Argo Risk Tech reduces food service risk with IoT

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“What differentiates us is that we’re leading with tech, not insurance” -Rooney Gleason, Argo Group

More than 25,000 people a day are impacted by slip-and-fall accidents, leading to claims costs for the insurance industry downstream. Argo Group, a global specialty insurer, wanted to reduce the amount of such accidents in its grocery and restaurant segment.

The frequency of these incidents is often attributable to disjointed performance and standards for safety inspections at these locations, according to the company. “Contrary to the popular belief that there’s a lot of fraud, ever since the advent of cameras, there’s actually not that much,” says Rooney Gleason, president of U.S. retail and grocery for Argo Group. “People slip and fall on stuff.”

Digital technologies offer a new opportunity for accountability in this sector, Gleason says. His company is working to transform traditional safety inspection strategies by getting away from clipboards and checklists and into the Internet of Things and mobile technology with a new platform, Argo Risk Tech.

“There hasn’t been much new offered in what is a mature industry,” Gleason says. “We’re trying to change the dynamic on how insurance is sold through our brokers. Everyone has a bucket of value-added things, but the reality is no one has anything concrete.”

Gleason, a former broker for Argo, had begun working on the initial idea for IoT-powered grocery store and restaurant inspections with his startup, Gleason Technology. He brought the idea to his former colleagues at Argo, and the company decided to invest. Later, after Gleason rejoined Argo directly, he was able to put his technology into action.

Argo Risk Tech encompasses several components. Today, hourly checks at food-service locations are ad-hoc, with paper clipboards often serving as the only indication that a check has been done. Argo’s platform instead leverages mobile devices that pair, using near-field communication or Bluetooth technology, with a series of sensors, beacons or QR codes placed around a business. This allows an application to track an employee’s path during a safety check.

Any records required during the safety checks are logged electronically and are stored in the cloud, for easy access and searchability. For example, temperature logs for perishable items aren’t written down, they’re digitally entered. That itself can also be done via a connected device – Argo’s platform supports Bluetooth thermometers that can send the temperature reading directly to the log without requiring any input. From there, managers can view inspection results, as well as ensure compliance with safety protocols, in real time, from their desk, using the technology’s dashboard.

But it’s when there’s actually an incident where the technology makes a big difference. Instead of bringing a paper form and camera to the location, the employee only needs to bring their mobile device, which will walk through the process of taking pictures and recording important information. That creates a first notice of loss that is immediately sent to Argo. It can then be cross-referenced with the inspection information to help adjudicate the claim.

“The app notifies us within eight seconds of the incident report and our adjusters can get on the phone in real time,” Gleason says.

A vision for the future

The current target market for Argo Risk Tech is mid-tier grocery and restaurant clients, Gleason says. But there’s a lot of potential other use cases for this technology.

“We see Argo Risk Tech as sort the generic platform for all of our operating entities to deploy this – for example, we have a group that does nursing homes” and that’s another industry that relies on walk-through inspections, Gleason explains.

It also helps redefine the role of the insurance company as a risk-management partner instead of simply a mechanism for paying claims, he adds.

“We’re not going to be the cheapest price, we’re going to be a partner to show these retailers and brokers how you permanently reduce the arc of incidents and claims,” Gleason says. “This really differentiates us because what we’re leading with is tech and not insurance. Insurance has been commoditized -- everyone can get to whatever price they want in order to secure a client. if you’re going to be a niche player, you have to bring high-quality niche tools to that industry in order to make yourself stand out among the commoditized offerings.”

Argo Risk Tech is increasing accountability and speeding response times for clients. But down the road, the data it’s collecting will be valuable for other reasons.

“The next step in this is getting to predictive analytics -- we want to send risk alerts out to our clients before risk even happens,” Gleason says. “Is there something we can do and help our clients do that can minimize the frequency of that occurring?”
For this year, however, Argo will be focused on deploying the technology and training people on its use in order to build up the right habits and improve its data collection.

“One of the challenges is getting our clients to report every incident in real time. That’s what we will spend 2017 on, getting people to utilize the app,” he says. “We’ll measure the behaviors that lead to the positive outcomes.”

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