The augmented reality (AR) mobile game phenomenon Pokemon GO seized the attention and smartphone bandwidth of the entire country this weekend, adding upwards of $9 Billion to Nintendo’s valuation with a 23% jump in stock prices.

The game immerses players in an AR version of the real world, where their neighborhoods, parks, streets, commutes, offices, and homes become populated with colorful cartoon monsters. Geotagged locations (usually landmarks and local points of interest) offer in-game rewards to players who visit. A built-in pedometer tracks distance traveled to incubate “eggs” that hatch new Pokemon. The bottom line: users are highly incentivized to keep the smartphone app active at all times, an app that tracks their location and movements to a great degree.

First, the technological capabilities on display are astounding in their detail: Pokemon GO tracks users in real-time to within feet of their geographic location. And since game features require the app to be open to track steps and gain rewards, Niantic (the game’s developer, a Google spinoff) is capturing granular information about where players move, how they get there, and how long they stay. In a world in which insurers are considering using wearables like FitBit to validate claims data, apps like Pokemon GO offer the same data in much greater detail.

There are different ideas on how AR might be used in the insurance industry. Perhaps a form of live-advice that helps claims adjusters (or policyholders filing FNOL) know where to point their phone’s camera to take photos and videos of car or home damage, giving a real-time comparison to the “before” and “after” state. An augmented reality app might also help to prevent accidents, scanning a home or worksite and alerting the user to potential risks. And possibly an insurer will team up with a third-party to devise gamification methods of encouraging safer behavior. If nothing else, the mainstream success of Pokemon GO shows that augmented reality can be made usable and accessible through the device everyone carries in their pockets or purses.

Users are aware that these data are “the product,” and are savvy enough to understand the dangers of giving Nintendo and Niantic permission to monitor them so closely. Despite some discomfort, it’s clear many are willing to trade information about their habits for the fun of playing the game. As many insurers wonder how they might encourage policyholders to turn over automotive telematics data in exchange for rate adjustment, Pokemon GO shows that if the reward is attractive enough, people will bite. There’s another option, too: insurers could simply purchase user data en masse from providers who have developed games and other tools to sweep it up.

Such a tremendous data cache is an attractive target for potential hackers, and hot on the tail of Pokemon Go’s meteoric rise has been warnings of what damage could be done if so much specific, private data—much of it linked to users’ Gmail accounts—fell into the wrong hands. For insurers, it’s an important caution: as they handle an increasingly large amount of new forms of sensitive policyholder personal information—including movement and commuting information that, if lost, is not just an identity theft risk but a potential physical risk—they also grow as an attractive target to hackers. As the exposure of this information increases, so too does insurers’ responsibilities for safeguarding data responsibly.

This blog has been reprinted with permission from Novarica.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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