Tag Archives: smartphones

Can a Broken Phone Call for Help ?

Background

Mobile devices, like smartphones, can be used as “terminals” of IoT networks because they are equipped with numerous sensors that can record the environment. Smartphones nowadays are a commodity, almost always carried by their users, including when they are drivers or passengers of vehicles. Therefore, they can be used as automatic crash notification IoT devices, with the following important limitations:

  1. The sensors in personal mobile devices are designed to address specific user needs, like gaming. They have very good specifications on their sensitivity and their resolution, but they have minimum range: The best accelerometer in a mobile phone can measure acceleration values of ±8g, when the forces involved in a car accident can create a negative acceleration of 100g. These sensors cannot record an accident. They can only POSSIBLY identify the beginning of an accident.
  2. Any unusual sensor readings, a phenomenon common on cell phones, can be misinterpreted as the POSSIBILITY of an accident and initiate an ALARM dispatch procedure, when the phenomena most likely are FALSE ALARMS (also noted as false positives). The sheer amount of such FALSE ALARMS will create a distributed denial of service (DDoS) to the public safety answering point (PSAP).
  3. In the case of a severe accident, where the passengers of the involved vehicle(s) will not be able to ask for help, it is almost certain that any phone in the vehicle(s) will be not operational.

For the above reasons it is obvious that smartphones lack the functionality and reliability required for a life-depending device because they can not monitor a severe traffic accident through its full timeline and cannot issue a VERIFIED alarm. On the other hand, a smartphone using its sensors can recognize the forthcoming of an accident from the unusual change of its kinetic state and pass this critical (but not definite) information to an external monitoring system before it is destroyed by the crash. A solution, called PODIS, is using this approach. A distress signal will leave the phone in time, before its possible destruction, and cancel the alarm transparently to the PSAP if the phone remained operational after the suspicious event. The system is issuing fail-safe crash notifications and is monitoring not only the driver of a vehicle but also the passengers of cars, professional vehicles, public transport and cyclists

This is the simple operating principle of the PODIS system.

PODiS (POst DIstress Signal)

System description

A cloud-based client-server system, where the client is an application installed in a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) and the server is a virtual private cloud (VPC) of processing and database servers, load balancers, security devices, etc.

Monitoring stage

The PODIS client is reading the mobile device sensors in a high frequency rate (minimum 50 Hz) and is calculating its kinetic state by fusing the readings of the sensors. It is then predicting the next kinetic state of the mobile device by using a specialized signal processing algorithm.

The client is comparing the difference between the predicted and the current state against a predefined threshold in every single operating cycle.

See also: 7 Imperatives for Moving Into the Cloud  

Provisional alarm (Client side)

If the difference between the predicted and the actual current kinetic state exceeds a threshold, a provisional flag is raised by the client and a provisional alarm (PA) is transmitted to the cloud server. The client is capable of transmitting a complete PA in milliseconds, well before the main vehicle parts and the client itself start to destruct. The latter typically takes in the range of 150 ms.

Provisional alarm (Server side)

When a PA is received by the cloud server, all received data (including user ID, location coordinates and timestamps) are recorded as a predicted event, and the server puts the specific client under supervision and starts monitoring for its next signal.

False alarm (Client side)

The client is checking in pre-defined intervals, for example every 5 seconds, if the PA flag is raised; if it is, the client transmits to the server a false alarm signal and sets off the flag. In case the PA flag is ON, the client is keeping pushing the kinetic and the location data to the server(s) for a short time for the server to check if the client survived from a severe accident (very unlikely).

False alarm (Server side)

When a PA signal is received, the server is waiting for a false alarm (FA) signal from the specific client for a predefined period, for instance 20 seconds, and if an FA is received then the event will be recorded internally as a false alarm with no further action.

Real alarm (Server side only)

If no false alarm is received from a client that raised a PA within a predefined period, then the server is raising a verified alarm ticket with all available data to the connected PSAP.

