Tag Archives: on-demand economy

New Approach to Natural Disasters

When losses occur during natural disasters, carriers in the $4.5 trillion insurance market understand that — in addition to safety — at the top of policyholders’ minds is how they are going to recover, and how fast. It is at these times that carriers must respond quickly and efficiently to make their policyholders whole again while keeping costs as low as possible.

Operating in a cost-sensitive and hyper-responsive market that affects all service industries, even the most sophisticated and progressive carriers often find themselves struggling to effectively deal with the scalability, complexity and unpredictability of managing a local, regional or national adjuster workforce. This typically drives up service costs, hindering service performance and ultimately hurting policyholder satisfaction, particularly in crises.

One way carriers can respond quickly and safely — and keep policyholders happy — when natural disasters strike is relying on an on-demand model to supply a scalable and affordable workforce. This article provides an overview of the strain that natural disasters place on carriers and discusses how the on-demand model can relieve pressure by revolutionizing how the insurance industry responds.

The Insurance Industry Is Feeling the Strain

Since Hurricane Andrew, the industry has shifted from a reactive to a proactive approach. This process is assisted by the development of much more sophisticated technology, fully formulated catastrophe response plans and the realization of the necessity for immediate response. Still, as natural disasters increase in frequency and strength, the insurance industry is feeling the strain.

It takes far too long to assess claims and initiate payouts following catastrophes in the current insurance environment. “Waiting six weeks, 12 weeks or more for financial reparations is terribly stressful for policyholders,” says Ryan Kottenstette, CEO at Cape Analytics. “Carriers are striving to do better, and emerging tech companies can help them.” Indeed, the internet, mobile apps, on-demand models, automated estimations, drones and storm tracking technologies are but a few examples of how technology is improving the speed at which insurance companies settle claims.

See also: Key Findings on the Insurance Industry  

The main struggles for insurance professionals and insurance companies when dealing with large-scale natural disasters like the one-two punch of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma include extended response times and lack of resources.

Extended Response Times

“A stale claim is an expensive claim,” says John Rollins, an executive with Cabrillo Coastal General Insurance Agency LLC in Gainesville, FL. “The key… is getting to the policyholder and getting some money in their hands so they can begin the recovery process.”

Certainly, one of the biggest pain points is time. Anything that slows payouts diminishes their value at the front end of a crisis.

“There is a huge number of claims and a limited number of adjusters to handle them,” says Suzanne McCormack, director of business operations at Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters. “As time goes on, the policyholders become more and more restless because their homes or businesses have been impacted, and they want to get back to their normal lives. People are understandably very emotional having been through the trauma of the disaster, then waiting and waiting to get back to normal.”

In addition to the emotional toll that wait times place on policyholders, delays open the door for insurance fraud. “In the past five years here in Utah, catastrophic winds have provided the opportunity for rogue roofing contractors to knock on doors with minor roof damage, claiming that they can help provide a free roof replacement,” says Brent Thurman of Keystone Insurance. “In some cases, the contractor has even removed additional shingles before the claims representative arrives in an effort to have the entire roof replaced rather than a smaller repair. This can be difficult to track during a normal claim load, let alone a time when claims adjusters are overbooked by the sheer volume of claims submitted during a catastrophe.”

Lack of Resources

Carriers have traditionally understood the value of in-person asset inspections. However, maintaining an infrastructure capable of quickly completing these inspections in any location has become cost-prohibitive for most companies.

As expected, during and after Hurricane Irma, many of Florida’s adjusters were still on the front lines in Texas, working on claims made after Hurricane Harvey hit. “I would have to say it’s difficult to find enough inspectors willing to work 12- to 14-hour days seven days a week,” says John Espenschied of Insurance Brokers Group. “Most large insurance carriers are facing thousands of claims daily that need to be inspected. However, there are only so many insurance adjusters around the country, and pulling hundreds away from their regular duties creates a shortage.”

Then there is the underlying problem of managing logistics during a crisis. “From a logistics perspective, the biggest issue for the insurance industry will be the ability or inability to ramp up quickly and effectively to appropriately service the volume of claims that have and will continue to be submitted after disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” says Dawn Sandomeno, national director of brand management, Procor Solutions + Consulting. “Whether it is the insurance companies having enough trained staff to triage claim intake or insurance adjusters managing a portfolio of claim appointments to visit loss sites — many of which are inaccessible — the capabilities of the industry will continue to be tested.”

