Weekly Wrapup: The CES trends that matter for insurance

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

The first thing insurers can take away from the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, which was held in Las Vegas from Jan. 8 to 12, is that they are not alone in facing major disruption from the ever-increasingly digital- and data-driven world. Financial firms, media companies, auto and appliance makers are also grappling with rapidly evolving technology and customer expectations. The challenge is for insurers to separate the wheat from the chaff and identify the technologies that can deliver value to their policyholders.

Last year, a major trend that insurers picked up on from CES was voice assistants and smart home devices. Many large insurers rapidly adopted the Amazon Echo and other such items for policyholder service, staking a claim in an ascendant channel: Forrester expects about 10 million new households to have smart speakers each year up to 2022.

This year, a lot of the focus at CES was on the future of personal mobility. This is of particular interest to auto insurers, whose businesses have grown up with adoption of personal automobiles. However, as digital pushes efficiency, the future of that dominant paradigm is in doubt. Allstate was particularly active at this year’s conference. Both company CEO Tom Wilson and Gary Hallgren, who heads up the insurer’s Arity connected-car technology subsidiary, had speaking roles in which they acknowledged the inefficiency of the current one-car-per-person model.

The challenge for Allstate and all insurers is to manage the transition as much as prepare for the end state. Wilson said that the connected-car adoption curve provides insurers with several opportunities to impact drivers today using technology like telematics to provide real-time driving feedback and promote efficient vehicle use.

One interesting development for insurers to note on that front is Amazon’s partnerships with car companies to integrate Alexa. Combining the two biggest trends of the past two years has interesting implications for insurers, if Alexa becomes a dominant platform for both the home and car. Leveraging the Alexa platform for first notice of loss in case of an accident, and also allowing consumers to ask Alexa for the status of their claim at home, for example, sounds easy enough, but represents a major change in claims interaction and management for companies.

Another side for insurers to watch is their role as regulation around the driverless system evolves. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao spoke about “outdated transportation rules, terms and concepts that no longer apply to an automated world” at CES. Though insurance is largely regulated at the state level, a massive change in how regulators view personal mobility could have downstream implications for insurers as well.

There were a couple other insurance-specific announcements from CES that illustrate how the show is becoming an important touchpoint for the industry, especially as insurers get cozier with connected devices. AmTrust Insurance announced a mobile app and associated product that allows consumers to buy warranty coverage for all their smart home devices through a single platform. The TapSafe suite insures customers’ connected devices including TVs, thermostats, speakers, hubs and routers against power surge, mechanical breakdown and accidental damage.

At the same time, Roost – which makes many of the kinds of devices AmTrust would cover – announced a new addition to its suite of products: a garage door sensor that notifies users if the door is still open or is breached during the day. The company is already partnered with insurers Desjardins, Aviva, Franklin Mutual and Hippo to distribute its devices and add value to policyholders’ policies.

Overall, this year’s CES illustrates that insurers benefit greatly from participation in the larger digital innovation ecosystem. Not all of the technology is obviously applicable to insurance, but the companies that produce it are collectors and stewards of precious customer data and are defining the channels in which customers interact with carriers. This year we will see how many of these innovations make it off the CES floor and into insurers’ strategy documents.

This article includes reporting from Bloomberg News.

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