Insurers rush to connected-home devices along with consumers

Carriers with voice-activated applications

With about one in four American households expected to have a "smart home" item by the end of the year, and Amazon's report that its Echo products were its largest Black Friday sellers, it's no surprise that an increasing number of insurers are launching applications for the devices. Typically voice-activated, these devices represent another channel of contact with policyholders at a time when insurers are looking for more opportunities to do so. Here are some leading insurers getting a jump-start on leveraging these items. (This list has been updated from an earlier version.)

Nationwide

Nationwide’s Amazon Echo skill, launched in November 2016, allows customers to educate themselves on the insurer’s core offerings, learn “common product definitions” and receive agent contact information for a quote. The carrier recently expanded the offering this summer by adding its usage-based insurance SmartRide application to the list of services. Customers can now tap into Nationwide’s safe-driving program on the voice-enabled device to receive data on personal driving habits.

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Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual rolled out Echo skills for itself and subsidiary Safeco Insurance in September 2016 with several different capabilities. Liberty Mutual’s application offers policyholders auto insurance estimates through its Guestimator tool and access to its MasterThis online resource, which suggests solutions to problems clients could have on the road or at home. Additionally, Safeco’s skill enables clients to learn industry jargon using an “insurance glossary.”

Farmers

Farmers’ customers recently began leveraging Amazon Echo to access policy information, check the status of a claim and pose questions about different types of insurance coverages. The insurer hinted this summer future updates to its skill will bring even more functionality, including voice bill pay and assets for the Echo Show—a tablet operating similarly to Amazon’s flagship products Echo and Echo Dot.

Progressive

Progressive became the first carrier to sign on with Google Home in March. Policyholders receive information on insurance policies, car and home buying tips as well as answers to smart-home technology questions through the voice-activated speaker. It is the only tier-one insurer on Google’s smart device to date.

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Allstate

Allstate released its Amazon Echo skill in February, becoming one of the early adopters of the voice-assistant device. Similar to other insurance applications developed by industry competitors on Echo, Allstate’s is tailored to helping customers receive basic policy information and contacting local agents.

GEICO

GEICO’s voice application on Amazon Echo, also referred to as Alexa, allows users to request ID cards, check account balances and make payments using voice commands. Policyholders can also request vehicle assistance from home, such as jump-starts or tire changes, according to the company.

Amica Mutual Insurance

Amica doesn’t offer direct access to personal accounts using Amazon Echo. However, it enables both existing customers and would-be clients to browse up to 15 different categories and learn about the insurer’s handling of billing or claims, among other business functions. Policyholders may also ask Alexa to inquire about available discounts to lower monthly premiums.

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Grange Insurance

In addition to finding local agents, Grange Insurance allows users to research the carrier’s home, auto, and life insurance products before purchasing policies through more traditional channels.

Manulife

The Canadian insurer announced plans this week to roll out its Amazon Echo skill in December. The application, developed by the carrier’s Toronto-based innovation labs LOFT and RED, prompts consumers to track vision, dental and health benefits provided by the company.