In fact, as insurers scrambled to get more of the nation’s 57,000 independent adjusters to Florida, it created a bidding war and the promise of a record payday for anyone available. It was reported that some Florida home insurers increased fees paid to adjusters by about 30%. In some cases, adjusters could earn $30,000 for evaluating a single complex property claim. Of course, these unprecedented increases in fees have the effect of increasing the cost of each claim.

See also: Why Is Insurance Industry So Small?  

The Power of the On-Demand Model

We live in an era of immediate gratification where Uber provides rides on demand and Amazon delivers almost any product we desire on the same day we order it. Consequently, policyholders’ expectations for the types of services they want to receive continue to grow more demanding.

To respond quickly and safely, carriers can leverage innovative approaches that align business processes from information-gathering to claims adjustment. By further aligning these essential business processes in a real-time, location-based context, carriers will be in a better position to understand and calculate risk while responding during catastrophes in hours, not days.

Using workers contracted through an on-demand provider, carriers can get more done more quickly. They have access to a distributed workforce of vetted and trained information gatherers who are ready to be dispatched to the scene of a catastrophe at a moment’s notice.

As on-demand options become more accessible, the insurance industry is beginning to realize that some of its traditional processes are less efficient than they need to be. The idea of sending a highly-paid, licensed adjuster to handle every claim scenario, regardless of its complexity, is being questioned. “

During a catastrophe, many claims require only a simple validation of damage. But traditional claims handling processes are over-engineered for such a situation. Why send a highly paid, licensed adjuster when an on-demand workforce can validate the damage immediately for a third (or less) of the cost? Why tie up valuable adjuster resources on simple claims when there aren’t even enough adjusters to handle the more complex situations that do require their level of expertise?

This article is an excerpt from a white paper by WeGoLook, a provider of on-demand workforce solutions for the insurance industry and other industries around the world. You can find the full paper here.

Is Insurance Having an Uber Moment?

Because of today’s technology, any person who has special knowledge of a service or product, or is willing to learn, can go into business as a freelancer. These people can not only be found by potential employers but can fit into their work flow. The result has been an on-demand work force, exemplified by the Uber or Lyft ride-sharing platforms and, in fact, by my company, WeGoLook, which facilitates gig work for our more than 30,000 strong on-demand workforce.

On-demand workers can generate substantial additional income without having to jump through the hoops that challenge traditional small businesses.

See also: The Uberization of Insurance  

Consumers have shifted, too, increasingly demanding that they be able to want to purchase goods and services based on their actual needs — what they want, when they want it and how they want it — rather than based on what the market tells them they need.

The result has been an on-demand economy that has been meshing with the on-demand workforce.

Insurance products face disruption because virtually every consumer purchases insurance at some point — insurance will have to adapt to both the on-demand nature of work and the on-demand nature of consumption. This is the industry’s Uber moment.

Insurtech has already led to innovation unlike anything the industry has ever witnessed.

Traditional carriers feared a loss of about 20% market share and responded by making substantial investments of their own into technology, distribution methods and product innovation. Even though traditional carriers retained the underwriting and claims administration responsibilities for insurance products being marketed by startups like Lemonade, Slice and Trov, they soon realized they would lose contact with consumers and control of distribution.

This has led insurance companies to wisely consider innovation and partnerships to remain relevant during this Uber moment.

Innovation

Digitally savvy customers want to connect and communicate via smartphone, tablets and laptops. Innovations like bots and AI help the insurer implement these communication requirements without adding thousands of employees and cubicles. Technology, in particular mobile technology, is the key, and insurtech startups have a vast supply of ideas that will meet the needs of the new on-demand consumer preferences.

Partnership

Insurers willing to invest significant funds to compete will suddenly discover that their traditional IT systems will hinder attempts at innovation. These legacy systems are typically outdated within a few years of installation, and the traditional insurer must look to partnering with well-funded startups rather than replacing all these systems at significant cost.

See also: What Will Be the Uber of Insurance?  

