S., mainly due to different OBD data standards, bigger cars and more consumer awareness. But even in the U.S., insurers are abandoning OBDs for smartphones, which can provide better customer experiences and adoption rates.

But perhaps most damaging of all, car makers are starting to limit access to the OBD port to protect consumers from hackers and bad experiences. Ultimately, the port has been created for diagnostics purposes years ago but lately used by hardware providers for different purposes. Organizations interested in accessing vehicle data will probably be driven by OEMs directly to access driving data from the cloud with highly secure access systems – not from the vehicle itself.

This is why we won’t see many insurers launching new OBD-based UBI programs.

Sensors and the Next Wave of IoT

Spies and “bugs” have made frequent appearances in movies, books and television. In the James Bond movie series, we see an array of devices that were designed for 007 by “Q.” In the 1997 movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond’s BMW car and mobile phone provide the first glimpses of the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). He remotely starts and drives the vehicle to escape the villains, while operating a number of built-in devices from the phone as the car views and senses issues. Q was always on the leading edge of new technology for Bond.

Fast forward 20 years, and we now have sensors and capabilities in so many things … in our appliances, automobiles, mobile phones and a host of common wearables. You may not think of these as “bugs,” but they are. They are mini- and micro-technology components employed to see, listen, learn, assess and respond. The only difference between today’s sensors and yesterday’s is that today’s sensors are infinitely better at reading and recording data — and they may be used for the common good.

To prove that they are still considered “bugs,” however, you only need to look at a bill introduced recently by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (VA) and Cory Gardner (CO). The Internet of Things Cyber Security Improvement Act is aimed to protect the federal government from cyber intrusion through the Internet of Things. Their bill raises a great point — sensors need built-in security measures that will allow for the good features to be used without introducing new risks.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

Good Bugs Eat Risk

In the insurance industry, we understand the implications of sensors and their ability to lower risk. “Bugs” and sensors are now our best friends. In our Future Trends 2017: The Shift Gains Momentum report, we examined how IoT experimentation and implementation is reaching into every area of insurance. Here is a short list of innovative ideas introduced by early adopters of IoT in insurance:

  • Progressive, via the Snapshot usage-based-insurance telematics offering, monitored how customers drove using an OBD plug-in device from Zubie.
  • Liberty Mutual partnered with Google to use NEST connected smoke alarms in the home to help customers reduce fire risk and carbon monoxide poisoning while also reducing their homeowners insurance premium.
  • Beam Dental began pricing dental insurance based on smart toothbrush usage data.
  • John Hancock used wearable devices to track the well-being of customers, lowering life insurance premiums and offering an incentive program through Vitality to shop for an array of things.
  • Oscar, a health insurance startup, used wearable fitness trackers and a mobile app to help track and encourage members to be fit, find doctors, access health history, access the doctor on call and connect to Apple Health.

In addition to the last two examples above, companies are using wearable devices and the data generated from them to better assess individuals for healthcare, life insurance, workers compensation and investment rewards based on their activity and lifestyle. Innovative insurers are using wearables to provide improved underwriting discounts, rewards, claims monitoring and new services using real-time data. The new services can include advice on healthy living, real-time healthcare and prevention, real-time monitoring and assistance in treatment or recovery plans and determining return to work timeframes for injuries or other health-related incidents. These all contribute to enhanced customer experiences, longer customer lives and improved insurer investment options.

There’s No Limit to Sensor Growth

This rapid experimentation and use of IoT isn’t just limited to wearables, telematics and smoke detectors. Sensors of all kinds are being born into healthcare environments, construction sites, commercial buildings, roads and bridges, homes and cars.

  • By 2025, the Internet of Things will be worth trillions annually.
  • Connected homes will grow rapidly by 30% per year in the U.S. alone, where 22% of households now have at least one connected device.
  • The wearable device market is expected to more than double over the next five years.

Sensors Should Reduce Claims

With the proliferation of companies innovating and taking new offerings to market using IoT, we are seeing the beginning of a huge boom in insurers using IoT to drive an engaging customer experience through personalized insurance offerings, reduced costs and new value-added services. The Boston Consulting Group estimated that U.S. insurers could reduce annual claims by 40% to 60% with real-time IoT. The key is that insurers will be able to move from paying claims to mitigating or eliminating risk by engaging with customers via IoT devices while also enhancing the customer experience.

What’s Next for the IoT? Better bugs?

Though so much remains uncertain and untested, we should expect to see a rapid evolution of technologies to sort out which sensors are most valuable in which locations and just how IoT can bring cost-effective monitoring to market.