Unverified accident (Server side)

If the server receives data showing very little kinetic activity and short distance movement after a PA, then a non-verified alarm ticket is pushed to PSAP for further investigation.

Threshold processing method

Each smartphone, which for Android means 24,000 distinct devices from more than 1,000 different manufacturers, has its own characteristics and specifications. Thus, the same sensor from a certain manufacturer does not have the same characteristics in different smartphone models. Moreover, each individual driver has his/her own driving behavior. For example, a hard braking can be an emergency sign for one driver, while it can be an everyday driving practice for someone else. The server side is using a self-learning system that, at a very high level, is recording the PA values for each individual smartphone model and every single user when a PA is followed by a FA, and it adjusts accordingly the specific threshold. The new threshold value is pushed to the server for the record of the specific client. The system is effective: It will take just a few driving hours to eliminate the FA for a newly registered user if he/she is using a new smartphone model.

See also: Profiles in the Customer Experience  

Energy consumption and data traffic

The client is running in the background as a service, only when it is in a moving vehicle with limited battery consumption. The maximum flow of mobile data is 2.6 MB per day for 24 hours driving use.

NB: The above description is a simplified version of the principles behind the system. The system is already in use by insurers as a running service, while successful extended pilots have been performed around the world.

The system and the method are patented: USPTO patent No. 9,758,120.

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.

The Problem With Telematics

When I attended the Insurance Telematics USA conference in Chicago earlier this month, I expected to see much more enthusiasm. I first wrote about Progressive’s venture into telematics all the way back in the late 1990s, and technology has improved so much since then that the telematics industry would surely be bragging about its breakout into the mainstream or at least predicting that one was imminent. The idea just makes so much sense: being able to track cars so that insurance risks can be determined very precisely for individual drivers, while even providing feedback that improves driving.

While the telematics technology is, in fact, stunning and while there are reasons for great optimism, what I found was not an industry brimming with confidence. I found an industry still searching for the right business model.

Until the industry solves that problem, progress will remain limited.

The Problem

The current approach to telematics is generally to install a device in a customer’s car for six months and have it relay the driver’s actions back to the insurer for evaluation. At the end of the six months, the device is uninstalled, and the insurer tells the driver what sort of discount, if any, she will receive based on her driving habits. A key point is that the issue at hand only concerns discounts; insurers have promised that they won’t raise rates if they find that someone is a worse risk than expected.

Think about the expense that goes into that model: manufacturing the telematics devices; installing and uninstalling them; and transmitting lots of data over a wireless network on which the insurer has to buy bandwidth.

Now think about the benefits. The prospect of a discount has attracted enough good drivers that, if all telematics-based auto policies were rolled into one company, it would be close to being in the top 10 among auto insurers in the U.S. Ptolemus, a strategy consulting firm, said there are 4.4 million cars in the U.S. carrying usage-based insurance (UBI). That’s a lot of cars. But there are 253 million cars and trucks in the U.S., so the market penetration of UBI is just 1.7%. Even in the main ballroom of the conference, full of ardent proponents, only about 5% raised their hands when asked if they had UBI.

Many customers turn out to not be that focused on discounts. They would prefer receiving free access to other services, such as roadside assistance — but what services customers want, how to bundle those services, etc. has yet to be worked out.

Even if some new package of free services drove 10 times as many people to buy UBI auto policies, telematics wouldn’t do much to make roads safer. Insurers are offering incentives to a self-selected group of drivers who are already among the safest on the road but, because insurers have decided they can’t raise rates for bad drivers, won’t be doing anything about the people who cause a huge portion of the accidents and, thus, the costs.

The current business model works — barely. The costs are too high, the offering to consumers isn’t right and the benefits to insurers are too low.

The Potential

Help is on the way from two main sources, which I have seen drive innovation in industry after industry since I started following the world of information technology almost 30 years ago. One source is what I think of as the power of “free.” The other is the power of a platform.