Partnering can allow for quick implementation of technological advances, such as new communication techniques, and the on-demand workforce can quickly and inexpensively carry out the activities required to implement new processes. For instance, on-demand field service companies like WeGoLook can provide personnel to accommodate the new needs in claims adjusting.

Traditional insurers are retooling or partnering to accommodate the preferences of on-demand consumers, but they are in for a wild ride — or at least very different one — as they have their Uber moment.

Power of ‘Claims Advocacy’

“Claims advocacy” is fast getting the attention of workers’ comp claims leaders as a powerful approach to better claims outcomes. The on-demand economy has created cultural and multi-generational expectations around service, speed and simplicity, and some claims leaders have already figured out how to deliver.

The workers’ compensation industry is in the throes of internal debate about mission and purpose.  Employee-centric claims models have become a large part of this debate. Some claims leaders say that payer organizations should move away from a compliance-oriented and, at times, adversarial style to an “advocacy” style of claims management.

Research, too, indicates that claims advocacy is top of mind for industry executives. The responses of 700 participants in Rising Medical Solutions’ Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study confirm that many claims leaders know the building blocks of advocacy and recognize its potential value. 

We recently interviewed claims leaders to better understand the practical meaning of the concept, as it applies to all claims operations, from self-administered employers to insurers handling claims for thousands of policyholders.

What Is Claims Advocacy?

We asked Noreen Olson, workers’ compensation manager with Starbucks, for a definition of advocacy.  (Starbucks employs 180,000 “partners” worldwide and has close to 12,000 outlets in the U.S.) Olson proposed this:

“In workers’ comp, advocacy is a process grounded by the values of dignity, respect and transparency that coordinates activities to assist the injured worker effectively and promote expectancy and engagement in recovery, efficiently restores (and often improves upon) health and well-being, and resolves the experience in mutual satisfaction.”

Others we spoke with endorsed this or a similar definition. They all have in mind not a checklist, nor a charm offensive, but a culture.  A claims culture that makes access to benefits simple and builds trust – and one that must be supported by executive buy-in, organizational values, technology and operating systems to be successful.

Access to benefits from the worker’s perspective includes ease of filing a claim, ease in obtaining prescribed medications, access to medical specialists and help in navigating the healthcare maze. Along the course of injury recovery, there are many opportunities that affect access and trust as perceived by the worker. The highly respected Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reports in its Predictors of Worker Outcomes Series that “trust” is a key driver of claims outcomes.

See also: How Should Workers’ Compensation Evolve?

Why Now?

Tom Stark, technical director of workers’ compensation at Nationwide Insurance, told us that advocacy has been around for a long time. He’s practiced advocacy since the 1980s Several forces converge to promote advocacy in claims today. Claims leaders are emphasizing, or perhaps “reemphasizing,” the importance of interpersonal relations. As claims handling has shifted from onsite home visits to lower contact models, the importance of emotional intelligence, soft skills and customer service skills is greater than ever to dispel uncertainty and engender trust.

Perhaps the biggest driver of customer service and transactional speed is the American retail sector. Its massive engagement in these areas has shaped everyone’s expectations – of all generations. Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular have grown up with this customer-focused approach and therefore bring to the claims environment high expectations for both delivering and receiving quality service. Slow, bureaucratic responses can shock injured workers. Darrell Brown, chief claims officer at Sedgwick, says, “We are now an on-demand economy. That is the way it is.”

Why Is Claims Advocacy Attractive?

Brown says that engaging the injured worker is key. Fast and helpful response to injury pays off in worker satisfaction and lower claims costs. “People file claims, but they don’t know what is going to happen. If you lose injured workers at the beginning of the claim, to anxiety and fear, they go to litigation.” Brown also says that when claims professionals engage more constructively with injured workers, their own experience is better. This leads to better morale and talent retention.

For employers, claims advocacy provides a special opportunity to directly align work injury response with their corporate brand, core values, employee communications and benefit delivery.

