People 'n' Issues

How IoT will change insurance

September 7th, 2017
The IoT is seen as futuristic in the insurance sector, with many insurers hanging back, but they are not unaware of its potential to grow the insurance industry, writes ECKART ZOLLNER, Head of Business Development at the Jasco Group.
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We are in the midst of a digital revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we do business, the way businesses operate, and how they interact with both customers and competitors. The world is gradually moving online in its entirety, one device – one thing – at a time. And so, the Internet of Things (IoT) is here, making waves in both the private and business sectors across the globe. The Insurance industry is not exempt from the impact of IoT and, in fact, is poised for complete disruption in the way it traditionally interacts with customers.

While it’s true that IoT is still perceived as futuristic in the insurance sector, with many insurers hanging back on full adoption until they are assured that the benefits outweigh the risks, they are not unaware of its potential to grow the insurance industry and launch it into the Digital Age.

Leveraging IoT for the insurance industry

IoT offers insurers the opportunity to leverage data from ‘Smart’, connected devices such as residential and automotive sensors; wearable technology; drones; GPS, mobile and telematics devices; ‘Smart’ appliances and more.  This enables them to develop new business, improve risk assessment and proactively engage with customers on how to minimise risk for both themselves and the insurer.

High value assets can be effectively monitored through the constant relay of tracking and usage data, and dangerous conditions can more easily be identified, enabling insurers to react accordingly, potentially avoiding dangerous situations and the associated losses and damage caused to property or people.

The data collected from IoT devices, when properly collected, collated and analysed, can aid an insurer by offering predictability, helping to identify current and future trends which the insurer can then act on. Analysis of usage data will be able to pinpoint customer trends and patterns in their lifestyles, buying habits and risk portfolios.

Data accumulation over time allows for stored data to be analysed for patterns or trends for both predictive and comparative use, ensuring that insurers are on the right path and that mistakes are not repeated.

It can also assist insurers to conform and comply with legislation. The customer’s right to privacy, for ‘opt in’ and permission based policy execution, and for consent of data supervision or surveillance, has never been more important than now, with the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act looming. Insurers will need to take care to moderate and control how they collect, use and disseminate data, and data storage and collection will be under the microscope.

Putting IoT to use

For insurers who are traditionally imbued with red-tape, bureaucracy and archaic siloed systems, digitalising and implementing an IoT strategy can prove a challenge. In order to be effective, IOT has to be operationalised through integration with existing business systems and workflow processes. These themselves may need adaptation to suit the introduction of digital technology and new data sources, as well as control mechanisms.

A step-by-step approach is recommended, starting with things like cloud adoption wherever it makes the most sense, and moving towards the goal of full IoT adoption.

Due to the multi-access nature of our environment today, customers expect to access service providers, like their insurer, from virtually anywhere across the platform of their choice. In order for insurers to maintain control of an omni-channel offering, they will need to integrate multiple channels through a single management platform, which will then be able to administer access rights and usage policies as required.

Monetizing IoT for insurers will ultimately come from the provision of greater efficiencies, greater data accuracy, better loss avoidance (predictability), improved compliance enforcement, and the influencing of customer behaviour. These, collectively, will serve to boost the capital growth of the insurance sector, and enhance profit margins significantly.

Navigating the challenges

Data security will be the prevailing challenge faced by insurers – in fact, any organisation or sector – looking to leverage IoT. Careful consideration of the digital strategy will need to be undertaken, prioritising end-to-end security in the overall system design. This will include data collection devices, aggregation gateways, operational platforms, back end business intelligence, and artificial intelligence/machine learning systems.

Where social networks and digital platforms are leveraged, it will be vital to establish the reliability of the data, its source and its compatibility with local compliance regulations. This data will likely only serve for indicative purposes, as it is not likely to comply across the board with legislation such as PoPI.

Embracing change

IoT will undoubtedly revolutionise the way that insurance is offered, brought to market, considered and chosen, and insurers should start looking at the steps they need to take to implement IoT now. The benefits are set to propel the insurance sector away from its perception as a grudge purchase, making it a value-added service that people will want to invest in. It will require, however, that insurers shake the chains of tradition and embrace the Digital Age.

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