Advancing Technologies

Living, and Working in the Connected World

 Emerging tech adoption presents dilemma for many insurers

by Mark Breading

Mr. Breading is a partner with Strategy Meets Action (SMA), a technology firm dedicated to helping the insurance industry modernize, optimize, and innovate to effectively support today’s needs and position for the business demands of the future. Reprinted with permission. Visit 

If you’ve been following the developments in wearables, smart homes, connected cars, and many other emerging technologies and trends, your head is probably spinning.

There are so many new companies, new products, new data sources, and new business models that the potential for industry transformation is huge.

Many are saying that disruption is inevitable. As one who has been around the industry for a long time, I’m also convinced that this is a time of fundamental change. The question is: How fast will change occur for each of the various industry segments? The answer to this question hinges on adoption, not on technology potential. A few examples relevant for different segments illustrate the conundrum for insurers.

Smart home technology

Visit any consumer electronics, mobile phone, or home improvement store (as well as many other retail outlets and online sites), and the smart devices are displayed prominently.

People who are “heat seekers” are snapping up Nest Thermostats, Roost Batteries, Philips Hue devices, Amazon Echo hubs, Ring Doorbells, and other smart devices. But at least for now, in most consumers’ eyes, many of these devices have shortcomings – they may be overpriced, take too much time to install, be too difficult to use, or have narrow functionality.

The possibilities for improved safety, proactive actions, and new insights regarding risk make these smart home devices enticing for insurers. But it is anyone’s guess as to when a significant percentage of homeowners will buy and use these devices. The likely solution is packaging and bundling to make it easy and affordable – and this is something that home insurers should be shaping.

Driverless vehicles

I’m not predicting the end of auto insurance, but it will certainly be changed foreve

Progress is being made by leaps and bounds in the autonomous/driverless vehicle arena.

Millions of miles have been driven, and even legal and regulatory frameworks seem to be moving faster than normal. Again, the potential impact on society at large and the insurance industry in particular is enormous. I’m not predicting the end of auto insurance, but it will certainly be changed forever.

Any insurer writing vehicle insurance must be developing strategies to deal with the driverless vehicles that will be appearing on the roads. However, the strategies will be very different if 2% of the vehicles are driverless by 2020, versus 5% or 10%. Will autonomous vehicles begin to dominate new car sales by 2025? Or will they still be a novelty? The actual adoption will make all the difference in the world for insurers.

Smart cities/communities

Leading cities are planning for the connected world.

Plans to make the infrastructure smart and connected into a master network are moving beyond the drawing board. Imagine traffic lights, roads, utilities, street lights, buildings, and other parts of the infrastructure continually monitoring the surroundings and making automated, real-time decisions to improve traffic flow and energy consumption, not to mention improving safety for citizens.

Insurers covering the commercial properties, businesses, and municipalities stand to gain a great deal, especially if they begin participating in new ecosystems and collaborating on solutions today. It all sounds great, but is this a 2050 vision or will it become a reality in major cities by 2020?

The possibilities, opportunities, and threats resulting from the connected world already exist for every segment of the insurance industry. Much of the technology is here today. But the adoption rates are the key. It would be a mistake to think that all of this will take place in the future – after you retire from insurance.

Savvy insurers are keeping their fingers on the pulse of the developments in a variety of emerging technologies, investing in tech startups, joining evolving ecosystems, and conducting scenario planning to prepare for the possibilities.