Weekly Wrapup: Commercial auto insurers marry smartphones and other devices for IoT initiatives

The Weekly Wrapup is an analysis of the week's insurance tech news from the editors of Digital Insurance.

Commercial insurers are, like their personal lines counterparts, trying mobile devices and connected-car services to develop and drive adoption of usage-based insurance programs. But business-oriented carriers are also tapping into third-party aftermarket devices as well -- driving big growth in the market for these sensor-equipped items.

According to a new report from Aite Group, "Telematics for Commercial Vehicle Insurance: A Vendor Overview," the number of commerical-insurance-related installed telematics devices is projected to increase from 2.5 million at the end of 2017 to 120 milllion by 2021.

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"Telematics options have evolved to encompass new types of technology, including new sensory data, advanced analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, smartphones, hardware and driver behavior suggestions," writes report author and Aite senior analyst Greg Donaldson.

Often, devices will work in concert with the ubiquitous smartphones to deliver needed data, with the phones themselves providing supplemental information, Donaldson explains. Vendors are building dashboards and platforms that take all these data sources into account in presenting a picture of risk to the commercial fleet manager.

"Many vendors have developed a self-contained device that remains in the vehicle and records movement, location, and video, which are wirelessly communicated through a smartphone to an analytics suite," Donaldson writes. "Smartphones also provide a link to the driver, which allows vendors to associate a driver with a vehicle and determine an overall risk profile for each trip."

A recent example comes from Selective Insurance Company, which has partnered with device manufacturer Bosch on a safe-driving initiative for commercial drivers. Insurance customers can tap into the Selective Drive program, which links a Bosch TEP120 telematics device via Bluetooth to drivers' smartphones. The tech monitors driving speed, location, idle time, and harsh driving events involving acceleration, turning, and stopping -- as well as phone use while the vehicle is in motion. The goal is to help cut down on the risk of accidents from distracted driving, which have been on the rise.

"Selective Drive is a key element of our customer-focused strategy to proactively provide our insureds, their employees, and their families with value-added services. Safety is a priority at Selective and we are excited to offer this technology to our commercial automobile accounts to help promote driver and vehicle safety," said John Marchioni, Selective president and CEO.

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