Walking the Walk

Albertsons Safeway, with more than a quarter million “associates” in 34 states, has crafted its claims approach to reinforce engagement and confidence for the injured workers. Director of Managed Care and Disability Denise Algire, who is also the principal researcher for the Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study, says that staff talks with injured employees on the day of injury. “We focus on education and reducing uncertainty,” she says.  They avoid potentially intimidating or antagonistic terms like “adjusting,” “examining” and “investigating.” They also start with the positive expectation that every employee wants to return to work. “Workers’ compensation has become adversarial because we manage the system based on the deceptive few versus the deserving many,” she says. “Our claims approach is based on the majority, not the minority.”

Brown talked to us about tangible actions. “If you can make a compensability determination in two days, even though the law gives you 14 days, imagine how much uncertainty and anxiety is removed,” he says. “The same applies to indemnity payments. The industry is often guided by regulatory requirements. If you can take action and make payments sooner, why make it later? You’ve got to walk the walk.” Starbucks, for example, direct deposits indemnity checks into employees’ accounts to increase speed.

Advocacy does not hinder organizations from being compliance-minded. Rather, it becomes one aspect of a holistic, customer-driven framework that aims higher than the bar often set by regulatory standards.

See Also: How to Win at Work Comp Claims

Barriers to Overcome

Stark sees lagging technology as getting in the way of engaging the injured worker. To him, claims tasks grew exponentially while support staff in claims offices were cut. Claims technology has often not kept up. He says, “Look at the work-arounds – count the number of sticky-notes on the adjuster’s screen. If technology is not there to support effective claims management, even in its most transactional form, you are really stressing the model. How are you going to be an advocate?”

Olson brought up two challenges that Starbucks has solved but still confront most employers. She believes that it is important to make it as easy as possible for a partner to report an injury. At Starbucks, they not only have web, mobile and call center options, they also allow partners to self-report their injuries versus going through their manager or HR.

Olson additionally stresses the importance of easily moving the partner to other benefit programs if the injury is not compensable and to avoid language like “your claim is denied.” She says that placing the award of benefits in the “right benefit bucket” needs to be done seamlessly so that the partner does not feel on the hook. In addition to the state mandated language in these instances, Starbucks includes its own letter that communicates that, while the claim isn’t eligible for workers’ comp, the partner may be eligible for other benefits to help with their injury/illness.

One barrier that Algire notes – simply “rebranding” claims adjusters as advocates is not enough. “A true cultural shift will require organizations to move beyond performance metrics that are based primarily in cost containment to those based on clinical quality, functional outcomes and patient satisfaction,” she says. This shift is critical to “walking the walk” and reinforcing the advocacy approach with claims staff.

Conclusion

The on-demand economy has created cultural and multi-generational expectations around service, speed and simplicity – giving workers’ compensation a blueprint for claims advocacy. Embracing consumer-driven models around injury recovery is emerging as a competitive advantage, both from a claims outcomes and a talent recruitment/retention perspective.

The 2016 Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study will be surveying claims leaders on advocacy, among other pressing topics, to better understand its current application and perceived viability.  A copy of the 2016 Study report may be ordered here.

Insuring a ‘Slice’ of the On-Demand Economy

In our emerging on-demand economy, Blue Ocean strategy will abound for P&C and life and annuity (L&A) In this post, I will focus on the Blue Ocean strategies that are needed in the P&C insurance industry.

The essence of Blue Ocean strategy, as discussed in W. Chan Kim’s and Renee Mauborgne’s 2005 book Blue Ocean Strategy, is “that companies succeed not by battling competitors but rather by creating ‘blue oceans’ of uncontested market space.” Society’s expanding on-demand economy is generating newly uncontested P&C insurance markets.

These new insurance markets are being formed from the blurring of consumer and corporate exposures that have historically been considered separate exposures by insurance companies, intermediaries, regulators and customers.

My objective in this post is to discuss the emergence of a new insurance player, a licensed insurance intermediary, that offers insurance that the Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers—specifically Uber and Lyft drivers—should purchase to protect themselves, their ride-share vehicles and their passengers.

TNC drivers have insurance requirements for all three time periods

From the moment they “tap the app on” to the moment they “tap the app off,” Uber and Lyft drivers generate a fusion of personal and commercial automobile insurable exposures. The fused automobile insurable exposures are in play throughout three three time periods during which drivers need to protect themselves; their personal vehicles being used as ride-share vehicles to pick up, transport and drop-off their passengers; and, of course, their passengers.

