IoT-Powered Transformation in the Insurance Industry

By Elena Mesropyan for LTP

Being one of the most exciting areas of innovation, the insurance industry by-product, InsurTech, attracted more than $1.2 billion in investments in 2015 – six times the amount invested in 2010. According to a 2015 report from WEF, “The most imminent effects of disruption will be felt in the banking sector; however, the greatest impact of disruption is likely to be felt in the insurance sector.”

One of the reasons InsurTech took off rapidly is the application of advanced technologies enriching non-conventional solutions. AI, big data, IoT, blockchain technology and new business models applied in the insurance industry in recent years have proven the importance of tech-led transformation in traditional spheres, insurance being one of them.

IoT is a particularly interesting enabler of advanced InsurTech solutions. Given that out of 28 billion connected devices forecasted by 2021, 16 billion will be related to IoT, the importance of leveraging the connectivity is hard to overestimate. Moreover, out of the total number of IoT devices, 1.5 billion will have a cellular subscription by 2021.

With the explosive growth rate of IoT devices enabled with advanced sensory technology, the network of connected devices will be able to accumulate a tremendous amount of meaningful data about one’s activities and the environment. Over time, sensory technology will gain even greater importance as it will accumulate a significant amount of data. Underwriting will get to another level with the opportunity to put together historical data and detailed streams of current data from a variety of connected devices. It will allow the viewing of more accurate patterns and make accurate forecasts.

Powered by accurate and detailed data streams coming from sensory technology, underwriters will be able to play a significant role in developing new products, shaping tailored packages for different markets and define the pricing policy.

Connected person

Sensory technology combined with connected fitness tracking devices (or, in fact, any wearable devices) is most interesting for health insurance providers, enabling them to make a more accurate assessment of the risks involved with every customer and adjust pricing given individual health conditions, lifestyle, level of fitness, daily activity and calorie burn rate in a continuous way. Wearable devices will be playing the critical role in enabling such a precision in insurance and, fortunately, by 2018, over 250 million smart wearable devices are expected to be in use. The shipments of smart wearable devices are expected to grow rapidly – from 9.7 million in 2013 to 135 million in 2018.

Some experts see another angle, suggesting that future wearable devices could lead to independent living solutions for the elderly and physically challenged by reporting on the physical and emotional environment of the wearer. New business models could emerge, perhaps with employers buying wearables for their insured employees or companies monetizing the health data by providing relevant referrals. Actively monitoring and identifying targeted opportunities is a prudent step for P&C insurers.

Examples of linking personal devices to insurance include Erie Insurance tie-up with Google Glass and Beam’s connected toothbrush (the Beam Brush).

Pittsburgh policyholders were part of a pilot program from Erie Insurance to test the use Google Glass as a way to make insurance adjusters’ working lives easier and more efficient. As explained by Pittsburgh Business Times, the adjusters in the pilot program, who generally are highly mobile and work out of their cars, were given Google Glass Explorers to see if the device could replace the digital camera that they carry and have to juggle during the claims investigation process.

“Wearables aren’t going to go away. The technology is going to keep getting better and better, and it’s going to be up to companies like ours to use it effectively and efficiently for the benefit of our customers,” commented Erie Insurance IT analyst Rita Briody.

The Beam Brush case is a bit more interesting – as reported by the SiliconANGLE, Beam Perks is a program by the insurance company that companies of any size can extend to their employees to ensure good dental hygiene. It includes Beam’s connected toothbrush and quarterly shipment of toothpaste, floss and replacement toothbrush heads. Members subscribed to Beam Perks will have to download the Beam mobile app, which tracks brushing behavior over time and encourages positive change through gamification to further enhance the comprehensive experience. The most exciting part is that data from the brush is used for adjusting the premiums – SmartPremiums is a plan offered by the company in various forms to meet demands of businesses and groups of individuals. The better the brushing score, the lower are the premiums of the group.

While the vast majority of large insurers are just getting into the whole tech-adjusted insurance, Oscar Healthcare started experimenting with enticing people to lead a healthy lifestyle for financial benefits couple years ago. As reported by Forbes, through the partnership with wearable device company Misfit, the health insurer offers a program that links customer biometric information straight to their health insurance. With this program, Oscar clients can opt to receive a free Misfit wristband pedometer that will connect automatically to Oscar’s app. Once set up, the Oscar Misfit pays people to walk – each day they get a new target for the number of steps to take. If users hit the goal 20 times, they are rewarded with an Amazon $20 gift card (up to $240 a year).

“We want to get people outside and to be physically active,” said Oscar Co-founder and CEO Mario Schlosser. “It’s to prevent you from getting sick in the first place – get people to be physically active and push them to do more with financial rewards.”

