Tag Archives: Tech

Disaster Preparedness? There’s an App for That

Research tells us that 40 percent of Americans use their smartphone to look up government services or information, so if you’re charging your mobile devices in preparation for Tropical Storm Hermine you might want to download the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) updated disaster app.

The free FEMA app now lets you receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service, so you can get alerts on severe weather happening anywhere in the country even if your phone is not located in the area. This makes it easy to track severe weather—such as a hurricane—that may be threatening you, your family and friends.

Other features of the FEMA app that will help you weather the storm include a customizable checklist of emergency supplies, maps of open shelters and disaster recovery centers, and tips on how to survive natural and man-made disasters.

Important features of the app for after the storm, include a disaster reporter where you can upload and share photos of damage and recovery efforts to help first responders, as well as easy access to apply for federal disaster assistance.

Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator:

“Emergency responders and disaster survivors are increasingly turning to mobile devices to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. This new feature empowers individuals to assist and support family and friends before, during, and after a severe weather event.”

The FEMA app is available for free in the Apple store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices.

Here at the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) we also recommend you download our award-winning Know Your Plan app which helps you, your family and even your pets prepare to safely get out of harm’s way ahead of the storm.

In addition, the I.I.I. Know Your Stuff home inventory app allows you to keep an up-to-date record of your belongings so you’re fully covered in the event of an emergency.

Both I.I.I. apps are available for iPhone or Android.

Catching All The Customers

If you plan on trying to catch a Pikachu this weekend, chances are you might be lured into a local pizzeria or bookstore, as savvy businessowners tap into the huge popularity of Pokémon Go and target the pocket monster crowd to boost business.

Now reports say Niantic Labs, the developer of Pokémon Go, will soon accept sponsorship deals with global brands to make certain locations appear more prominently, or to sponsor specific products within the game.

Insurers looking to evolve their business are sure to be among those companies looking at potential Pokémon Go tie-ins to reach and expand their digital audience.

After all, AXA Insurance was among those to partner with Niantic Labs when Pokémon’s predecessor augmented reality adventure game, Ingress was launched in 2013.

The partnership saw AXA retail agencies in the real world turned into Ingress “Portals”, sites that players visit and battle to control for their in-game faction.

In just five months the success of the partnership saw over 600,000 Ingress players visit real world AXA Insurance locations to find, collect and deploy more than 5 million AXA-branded virtual shields in Ingress. AXA representatives also interacted with over 55,000 Ingress players during live player events called “Anomalies” opportunities.

Insurers are also not new to using augmented reality technology in their actual business operations.

For example, Zurich Insurance last year turned to augmented reality smartphone apps to train 10,000 employees in 170 countries in the key skills needed by its next generation of managers.

Insurers are also using augmented or virtual reality (think Google Glasses) to train claim adjusters and streamline the claims process.

So while the insurance risks of disruptive technology like Pokémon Go are clear (and yes, insurers have you covered), it appears there are many ways for insurers to embrace the power of augmented reality to benefit their business and market reach.

As the Celent insurance blog noted:

“For those insurers with investments in the real world like agencies, offices, billboards – and for those that are agile enough – this surprise trend could serve as a great marketing route to catching all the customers, as well as all the Pokémon.”

Self-Driving Cars Still Evolving

A fatal car accident involving a Tesla Model S in autonomous driving mode is drawing widespread scrutiny both in the United States and overseas.

Joshua Brown was killed in May this year when a tractor trailer made a left turn in front of his Tesla and the self-driving car failed to apply the brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is investigating the incident and will examine the design and performance of the automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash.

Its preliminary evaluation of the incident doesn’t indicate any conclusion about whether the Tesla vehicle was defective, the NHTSA said.

In a blog post, Tesla noted that this is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where autopilot was activated:

“Among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.”

Tesla further noted that neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied:

“The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”

As companies continue to innovate and invest in self-driving technology, the crash indicates that fully automated cars are still a thing of the future.

The crash also raises important concerns over regulation.

According to this New York Times article:

“Even as companies conduct many tests on autonomous vehicles at both private facilities and on public highways, there is skepticism that the technology has progressed far enough for the government to approve cars that totally drive themselves.”

And the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Tesla now risks being the test case that could prompt new safety regulations or laws limiting the deployment of self-driving technology.”

The crash also highlights liability concerns regarding this emerging technology. Most car crashes are caused by human error, but presumably the NHTSA investigation will also evaluate potential product liability on the part of the manufacturer.