The three time periods are:

  1. Time Period 1: This period begins when an app is turned on or someone logs in to the app but when there is no ride request from a prospective passenger. The driver can be logged into Uber, Lyft or both, but the driver is waiting for a request for a ride.
  2. Time Period 2: This period begins when the driver is online and has accepted a request for a ride but has yet to pick up a passenger.
  3. Time Period 3: This period begins when the driver is online and a passenger is in the car but has yet to be dropped off at the destination.

No, your personal automobile insurer probably does not cover the ride-share

It would be foolhardy (at best) and extremely costly (to the ride-share drivers) to assume the insurance policy that covers the driver’s personal automobile would also cover the exposures the driver generates as a TNC driver throughout the three time periods.

However, there is an expanding list of personal automobile insurers that:

  • cover time period 1 for ride-share drivers—TNC companies do not provide coverage during this period; and
  • will not cancel a driver’s personal automobile insurance policy if the driver tells the insurance company she is using the vehicle as a ride-share vehicle while driving for Uber or Lyft.

But the fact remains that there is a paucity of insurers that cover the personal and commercial automobile risks for people using a vehicle as a ride-share vehicle during all three time periods.

Further, drivers could very well find themselves with insufficient coverage even if the TNC provides coverage during time periods 1 and 2.

The paucity represents Blue Ocean uncontested market opportunities

The opportunities are the drivers’ need for insurance coverage to:

  • the fullest amount possible given the requirements of each state and each driver’s situation (i.e. the cost to repair the vehicle will differ by vehicle and state where the driver operates)
  • fill the insurance gaps between 1) the driver’s personal automobile coverage; 2) what Uber or Lyft provide during time periods 2 and 3; and 3) what each state requires.

Simply put, depending on the type of vehicle the driver is using as the ride-share vehicle and the state where the driver is operating, it is entirely possible that whatever insurance the TNC provides—even if it meets the minimum requirements of the state—is inadequate to financially help the driver (Note: this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of financial requirements):

  • remediate/restore the ride-share vehicle to its pre-damaged condition;
  • pay for physical rehabilitation for the driver, passengers or pedestrians who are injured in an accident caused by a ride-share driver or a third-party;
  • pay for property remediation caused by the ride-share driver
  • pay the lawsuit of ride-share vehicle passengers who claim the driver attacked them;
  • pay for the lawsuit of ride-share drivers who claim a passenger attacked them; and
  • make payments in lawsuits brought by passengers or pedestrians injured or killed, or owners of property destroyed or damaged by the ride-share driver.

Slice emerges to provide hybrid personal and commercial P&C insurance

Slice Labs, a new player in the insurance marketplace based in New York City, is emerging to target this specific uncontested market space by providing Uber and Lyft drivers with access to hybrid personal and commercial automobile insurance for all three time periods. In a March 29, 2016, press release, the company announced it secured $3.9 million in seed funding led by Horizons Ventures and XL Innovate.

I truly appreciate and personally respect Slice for taking the time to enter this Blue Ocean market space in the “right way” by first becoming licensed in the states where the company wants to operate. Currently, Slice is licensed to conduct business for Uber and Lyft drivers in seven states: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

Getting licensed

Moreover, Slice’s business model is to operate as a licensed insurance intermediary with underwriting and binding authority. The intermediary has become licensed as insurance agents for personal and commercial P&C, excess and surplus (E&S), and accident and health (A&H) insurance. Slice also has managing general agency licenses in the states where that license is required to sell the hybrid insurance coverage. Slice is taking this path of licensure because it is using a direct model and doesn’t plan to distribute through agents (intending instead to distribute through the TNC platforms and directly to the drivers).

Further, because this is a hybrid personal and commercial automobile insurance opportunity, Slice is designing and filing the requisite policy forms in each state where it wants to operate.

Slice is underwriting the risk, but it is not financially carrying the risk. For that, Slice will be working with primary insurers and reinsurers. Slice has not yet reached the point where it can identify which (re)insurers are providing the capability. Obviously, without having the insurance financial capacity, Slice can’t operate in the marketplace (unless Slice plans to use its seed financing and future investment rounds for that purpose—assuming that is allowed by each state where Slice wants to operate).