The Power of “Free”

The behavioral economist Dan Ariely has done all sorts of experiments about the power of free and found that it is almost magic. For instance, if someone does volunteer work and you decide to thank him by paying him a little, he will likely cut back on the work he does for you or even stop. Ariely reasons that people evaluate paid work in a hard-nosed way — how many hours do I work, how hard or skilled is the work, how much do others get paid for this work, etc.? — and evaluate volunteer work based on altruistic measures, such as the quality of a cause. If you have people evaluate the return from their free work on a paid scale, you’ll lose them. Similarly, he says, you can get people to do all kinds of uneconomic things if remove a paltry cost and make something free.

The power of free computing and communication has driven the upheaval of business over the past 30 years, spawning the wide adoption of the Internet, smartphones, etc. and all the business models that have come along with them. (Obviously, we still pay for computers and storage devices, but they are essentially free by comparison with where they were in the 1980s — a gigabyte of memory, which cost $300,000 then, costs about a penny today. Communication costs have gone way down and are headed toward something approaching free, even though telecom and cable companies will fight a rear guard action as long as they can.)

Now the power of free is coming to telematics, because the cost of acquiring information on drivers is heading toward zero.

In the short term, that will be because of smartphone apps. Although some say the data they generate isn’t quite as precise as that from sensors in cars, the apps are good enough for the vast majority of uses, and they cost roughly nothing. There isn’t any need to make a dongle for the car and install and uninstall it. Nor is there a need for the insurer to buy a wireless data plan for the car. The app can do most of the analysis on the phone and just send modest amounts of data back to the insurer, using the driver’s wireless plan.

In the long term, things will get even better as “connected cars” move into the market. These cars, already connected wirelessly to the Internet, will automatically generate the kind of information that insurers need. Insurers will be able to know what kind of a driver someone is at the moment she applies, rather than having to guess and then wait six months to know for sure.

The Power of a Platform

From the 1950s through the early 1980s, when IBM controlled the computer industry, the pace of innovation was glacial by today’s standards. Part of the reason was that the pace let IBM milk maximum profits, but part was also because IBM had to produce what software types would call the “full stack.” IBM had to develop the semiconductor technology that allowed for faster processors; design those processors; manufacture the processors; design and manufacture just about all the support chips, especially memory; assemble the mainframes; code the operating system; and generate the major pieces of application software. Everything had to come together, from one company, before the next step in innovation happened.

When the PC came along in 1981, with its open architecture, innovation became a free-for-all. Intel owned the chip, and Microsoft the operating system, but everything else was fair game. Companies flooded into the market, innovating in all kinds of smart ways, especially with applications such as the spreadsheet, and the market took off.

The telematics market is well on its way to making the transition from the IBM mainframe days to the open days of the PC and beyond. Initially, Progressive had to pull an IBM and invent the whole process for telematics from beginning to end. Now, an ecosystem has developed, and all sorts of companies are free to innovate at any part of the process.

Verisk has announced an exchange, to which car makers and insurers can contribute data on drivers and from which they can pull information. GM has said it will contribute data from its OnStar system, and GM has one million 4G-connected cars on the road in the U.S. So, the need for everyone to generate their own data is going away.

The Weather Channel (represented on the panel I moderated at the conference) has information that can correlate bad weather very precisely with driving behavior — the company is even working to aggregate information on the speed at which cars’ wipers are operating, to understand in a very granular way just how severe a storm is in a certain spot.

Many other companies are innovating in new parts of the ecosystem, rather than just focusing on pricing risks better or acquiring customers. For instance, my friend and colleague Stefan Heck, a former director at McKinsey with whom I wrote a book (along with Matt Rogers) about how innovation can overcome resource scarcity, just unveiled an extremely ambitious approach to improving safety, through a company called Nauto. (A writeup in re/code is here.) Agero made a presentation at the conference about how telematics can speed claims processing and cut costs while making customers happy — essentially, the telematics system notifies the insurer instantly about an accident, so the insurer can provide whatever reassurance and help is necessary, while also sending someone to the scene so fast that it can take control of the process, rather than deferring to, among others, municipal towing companies.