The crux of the issue is weighing up the risk of crashes versus crashes avoided via the use of self-driving technology.

As the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes:

“As crash avoidance technology gradually becomes standard equipment, insurers will be able to better determine the extent to which these various components reduce the frequency and cost of accidents. They will also be able to determine whether the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or suppliers for what went wrong rather than their own behavior.”

Liability laws might evolve to ensure autonomous vehicle technology advances are not brought to a halt, the I.I.I. adds.

IoT and Piracy Increase Risks to Shipping

A hacker causes an oil platform located off the coast of Africa to tilt to one side, forcing it to temporarily shut down. A port’s cyber systems are infiltrated by hackers to locate specific containers loaded with illegal drugs and remove them undetected.

These are just a few of the cyber attacks on the shipping industry reported to date, according to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE’s (AGCS) fourth annual Safety and Shipping Review 2016.

But such attacks are often under-reported as companies opt to deal with breaches internally for fear of worrying stakeholders, AGCS notes.

“When reports of attacks do surface, details are usually vague, making it extremely difficult to gauge the headway the industry has made in strengthening online security.”

The shipping industry’s reliance on interconnected technology also poses risks. Cyber risk exposure is growing beyond data loss.

Technological advances including the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronic navigation means the industry may have less than five years to prepare for the risk of a vessel loss, AGCS warns.

There has already been one known incidence of Somali pirates having infiltrated a shipping company’s systems to identify vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden with valuable cargoes and minimal on-board security, leading to the hijacking of a vessel.

In the words of Captain Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant AGCS:

“Pirates are already abusing holes in cyber security to target the theft of specific cargoes. The cyber impact cannot be overstated. The simple fact is you can’t hack a sextant.”

The industry needs more robust cyber technology in order to monitor the movement of stolen cargoes, according to Kinsey.

For the first time in five years piracy attacks at sea failed to decline in 2015. International Maritime Bureau statistics show there were 246 piracy attacks worldwide in 2015, up from 245 in 2014.

Attacks in South East Asia continue to increase, with the region accounting for 60 percent of global incidents and Vietnam a new hotspot, AGCS reports.

The Insurance Information Institute offers facts and statistics on marine accidents here.

Another Day, Another Hack

As if we needed another reminder of the rising threat of cyber attacks, the estimated EUR 50 million ($55 million) loss arising from a cyber fraud incident targeting Austrian air parts supplier FACC AG made us sit up and take notice.

As Bloomberg reports here, if the damages do indeed amount to $55 million this would be one of the biggest hacking losses by size.

Bloomberg also points out that the incident is made more intriguing because FACC is 55 percent owned by China-based AVIC.

It will take time for the  details of this attack to emerge, but in a January 20 press release, FACC acknowledged that the target of the cyber fraud was the financial accounting department of FACC Operations GmbH.

The company also noted that its IT infrastructure, data security, IP rights and the group’s operational business are not affected by the criminal activities.

Further, FACC said the $55 million in damage was an outflow of “liquid funds”.

“The management board has taken immediate structural measures and is evaluating damages and insurance claims,” FACC added in its third quarter report.

According to this report by ComputerWeekly.com, the fact that FACC’s financial accounting department was targeted in the fraud is prompting speculation that the company was likely the victim of a so-called whaling attack, also known as business email compromise (BEC) and CEO fraud.

These sophisticated phishing attacks are when cyber criminals send fake email messages from company CEOs, often when a CEO is known to be out of the office, asking company accountants to transfer funds to a supplier. In fact the funds go to a criminal account.

Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described BEC fraud as an emerging global threat.

Since the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began tracking BEC scams in late 2013, more than 7,000 U.S. companies have been targeted by such attacks with total dollar losses exceeding $740 million. If you consider  non-U.S. victims  and unreported losses, that figure is  likely much  higher.

The rising incidence of BEC and CEO fraud and its intersection with cyber insurance will form the topic of a future blog post.

Both the WEF Global Risks Report 2016 and the Allianz Risk Barometer 2016 have identified cyber attacks and incidents among the top risks facing business.

Find out more about cyber risks and insurance in the I.I.I. white paper Cyber Risk: Threat and Opportunity.

Smart Home, Smart Insurance

“Alexa, what is insurance?”

This is just one of many questions that can be asked of an Amazon Echo, our smart home companion that arrived over the holidays.

And as I’m finding out, the part-Siri part-bluetooth speaker that can stream music, tell me the weather or what the traffic’s like, can also be integrated with our  smart home devices and hubs.