It is also important to know which (re)insurers are providing the capacity. I hope Slice releases that information very soon.

Conducting business with Slice

A driver purchases the hybrid policy by registering on the Slice app (registering is the process of the driver receiving and accepting the offer to apply for insurance), which triggers Slice’s underwriting process. At the completion of the underwriting process, Slice generates and sends the driver a price for the policy that will cover the driver’s fused personal and commercial automobile insurance requirements for each cycle of turning on and off the Uber or Lyft app.

Once the driver purchases the policy, Slice sends the driver the declaration page and policy in a form required by each state. Slice will send the DEC page and policy digitally if that is allowed by the state. Moreover, the Slice app will show the proof of insurance, the time periods the insurance policy is in effect and the amount of premium being charged during the time period from “app on to app off.”

If there is a claim, the driver will file the first notice of loss through the Slice app. Although Slice plans to work with third-party adjusters to manage the claim process, the driver will only interact with Slice until the claim reaches a final resolution.

What do you think?

Will this uncontested market space remain uncontested for very long? I sincerely doubt it. The addressable market is huge: every Uber and Lyft ride-share driver who does not have the requisite insurance or doesn’t have sufficient insurance (the two are not necessarily the same animal).

What do you think of Slice, of this market opportunity and of other on-demand economy opportunities that reflect a fusion of personal and commercial insurance exposures?

On-Demand Economy Is Just Starting

Fifteen years ago, the idea of having access to any bit of information you could possibly want at your fingertips was outrageous. In 2001, you could get access to the Internet from your phone, but the experience would be slooooow, and it might cost you hundreds of dollars. Dial-up Internet from desktop computers – remember them? – was still very much a thing. Now, people carry smartphones that give them instant access to just about anyone, to every bit of news and to almost all the knowledge in recorded history.

People use those devices mostly to watch videos of singing goats and people failing at dunking a basketball, but that’s a different story.

The point is that technology, such as smartphones and smart watches, has created an on-demand world where gratification needs to be instant. When someone decides he wants something, he doesn’t want it in two hours. He doesn’t want it in 20 minutes. He wants it now. And, he wants it at the push of a button.

As the trajectory of the last 15 years shows, the trend toward on-demand will only continue, perhaps even accelerate.

The main driver, as usual, is good, old Moore’s Law, which has seen the computing power of a chip double every year and a half to two years since the 1960s at no increase in cost. Moore’s Law is why a gigabyte of memory, which cost $300,000 in the mid-1980s, today costs less than a penny, and why, despite some technology headwinds for Moore’s Law, we’ll have devices hundreds of times as powerful as today’s before kids born this year enter high school.

Other “laws,” such as Metcalfe’s, continue to drive the value of networks at an exponential rate. So-called “network effects” are why millennials rarely have their phones more than a foot away and why there is so much effort to make devices even more accessible – in front of your eyes, a la the failed-but-not-forever-dead Google Glass, or on your wrist as a “watch.” Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the MIT Media Lab, has argued for years that we’ll eventually wind up with cellphones surgically implanted behind our jaws, where they will have easy access to our vocal cords and our ears.

But Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s and the others that have driven the unbelievable progress in computing are just the start. Now, three more factors are kicking in, increasing the pace toward the on-demand world. First, sensors and cameras are wiring more and more of the world every day. Second, people are coming up with new business models that build on these new capabilities in surprising and powerful ways. Third, the effects will spread to what is sometimes referred to as “the next billion” (and the billion after that). Those of us in the developed world won’t have all the fun; the rest of the world will join in.

Sensors and Cameras

Fitbit et al. track every step you take and every calorie you burn, and they’re just the beginning. People have begun talking about the “Internet in Me.” The idea is that you might ingest some small sensor that will report from inside your blood stream about blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. A wireless signal – powered by the abundant electricity inside us – would send the information to your phone or watch, which would relay any necessary information to a doctor or some sort of healthcare provider.

Drones are everywhere. They can check crops, monitor disasters or do whatever. In fact, woe to the next generation of teenagers – parents can now just keep a drone in the home and have it fly around from time to time to see if Junior is having a party while they’re away.