The Future

The power of free and the power of a platform ensure that, before too many years go by, the costs for telematics will drop drastically and the benefits to insurers and customers will increase greatly. That still leaves insurers with the task of figuring out the right offering to customers, but, in my experience, once costs get low enough and lots of innovators get interested, experimentation eventually produces the right business model.

The question to me is: Who will that winner be?

Use-Based Insurance: The New Lie Detector?

The California district attorney offices in 22 counties recently filed 171 felony and 28 misdemeanor charges against 187 people for alleged auto fraud involving 40 insurance companies. While these numbers are staggering, the truth is that 49 other states could probably do the same.

Insurance fraud is becoming more of a norm than an exception, particularly in the wake of a shaky economy. In fact, 24% of those polled by the Insurance Research Council said it’s acceptable to pad an insurance claim to make up for a deductible, and 18% said it’s okay to pad a claim to make up for premiums paid in the past!

In auto insurance, fraud involves several little white lies, including:

  1. Falsifying the garaging address
  2. Underestimating annual miles driven
  3. Omitting some drivers in the household
  4. Overstating the extent of damages when filing claims
  5. Fudging when and how an accident occurred
  6. Forgetting to report changes that may affect applied discounts. According to a 2010 report by Quality Planning, premium leakage cost auto insurers $15.9 billion in 2008. False reporting of vehicle rating factors, including annual mileage and rated territory, accounted for $6.5 billion in lost premium. Driver rating factors, such as unrated operators, accounted for $8.9 billion.

Fortunately, through smartphone-based usage-based insurance (UBI), auto insurers finally have a way to deter and detect fraud, and to recapture a portion of the dollars lost to premium leakage. Here are some reasons:

  1. First and foremost, usage-based insurance has a built-in deterrence factor. Those who are more prone to fraudulent activity are least likely to sign up. Therefore, the quality of your policyholder pool naturally improves as a byproduct of UBI.
  2. False garaging addresses are easy to detect thanks to the GPS element of a smartphone UBI platform.
  3. Annual mileage driven becomes a non-issue because the usage based insurance app periodically communicates with the vehicle’s odometer.
  4. Certain smartphone UBI apps develop driver signatures over time and are able to detect when other people are driving by comparing current driving behavior to the normal policyholder driving behavior. This capability could flag the possibility of unreported drivers.
  5. Smartphone UBI apps also detect hard braking and sharp cornering events, as well as a vehicle’s geographical location at any given time. This data could be used to corroborate a policyholder’s claim. For example, if a policyholder says a tree limb hit his car in his driveway at 9:09 p.m., but the UBI data shows that the car had a hard braking event that occurred 22 miles away from home at 9:09 p.m. on the date of the reported damage, further investigation may be warranted.

As you calculate the potential costs and returns of usage based insurance, make sure to include the potential impact of fraud reduction in your equation. That figure could be just as important as the new market share you plan to attract.

7 Imperatives for Moving Into the Cloud

For property and casualty insurance carriers, growth is hard-fought in an environment of compressed margins, regulatory scrutiny, increased competition and customer expectations for anywhere/anytime service. Add unsteady economic conditions, low interest rates that decrease investment income and catastrophic losses from significant events such as Hurricane Sandy into the mix, and insurers are finding that their tried-and-true business methodologies that worked well pre-2008 are in desperate need of a facelift. Growth is especially challenging for insurance carriers with inflexible legacy technology systems, as well as small and mid-size carriers that lack the resources to make the product and operational changes they need to remain relevant and profitable.