Turning on the lights, locking the doors and changing the temperature at home are all possible once Alexa is introduced to compatible products and hubs.

As Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferate and debut at CES 2016, the world’s largest  technology trade show happening in Las Vegas this week, insurers will be taking note.

A new International Data Corporation (IDC) report estimates worldwide spending on the IoT will grow from $699 billion in 2015 to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019–at a 17 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

While manufacturing and transportation (at $165.6 billion and $78.7 billion respectively) led the world in IoT spending in 2015, IDC says the insurance, health care and consumer industries are expected to see the fastest growth over the next five years:

Over the next five years, the industries forecast to have the fastest IoT spending growth will be insurance (31.8 percent CAGR), healthcare, and consumer.”

While insurers have already explored the benefits of connectivity in the auto insurance sector, the connected home represents a major opportunity for property/casualty insurers, according to a report by Accenture.

Insurers can leverage data from connected home devices to assess and mitigate risk, increase pricing sophistication, and offer new products, all of which help drive operational efficiency and top-line growth.”

Key areas of opportunity for insurers identified by Accenture include:

–Better risk management and risk mitigation, through claims avoidance and better claims handling;

–Better underwriting, based on increased data flows and a keener understanding of risk factors and behavioral elements;

–New product offerings, including value-added services delivered in a partnership

Security, energy management, lighting, water, thermostats, weather, appliances, and smoke and fire are the major  areas within the connected home where insurers have the potential for improving underwritten precision and limiting losses while strengthening customer relationships, Accenture says.

However, insurers will also need to tackle challenges presented by large inflows of new data such as customer indifference or lack of understanding of new offerings, as well as privacy and regulatory concerns, to convert that  opportunity into profitable growth, Accenture notes.

Top Ten Posts of 2015

As we get ready to ring out the old and ring in the new, we wanted to share with you our most popular posts in 2015.

Our most-read posts here at Terms + Conditions illustrated how interested our readers are in the advancing technology landscape and its impact on the insurance industry. Self-driving cars, cyber insurance and the sharing economy were all featured among the top 10 posts during the year.

In Self-Driving Cars – With or Without You? we recounted a Time.com writer’s chauffeured ride by a prototype Audi from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas for last year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Self-driving vehicles are no longer a thing of the future, we wrote, and this has evolving implications for insurers.

Our post Cyber Business Interruption Risk Often Underestimated reported on a study by Allianz warning that the impact of business interruption (BI) from a cyber attack is a risk that is often underestimated. It predicted that BI costs could be equal to–or even exceed–direct losses from a data breach.

The growing appetite for cyber insurance among small and mid-sized companies was another popular post.

Two of our most-read posts during 2015 also revisited the impact of Obamacare on workers compensation insurance.

In case you missed them, here’s a complete list of our top 10 posts from the year:

  1. Self-Driving Cars – With or Without You?
  2. WCRI Looks At Impact of Affordable Care Act on Workers Comp
  3. A Revisit: Impact of Obamacare on Workers Comp
  4. Cyber Business Interruption Risk Often Underestimated
  5. More Small and Mid-Sized Companies Buying Cyber Insurance
  6. Cyber Value-At-Risk
  7. Homeowners Claims: A Picture of Volatility
  8. Cyber Losses vs. Property Losses
  9. One Ruling, but Uber Impact
  10. Litigation Trends and the Class Action Factor

Thanks for following. We wish all our readers a happy and healthy new year!

Disruptive Change to Continue in 2016

U.S. property-casualty insurers face another year of disruptive change in 2016, according to a new report by Ernst & Young.

In its 2016 U.S. Property-Casualty Insurance Outlook, EY says that digital technologies such as social media, analytics and telematics will continue to transform the market landscape, recalibrating customer expectations and opening new ways to reach and acquire clients.

The rise of the sharing economy, in which assets like cars and homes can be shared, is requiring carriers to rethink traditional insurance models.

An outlook for slower economic growth, along with increased M&A and greater regulatory uncertainty, will set the stage for innovative firms to capitalize on an industry in flux in 2016.

EY’s take:

Insurers that stay ahead of these shifts should reap substantial benefits, while laggards risk falling behind, or even out of the race.”

EY reports that competitive pressures in the insurance industry are building as digital technology erodes the advantages of scale enjoyed by established insurers and empowers smaller players to compete for market share through more flexible pricing models and new distribution channels.

