Several insurers across both property/casualty and life insurance sectors received patents in the past weeks for their technology and process innovations.

Progressive continues to lead the pack with usage-based insurance program innovation, as in early December the company was awarded its sixth U.S. patent for its Snapshot apparatus, a wireless device that monitors vehicle data used to determine a level of risk, and cost of insurance. The patent also addresses an in-vehicle audio alert based on driving behavior data, which may lead to modification of driver behavior, says the company. The insurer’s entry into UBI-related technology dates back 15 years, and currently accounts for $1 billion in Progressive premiums.

Progressive’s Snapshot program remains a popular one: The company reports that more than one million drivers have participated in Progressive's UBI program countrywide, which Progressive claims saves drivers an average of $150 per year.

The Snapshot program offers drivers a personalized premium discount based on actual driving behavior. Progressive reports that it recently expanded Snapshot to all drivers—not just Progressive customers—who, where the program is available, can take a free test drive of Snapshot, and after 30 days find out whether their own driving behavior can lower the price they pay for auto insurance.

"We are committed to leading the collection and analysis of real-time driving data while protecting our intellectual property," said Tom Hollyer, Progressive's national product development leader. "We are appreciative that the U.S. Patent Office continues to recognize our advancements that help us further strengthen our leadership position in the usage-based insurance field."

Five co-inventors are responsible for a patent issued to Travelers Indemnity for innovation in furnishing an on-line quote for insurance products. The co-inventors are Ruth Grover, Donald White, Linda Hirning, Eric Neely and Charlene Woronowicz.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offers the following abstract: "A method and system for furnishing an on-line quote for an insurance product, such as auto insurance, the user is allowed to enter basic user information on an on-line quote system application which calls a common data entry system to request credit information for the user. The common data entry system sends the requested credit information to the on-line quote system application, and the user is allowed to enter a selection of coverage. The user is then allowed to enter underwriting information on the on-line quote system application which calls a rating engine of the common data entry system to request rating information. The on-line quote system application displays a quote for the user based at least in part on the rating information, and the user is offered an option to talk to an agent. A fast-forward feature simplifies the entry of modifications for the user."

Meanwhile, Investors Life Insurance received a patent for "techniques for generating and using a reservation map." Developed by Edward Gerhardt, William Bernett, and William Highsmith, the U.S. Patent office lists the patent as applied to a “method of allocation transmission channels of a frequency band to have each of a plurality of remote stations monitor all channels of the frequency band in its area for the presence of transmissions from stations not part of the network. Each remote station transmits its clear channel list to a master station that aggregates the clear channel list into a reservation map, or map of channels that are clear to all stations in the network. The master station then transmits the reservation map to all stations of the network. The individual stations use the channels of the reservation map to transmit information to the master station. Preferably transmission is accomplished using frequency hopping using a set of channels selected from the reservation map."

Finally, New York Life was assigned a patent developed by Dylan Huang, for "methods and systems for providing deferred annuities with an income reset feature."

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office abstract, "Methods and corresponding systems are provided for providing and administering deferred annuities with an annuity reset feature that provide periodic income payments to an annuitant for a term beginning at a start date. The methods include the step or steps of: receiving annuity information for an annuitant; determining at a first date one of a purchase price and an amount of at least one income payment due to the annuitant at the start date. The purchase price or the amount of at least one income payment due the annuitant includes a fee for the annuity reset feature that resets at least one variable of the annuity at a reset date later than the first date if the at least one variable of the annuity at the reset date is more beneficial to the annuitant than at least the first date; and offering the annuity with the reset feature to the annuitant."

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