Insurance carriers must navigate an environment that rewards nimbleness and flexibility, but to do so requires that insurers modernize their current systems and processes. Consider the example of bringing a new product to market. At most insurers, the process may take six months or more, with a price tag reaching seven figures. By the time the product is ready to launch, the dynamics in the market have shifted, or perhaps a new regulation has been legislated. The insurer has two equally unappealing choices: Launch the product as is and never realize a return on investment, or delay launch and retool the product, increasing the R&D price tag and losing potential revenue and market share.

There is a better way: Updating legacy systems with flexible and scalable Software as a Service (SaaS) computing capabilities allows P&C insurers to rapidly capitalize on opportunities and support growth. This article presents seven imperatives for the P&C insurance industry based on industry research and analysis, and outlines how a SaaS implementation can address each imperative.

IMPERATIVE 1: INCREASE SPEED-TO-MARKET 

In an Accenture survey of insurance industry professionals, more than seven of 10 (72%) respondents indicated that it takes their organization six months or more to launch a major product. In today’s constantly changing environment, six months is a long time indeed, and it’s likely that the market looks different than when product development began. However, insurers that are able to rapidly offer innovative products and services through multiple channels can take advantage of shifts in the market and exploit the slowness of competitors. Today, “slow and steady” doesn’t win the race.

Compared with legacy system-based product development, which requires coding, scripting and testing, a SaaS infrastructure by design incorporates more nimble and configurable software, significantly reducing development time and eliminating the cost of hiring a vendor or consultant to make coding changes. In addition, SaaS provides rapid provisioning of live and test environments to further increase speed-to-market. Lastly, SaaS requires minimal investment in hardware, software and personnel. Insurers can use a pre-configured infrastructure to reduce development costs by more than 80% over comparable legacy systems, according to Donald Harrell, senior vice president of marine, exploration and production for Liberty International Underwriters. This, in turn, reduces the risk for product launches.

IMPERATIVE 2: QUICKLY RESPOND TO MARKET AND COMPETITIVE CHANGES

Those insurers not able to turn on a dime may be in trouble because so many of their competitors are preparing to invest in technologies and processes that will help them design, underwrite and distribute products and services more quickly. More than 80% of insurance CEOs are planning to increase investment in technology, and more than 60% plan to develop their capacity for innovation. Innovation must continue after product launch, and SaaS allows insurers to retool products as market drivers dictate.

The ability to revamp an existing product is particularly attractive to small or mid-size insurers launching products to a relatively small target market. With SaaS, insurers are able to bring niche products to market that would otherwise not deliver enough ROI to justify the investment. Likewise, if a product is not profitable, an insurer can make changes and quickly reconfigure the product rather than being forced to offer an unprofitable or marginally profitable product because it’s too costly to make changes.

Insurers can also more effectively price products. SaaS is charged on a subscription or consumption basis, so costs are more closely aligned with the revenue being generated by the new product.

IMPERATIVE 3: REDUCE COSTS TO MAINTAIN PROFITABILITY

As the U.S. economy slowly improves, P&C profitability is starting to improve as well. However, there is little cause for celebration. Fitch Ratings warns insurers that the current pricing cycle may be running out of steam, forcing insurers to cut expense levels to maintain profitability. Now is the time for insurers to put in place cost-saving strategies. With a SaaS infrastructure, insurers can innovate and offer new products and services without incurring capital expenses.

Rather than implement an expensive technology infrastructure, SaaS allows insurers to leverage preconfigured infrastructure and reduce IT resource requirements, staffing and professional services fees. In fact, SaaS up-front costs are typically less than 20% of the development costs of legacy systems. SaaS pricing models have also matured, giving insurers access to a variety of bundled and unbundled pricing options.

IMPERATIVE 4: AUTOMATE AND STREAMLINE UNDERWRITING

A survey of insurance professionals by FirstBest Systems found that 82% of respondents believe that their insurer’s underwriters spend less than half of their time actually underwriting, with the majority of underwriter time spent on data collection and administrative tasks. Insurers understand that giving underwriters the automation tools they need to do their jobs effectively is key to improved underwriting, but many believe that the technology is problematic, with 81% citing lack of data integration as limiting underwriting productivity. In contrast to legacy underwriting systems, SaaS allows insurers to easily incorporate rules to automate the underwriting process and increase underwriting ratios and revenues.

