IoT Strategy

Insurance Companies Benefit from IoT Opportunities

by Tom Kerber | Feb. 10, 2017

Insurance is a data-driven industry. Actuarial tables calculate the probability of death, thereby enabling insurers to quantify and create products to insure against that risk. The Internet of Things and the data streaming from devices in the home, the car, or worn on the body represent an opportunity for the insurance industry to quantify risk with greater precision than traditional methods.

Using IoT to Define Risk

Insurers are racing to gain access to data in order to quantify risk on a more granular level. Today, most insurance discount programs for smart products are cross-marketing programs focused on lifting sales and collecting data that that can, over time, be analyzed to more precisely quantify risk.

In the smart home, loss prevention products such as security systems have been in the market for decades, and it is common for insurers to provide discounts for professionally monitored security systems. However, adding connectivity to security changes the game. Owning a security system but never using it is not the same as owning a system and arming it every time you leave the home. Understanding the impact of how a security system is used is just one of many opportunities to fine-tune the risk profile for insurance.

While insurance companies are clearly focused on the IoT space, with some creating organizational silos to focus specifically on these applications, most companies have yet to launch smart home solutions and are reticent to share details of programs in development.

While the connected home can have the potential to more precisely assess risk-enabling quantifiable discounts based on statistically proven outcomes, it will take time before the data provides quantifiable proof.

Fortunately for the insurance industry, protecting the home and property is one of the leading value propositions for the smart home. Parks Associates research shows that 51% of U.S. broadband households find a connected device that alerts them to smoke and fire highly appealing, and 41% find a device that alerts them to a water leak to be highly appealing. So, consumer demand for safety-related products will drive adoption independent of any insurance industry involvement.

At this stage of the smart home market, the opportunity for the insurance industry lies in accelerating consumer adoption by providing discounts in exchange for sharing data. In addition, the insurance industry has the opportunity to facilitate the development of new sensors that address industry-specific needs. New sensors that detect arc faults in electrical wiring, identify slow leaks in the water piping, or detect roof leaks or building structural issues can have a significant impact on the industry.

Using IoT to Mitigate Loss

While using sensors to more precisely quantify risk is the first opportunity, taking actions based on the data to mitigate loss is a clear next step.

Partnerships such as that of Panasonic Smart Home and Allianz Assist combine detection with action. When a the Panasonic smart home system detects a water leak, Allianz Global Assistance service is contacted and service personnel are dispatched to quickly identify and address the source of the leak, minimizing damage and insurance payments. In the long term, the savings from quickly addressing the issue before significant damage occurs can be passed along to customers in the form of lower insurance premiums.

Using IoT to Prevent Loss

While sensors that connect everything to the Internet enable new approaches to measuring risk and mitigating loss, new products that automatically act on the data to minimize or even prevent loss are in beginning to enter the market as well.

Products that identify issues or mitigate loss will have a dramatic impact on the insurance industry, but loss prevention is the ultimate goal. In the automotive space, cars that brake to avoid an accident are already in market, and removing human error altogether through self-driving vehicles will definitely have a disruptive impact on the automotive insurance market.

In the smart home, detecting a water leak quantifies the risk. Sending a plumber to investigate and correct the issue mitigates damage, but having a valve that automatically responds to a water leak signal and shuts off water to the home is even better. Additionally, security systems that detect someone approaching a home and alerts them that they are being watch is a better solution than alarming when someone breaks a window or opens a door. Prevention and deterrence are superior to loss mitigation.

Usage-Based Insurance

The combination of connected sensors, loss mitigation services, and prevention solutions enables insurers to provide personalized insurance products. The concept of usage-based insurance, insurance based on the risk profile of an individual consumer, is now being applied to auto insurance.

Sensors are added to a vehicle to measure acceleration, braking, speed, and other metrics to understand driving patterns and the associated risk (using IoT to define risk). Additionally, usage-based insurance programs provide drivers with immediate feedback on their driving behaviors. This feedback, combined with the incentive of reduced insurance premiums, creates a powerful motivation for behavior change, and ultimately, safer driving (using IoT to prevent loss). Consumers benefit from lower insurance rates, anywhere from 5-50% depending on their insurer.

Insurers have the opportunity to accelerate adoption of retrofit connected vehicle devices to gain first-mover advantage and attract low-risk drivers who are open to feedback and will most benefit from usage-based rates. As vehicle manufacturers extend telematics from premium to value-tier vehicles, radically expanding the installed base of connected vehicles, insurers may eventually be forced to offer usage-based plans or risk losing share.

There is room for smart home product manufacturers and service providers to implement a similar strategy to leverage data in the home. Today, nearly 20% of U.S. broadband households own at least one smart product and the breadth of new devices entering the home is growing rapidly. Insurance companies have the opportunity to get ahead of the market. Partnering with smart home manufacturers and service providers to accelerate acquisition with discounts at the point of sale in exchange for sharing data is much easier than soliciting consumers after installation. Agreements that can be executed at point of sale will be essential as the market moves from early adopters to the broader mass market.

This article originally appeared in Security Dealer Magazine.

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Tom Kerber

Tom Kerber

Director, IoT Strategy

Tom leads Parks Associates research in the areas of home controls, energy management, and home networks. Tom authors numerous reports on energy management and home controls covering the evolution of technology, partnership opportunities, and new business models. Tom’s work at Parks Associates includes managing consumer surveys that track trends and market opportunities and enable insightful evidence-based forecasting for energy, security, and home controls. Tom speaks frequently at key industry events, and his views are sought out by national press organizations and publications.

Tom has done extensive consulting with electric utilities operating in a variety of regulator structures and numerous firms within the smart home ecosystem. Recent utility engagements include defining the home area network roadmap for a California IOU, updating the consumer engagement strategy for a traditional vertically integrated IOU, providing consumer and industry analysis to refine EE and DR programs for an IOU in a restructured market, and providing insights on the evolution of the connected home for a large Midwest IOU. Tom has also led projects for many Fortune 500 companies, helping clients refine smart home strategies, develop scenarios of the future of the smart home market, enhance product roadmaps, and refine specific product features.

Prior to working at Parks Associates, Tom worked as director of engineering and director of product management in multiple industries. Tom began his career in the U.S. Navy nuclear power program on submarines. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in systems engineering and a master's in software engineering from the University of Texas.

Industry Expertise: Residential Security, Smart Home Products and Services, Home Network Technology, Software Systems, Electric Utilities, AMI, Home Energy Management, Demand Response

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