For example, P&C insurers were quick to pick up on OBD technology, with installed devices in vehicles. In many cases, mobile phone monitoring soon became a more cost-effective solution. Most smart phones have GPS capability and an accelerometer. And now automotive manufacturers are embedding sensors and telematics in vehicles to enhance safety and position themselves toward autonomous driving vehicles – just like Bond.

As some wearable technologies are dropping out of the running, life and health insurers will soon be taking advantage of advancements in smart watch design. The first wave of wearables looked like digital tech devices with touchscreens and LED displays. The next wave is the introduction of smart tech into “normal”-looking watches from standard manufacturers like Movado, Tag Heuer, Fossil and Tommy Hilfiger. Android Wear technology will be feeding the data. These would be much more like Q would have designed, and they will undoubtedly be worn by many who wouldn’t normally use an Apple Watch or a FitBit.

A similar technology wave is beginning to hit homes. Currently, sensors are in use in some thermostats, appliances, lighting systems, security systems, computer and gaming devices. But one of the drawbacks to having so many sensors is that most companies haven’t networked all of them to a single IoT data framework. This hinders the ability to aggregate the data across sensors, limiting the potential value. Every new data point requires a new type of sensor. As with OBD devices, attaching a sensor to everything may even become non-essential, in favor of one centrally located device with multiple sensors.

PhD students at Carnegie Mellon University have been developing a plug-in sensor package they call a “Synthetic Sensor.” Plug it into an outlet, and that room is immediately a smart room. Instead of a smart sensor on every item in the room, multiple sensors in the device track many items, people and safety concerns at once. The device can detect if anything seems to be “wrong” when appliances are in use by analyzing machine vibrations. And, of course, it can track usage patterns. The sensor can even track things insurers may not need to know, like how many paper towels are still left on a roll.

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

So, would P&C insurers like to be connected to the water heater thermometer, or have access to a device that can hear pops and leaks? Would L&A insurers like to know the lifestyle and behaviors of their customers to encourage healthy living?  Much of this will be sorted out in the coming years.

What doesn’t need to be sorted out is that insurers will want access to device data – and they will pay for it. They will need to be running systems that will readily hold the data, analyze it and use it effectively. Cloud storage of device data and even cloud analytics will play a tremendous role in giving value to IoT data streams.

IoT advancements are exciting! They hold promise for insurers, and they certainly will make many of our environments safer and smarter.

Is Verizon About to Outmaneuver Insurers?

Today, my (snail) mailbox contained a postcard from Verizon offering to turn my car into a connected car. To be more precise, the offer was to my 22-year-old daughter — neither my wife nor I got the same offer. In essence, Verizon provides a device that plugs into the OBD port, a second device that clips on the visor and a smartphone app to control the service. This is an excellent example of other industries seizing on opportunities that should be prime territory for insurers.

Verizon’s hum service (www.hum.com) includes capabilities in six areas: roadside assistance, diagnostic alerts, a vehicle locator, a certified mechanics hotline, maintenance reminders and hotel/car rental discounts. It’s being pitched as a great holiday gift — just plug it in, and you are ready to go!

This is by no means the only offer of this type. Other companies such as Automatic Labs (www.automatic.com) sell OBD devices that provide a variety of services. Automatic has a “Do not disturb” app (Androids only) that keeps the phone quiet while someone is driving, to minimize distractions and reduce the urge to text. The Automatic device/apps will also alert the driver when she is exceeding the speed limit, track when the ignition is on/off, send help if you crash and trigger actions like closing the garage door when you leave the house.

At SMA, we’ve been advocating more varied value propositions for telematics for some time. Some insurers outside the U.S. have ventured into value propositions that have included vehicle location, vehicle performance and some of the other services offered by Verizon. But, in the U.S. today, the primary value proposition for personal auto is the potential to reduce premiums; a few companies are providing other services, such as encouraging safe driving.

What is frustrating is that the insurance industry was the pioneer in telematics and experimenting with the use of OBD devices, car navigation systems and mobile apps based on real-time vehicle data. These efforts stretch back to the late 1990s, with pilots by UK-based Norwich Union, then Progressive and others. Unfortunately, most insurers have been thinking about the potential in the context of current insurance products — a coverage-based view.

The connected world is emerging rapidly, presenting many opportunities to provide services to homeowners, businesses, vehicle owners and other segments. Many of these services are aimed at improving safety and providing peace of mind to individuals and businesses.

Hmmm… sounds curiously like the core mission of the insurance industry.