The idea of encouraging a healthy lifestyle with rewards, and setting fitness goals through wearable devices and apps can save insurers substantial funds on future claims.

Connected vehicle

There are other types of insurance products that are also worth paying attention to with regard to IoT, one of which iscar insurance. The implication is similar to health insurance but applies to the assessment of behavior on the road (ideally, behavior on the road also translates to health insurance, but that’s something to explore down the road). Similar to collecting data on one’s changing physical condition over time, auto insurance providers now can use connected cars to gather driving history – the speed, braking pattern, general condition of the vehicle and a range of other data points allowing to understand how much of a responsible driver a person is and balance pricing with risks involved. That is what ‘telematics’ is about.

A traditional player called “Progressive” is an example here with its tiny Snapshot device, which turns safe driving into savings. Snapshot evaluates risks based on how drivers actually drive, rather than just on traditional factors like where they live and what kind of car they have.

As explained by the Internet of Business, using an ODB telematics dongle and machine learning, the insurer is able to judge how a driver is performing on each journey. By doing this, the insurer is able to price more accurately on an individual basis, while the approach also rewards safer drivers with reduced premiums. The edition also adds that Progressive stroke a deal with Zubie, the maker of a device that plugs into your car and can help you track how well (or poorly) you are driving. The agreement lets Zubie customers see how Progressive would charge them based on the driving data that Zubie collects.

State Farm has also been pivoting its approach to auto insurance to leverage tech advancements – State Farms’ Drive Safe & Save Mobile is offered to customers with eligible smartphones, who can download the free app and connect to the Bluetooth beacon sent by the company. The company does not collect fees for subscription. Users’ smartphone, combined with the Bluetooth beacon provided, collects basic information about person’s driving characteristics. The less and safer the person drives, the more he/she could save on auto insurance.

Connected working and living environment

Risks in one’s life are not limited to health and driving habits, there are also factors added from the work environment, surrounding group and other elements of everyday life. Work environment and everything it contains takes the biggest part of the day and, hence, needs to be secure for every individual. Hazardous conditions at work, office building environment, temperature (which can affect health), allergens – everything contributes, directly or not, to one’s physical condition in the long term. Connected sensors gathering data from critical elements of the surrounding environment can provide timely alerts on unusual changes and forecast hazards that will result in significant costs. Moreover, given that by 2025, half of US households are expected to be connected thanks to IoT-enabled, integrated monitoring and control solutions, the home environment is not excluded from the area of IoT for insurance intervention.

As professionals suggest, “With two-way communication, these IoT devices can also provide predictive alerts on potentially dangerous conditions in the near future. Carriers offering homeowners, commercial property, worker’s compensation and general liability lines would all be able to ‘write right risk’ and improve loss ratios based on IoT-connected environmental sensors.”

On a more privacy-abusing level, carriers and employers can combine GPS data from wearable devices (or data from sensory technology in buildings) and biometric tracking data from the same devices to better assess risks associated with workplace for every employee and adjust coverage depending on the role of every person in the organization and its impact on a person’s vitals at work. A better understanding of how the workspace affects an individual will allow to accurately assess possible policy-abuse cases related to workplace-related injuries.

One of the comprehensive examples include IBM, which has been working in this direction with its Watson IoT for Insurance suite, providing a full context view of the policy holder’s assets and situation, including information such as location, security systems, weather, traffic, and overall wellness. The in-depth analysis of this information allows the insurer to provide personalized risk assessment and real-time protection for the policyholder. Benefits for the policyholder include risk avoidance in the form of early alerts, personalized advice, and streamlined claims processing and settlement. Benefits for the insurer include expense reduction through claims avoidance and processing automation and customer satisfaction and loyalty.

IBM, however, is not the only fish in the pond. Last year, Erie Insurance was looking to use drones to help it ford some of the challenges to underwriting and claims adjusting, namely hard-to-reach roofs and the aftermath of catastrophic storms like tornadoes.

Liberty Mutual is an example of an insurer that turns to devices to prevent claims – in 2015, Liberty Mutual insurance and Nest partnered to reward customers for protecting their homes with innovative technology. With this partnership, customers who have installed a Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm can take advantage of Liberty Mutual’s Smart Home Verified Discount program. Liberty Mutual offered additional discounts for customers who choose to electronically share that their smart home safety devices are functioning properly. This is an evolution of Liberty Mutual’s Protective Devices discount program, which now includes specific discounts for smartphone-enabled smoke alarms as well as new water and theft protection technologies.

First appeared at LTP