SaaS also allows for streamlined data integration as opposed to off-the-shelf packages that often need extensive modification, thus eliminating a major stumbling block to optimal productivity for underwriters.

IMPERATIVE 5: SUPPORT NEW DELIVERY CHANNELS

Mobile technology continues to be top-of-mind for many carriers, with more than 60% planning to add new mobile capabilities for policyholders and agents. Notes Novarica partner Matthew Josefowicz, “As the use of smartphones and especially tablets displaces the use of desktops and laptops in more areas of personal and professional life, support for these platforms is becoming critical to insurers’ abilities to communicate electronically across the value chain.” The problem for carriers is that legacy systems were not designed to run on mobile devices. However, SaaS, with its more modern coding, is able to provide both a better user interface and operational efficiency for smartphones and tablets. SaaS allows insurers to distribute products through a variety of new channels (e.g., banks, car dealerships) that would not be possible with legacy systems.

Creating and recreating websites and portals quickly and inexpensively means that insurers can more readily compete with “disrupters” that use a direct-to-consumer model. Insurers can design multiple portals for different geographies, languages and associations in near-real time. Deloitte reiterates the importance of mobile and other delivery channels for insurers: “No one can afford to take their distribution systems for granted. More insurers are likely to grow bolder in exploring alternative channels to capture greater market share, catering to the needs and preferences of different segments while cutting frictional costs.”

IMPERATIVE 6: COLLABORATE WITH THIRD PARTIES

Insurers are increasingly relying on third parties for a variety of integration services, including regulatory compliance, sophisticated data analysis, geo-location capabilities for risk assessments and risk ratings for more accurate underwriting and risk pricing. Integration between carrier legacy systems and third-party providers is typically problematic because of proprietary file formats and other issues that make it difficult to share data. In contrast, SaaS provides links to existing interfaces for access to third-party databases. Integration reduces costly, error-prone and time-consuming manual intervention.

IMPERATIVE 7: IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

The majority of insurers (91%) believe that future growth depends on providing a special customer experience, according to Accenture’s survey. However, getting the relevant and up-to-date data they need to give customers a personalized experience is a critical challenge for 95% of respondents.

In the same survey, only 50% of insurers say that their carrier leverages data about customer lifestyles to determine the products and services most likely to meet customer expectations; 70% rate themselves as “average” or “weak” in their ability to tailor products and services to customers’ needs. A similar number (64%) give themselves low ratings for their ability to provide innovative products and services. Poor service — or even average service — is no longer acceptable. Consumers are accustomed to personalized experiences such as shopping on Amazon or booking airline tickets on a travel site, and expect a similar type of experience from their insurer.

Thomas Meyer, managing director of Accenture’s insurance practice, says, “To pursue profitable growth, insurers need to achieve the kind of differentiation that allows organizations like Apple to charge a premium while building customer loyalty. As Apple has shown, the answer is consumer-driven innovation that creates an exceptional user experience.” SasS enables insurers to access the data points they require to differentiate their products throughout the customer experience. In a market commoditized by regulations and related factors, insurers that can leverage SaaS to deliver a straightforward, simple process to customers will give themselves a competitive advantage.

 CONCLUSION

In an accelerated market where change is the new constant, P&C insurance carriers cannot afford to continue to do business as usual. Imperatives such as speed-to market, responsiveness to customer demands, new delivery channels, cost reduction and improved underwriting make it necessary for insurers to explore new methods of providing products and services to customers. SaaS, with its flexibility, scalability and low cost, is a technology imperative if carriers hope to grow and remain competitive.

For the full white paper Oceanwide, click here.