Here’s a quote by Edewede Oriwoh: “The Internet of Things is not a concept; it is a network, the true technology-enabled network of all networks. We are witnessing just the beginning. According to Gartner, 20.4 billion connected things will be in use by 2020, with the consumer segment having the largest number of users (60% of the market). The IoT endpoint spending worldwide is expected to be over $2.9 trillion. Cross-industry devices, such as those targeted at smart buildings (including LED lighting, HVAC, and physical security systems), will be in demand as connectivity is driven into higher-volume, lower-cost devices.
With the insurance industry trying to navigate what is a sinking ship, the IoT seems to present a ray of hope. IoT has enabled the evolution of core business models centered on need servicing, data-driven decision-making, and predictive advisory. Traditionally, business models revolved around product provisioning and one-time sales. The IoT has presented an opportunity for cross-sale/up-sale, thus identifying new sources of revenue generation.
Currently, the insurance industry is plagued by a one-size-fits-all policy (think of current health, life insurance, and auto insurance you avail) instead of a target-based policy (what we’ve experienced in lending and other FinTech verticals). Customer loyalty/experience was always and still is a sorry state in most insurance companies. Policy renewal, after-sales service for claims, etc., ranks low on the priority list. The touchpoints with customers occur only once or twice per year unless you get into trouble. Additionally, the antique data points (with no relation to risk prevention and monitoring) are being used for pricing and risk management. Due to limited data availability, insurance fraud often drags the financial performance of companies.
“In God We Trust. All Others Must Bring Data.” – W. Edwards Deming, Statistician, professor & author
IoT is a network of physical objects that gathers as well as transmits information for data processing and insights. The collected data allows better decision-making in pricing, risk assessment, etc., for insurance companies. P&C lines were the first to adopt this through auto telematics. Recently, we have seen interest in other lines of insurance business such as health, home, industries, etc. Demands for drones for property inspection, usage-based insurance, sensors, and detectors are increasing, particularly in commercial insurance (factories, warehouses, commercial vehicles, etc.).
The IoT will enable companies to shift their strategy from reactive restitution to proactive prevention. For example, Gemalto’s IoT solution enables remote monitoring of smart objects, thus eliminating middlemen. Smart Structures embeds sensors in its structure during concrete pouring, thus enabling the real-time health monitoring of its buildings.
Although there is a proliferation in connected devices (owing to the decreasing cost of hardware/software, enhanced data storage and processing frameworks, smartphone penetration, etc.), insurers have failed or are finding it hard to convince customers about the benefits. The challenge lies in scaling and the mass adoption of IoT-based insurance products. This is the only way it can have a meaningful impact on their profitability.
Although the key is to form partnerships in the industry’s ecosystem (IoT value chain), the question that remains is this: how do they move forward? There are many questions which insurers need to find the answers for. Will insurers tie-up with multiple stakeholders in the value chain? Will it increase the complexity? The other option is to tie up with big industry players (like Accenture) to get a full-stack solution. But this reduces the flexibility and might impact the cost centers of the insurers.
There is another option – to partner with InsurTech startups (see below infographic), work with manufacturers, and build connections directly into the product. This helps in tapping into the expertise of IoT startups and quickly launching the product into the market.
Additionally, they may seek to tie up with other large tech firms (Amazon – Echo, Microsoft- Cortana, etc.) and nudge consumers towards purchasing.
Consumers also have not helped the insurer’s cause as they do not feel comfortable volunteering their information. The huge amount of data from connected insurance has made regulatory bodies mandate consumer data protection policies. With the Data Protection (GDPR) regulation in the EU, the going may get tougher as it lets customers take more control of their data. Also, questions remain on how to build standards, guidelines around data sharing and how these standards will differ globally. Insurers and other IoT players need to find common ground.
Also, insurers need to jump the wave from risk transfer (currently) to risk monitoring and management. Only then will they be able to provide a real-time, risk-based insurance product.
The IoT enables insurers to revamp/add products to their current operations of selling insurance to consumers. It provides an opportunity for increasing their customer base across verticals by offering a better risk-based product. Additionally, it lets them increase their profitability by eliminating fraudulent claims and improving their top line by cross-selling insurance products.
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