It cites the recent launch of Google Compare, which allows customers to comparison shop for insurance, as the start of a larger wave of insurance tech activity in 2016.

Along with this, customer expectations and behaviors are evolving at a rapid pace, often faster than traditional mechanisms can react.

EY observes:

Driven by their interactions in other digitally enabled industries, such as retail and banking, property-casualty customers are increasingly demanding a more sophisticated and personalized experience–including digital distribution, anytime access, premiums accurately reflecting usage and individual risk and higher levels of product customization and advice.”

Policyholders are also seeking coverage of a broader range of risks, such as cybersecurity and under-protected property exposure, according to EY’s outlook.

Hat tip to Insurance Journal which reported on this story here.

Check out a recent presentation by I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig titled Insurance, the Sharing Economy, Millennials and More.

Digital Deadwalker Risks Are Growing

This is a good one for the holiday season–and ahead of your commute home.

A majority (78 percent) of U.S. adults believe that distracted walking is a serious issue, but only 29 percent see themselves as the culprit.

The new study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)  found that many (46 percent) feel distracted walking is a danger, yet 31 percent admit it is something they are likely to do.

In the words of Alan Hilibrand, MD, AAOS spokesperson:

Today, the dangers of the ‘digital deadwalker’ are growing with more and more pedestrians falling down stairs, tripping over curbs, bumping into other walkers, or stepping into traffic causing a rising number of injuries–from scrapes and bruises to sprains and fractures.”

The AAOS cited a 2013 study that showed a doubling in emergency department hospital visits for injuries involving distracted pedestrians on cell phones between 2004 and 2010 (see our earlier post on that study  here).

So how common is distracted walking?

According to the AAOS, nearly four out of 10 Americans say they have witnessed a distracted walking incident, and just over one quarter (26 percent) say they have been in an incident themselves.

One of the challenges in combating distracted walking may be that people are overly confident in their ability to multitask, the AAOS found.

When asked why they walk distracted, 48 percent of respondents say they just don’t think about it, while 28 percent feel they can walk and do other things, and 22 percent say they are busy and want to use their time productively.

The AAOS  survey which was conducted by polling  firm IPSOS  involved more than 2,000 respondents nationally and another 4,000 total in select urban areas.

Here’s the infographic:

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Q and A: How Does Driver Assistance Tech Impact Premiums?

Our mission at the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is to help people understand how insurance operates. Sometimes that means understanding how insurers handle new technologies, particularly auto insurance. Chief Actuary James Lynch answers a question we got last week:

Q: I am researching driver assist technology and the advantages and pitfalls that could be associated with it. Do driver assist  technologies raise or lower insurance premiums? A few of the technologies I’m looking at are lane-keeping devices, blind spot warning systems and hands-free cruise control.

A: As far as technological innovations go, insurance companies adjust their rates after a technology has proved its worth on the road. Only then do they know that a technology is effective and how much discount is warranted, if any. That means hands-free driving systems, which have only been introduced in the past couple months, are not earning anyone discounts right now.

You mention lane departure warnings. That is a technology that has yet to prove valuable on its own. The feature alerts a driver that is beginning to drift from one lane to another. When the driver drifts, an alarm beeps. One problem, it appears, is that drivers have trouble understanding what the beep means.

In addition, the feature can be turned on and off by the owner, and owners frequently find it so annoying that they turn it off. I happen to have a car with this technology, and I drove with it for about 10 minutes before turning it off. You would be surprised how many times your wheels touch a lane line; I know I was, particularly when the road curved. So insurers probably aren’t giving a lot of credits for the system.

That doesn’t mean that the idea of a lane departure warning is useless. The problem may be that the notification system doesn’t help the driver do a better job. There’s every chance that manufacturers will be able to refine the system so that it does better later. If that happens, rates will eventually adjust.

Another possibility: Sometimes a feature by itself doesn’t work as touted but will become an important part of a larger system. An example here is antilock brakes, which were introduced a couple of decades ago. The brakes had a special feature that was supposed to help a car stop more quickly when its brakes were slammed on. By itself, they weren’t much of a help — which surprised a lot of people – but they have become an important part of electronic stability control, a computerized system that figures out when a car is starting to skid and corrects the situation.

Electronic stability control is perhaps the biggest safety advance of our generation. The feature, standard since 2012 on all new vehicles, has cut the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash in half. Insurers closely monitor this stuff, particularly the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its sister organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Here at I.I.I. we offer more information on auto crashes in our Issues Update on the topic.