Our mobile phones constantly provide information on traffic flow, based simply on how fast they’re moving in our cars. (When is the last time you saw a traffic copter, let alone a thin rubber hose across a road that tripped a counter every time a car ran over it?) Waze has layered crowdsourcing on top of the data from mobile phones, encouraging people to report accidents and other delays, to fine-tune maps and so forth. Nauto, a start-up, is trying to add another layer by getting fleet operators—and, eventually, individual drivers—to put cameras in vehicles (one looking at the road, one looking at the driver) with the initial goal to improve safety. If enough of Nauto’s cameras are on the road, they will provide a real-time look at the world. Want a parking spot right now? Nauto can tell you about the one that opened up 30 seconds ago a block away.

Google is gathering information in real time about diseases like the flu – it can report when and where a lot of people start searching for information about certain symptoms. Even our thoughts and emotions are getting wired. Historically, in presidential elections, people conducted the occasional opinion poll, so you’d have a sense of the result of the debate a week or so later. Now, people monitor Twitter streams and Google searches in real time to assess who won and who lost. Those feelings then get aggregated in prediction markets that are far more accurate than political observers ever were. Of course, a lot of effort gets put into figuring out presidential elections because of the stakes involved, but this kind of wiring and immediate response will spread into other areas, as well.

The physical world is being folded into the digital one through hacks such as QR codes, which let magazine readers scan them to figure out where they can purchase an outfit or whatever else is in an image. Amazon’s voice-activated Alexa sits in the middle of a room and allows people to buy something through Amazon right when they think of it, even if they don’t have their phone near them.

Our lives divide into two parts these days: Those that are wired and those that will be wired. 

New Business Models

Just Google “the Uber of,” and you’ll see how much a single inventive business model can change things. You’ll be prompted with companies offering the Uber of trucking, dog walking, laundry, snowplows, tennis partners dentistry and much more. There is a powerful example in the insurance industry: WeGoLook, which is being called the “Uber of claims handling.” If a carrier needs a picture of a car, it can send someone out from the office, or it can draw on the tens of thousands of freelancers affiliated with WeGoLook and have one of them take the necessary pictures and gather the information. Especially in rural areas, it can be a lot cheaper to have a local person gather the information than to send someone out from a regional office. And, through the wonders of information technology, WeGoLook can be so thoroughly integrated into a carrier’s system that the person asking for the photos, etc. doesn’t need to even think about whether the request is being fed to an internal person or to WeGoLook.

Even without totally new business models, tweaks are accelerating the pace of the economy. Seamless, the on-demand food delivery service, has shaken things up by making it much easier for customers to order food for takeout or delivery. Venmo has become popular among millennials by greatly simplifying the process of sharing costs and, in general, making small payments to each other.

Amazon went from “delivery some time” to mostly two-day delivery, via Prime. Now it is working hard to get to same-day delivery and is even experimenting with drones that could deliver within perhaps 20 minutes.

These business model changes will keep unfolding, too, in many cases like a slow-motion train wreck. You can already see some of the ways that 3D printing will step up the pace – you just click on the image of a hairbrush you want and have it start printing in your office immediately. Or look at the news business. Remember weekly news magazines like Time, Newsweek and BusinessWeek? Not only have they gone away but even daily publications like the Wall Street Journal have had to switch to instantaneous publication online – no more holding the big stories for the print edition the next morning. Those of us of a certain age remember what a big deal it was when Monday Night Football showed highlights from the day before. Now, we don’t even have to wait for Sports Center at the end of a game. We can just call up a highlight on our phones. If you look at the changes going on at CNN, you can see that its mission has changed, because there is a new form of 24-hour news network: It’s called the Internet, and it’s “on-demand” — no need to keep Wolf Blitzer droning on in the background.

The Next Billion

As more and more people from countries such as China and India and places in Africa enter the middle class, they will get access to all the technologies that drive the on-demand economy in the rest of the world. In some cases, they will even leapfrog us. In Kenya, for instance, growth in the traditional sort of banking is stunted even as the economy grows, because people use their mobile phones to exchange money. Who wants to go to a bank and wait for a teller?

And these changes in technology, business models and demographics are just the things we know about. You can be quite sure that lots of clever people are already at work on other ways that will speed the move toward the high-speed economy.

Think of the shift in the economy as the move from the demand curve to the on-demand curve.