Hobbits aside, New Zealand is a strange place.
The self-proclaimed ‘most creative country in the world’ was responsible a few years ago for this, bizarre-but-effective series of home safety awareness TV commercials, which had local audiences gasping over their lamb chops in the evening. The series, if you haven’t got the stomach to watch the whole playlist, essentially cautions people of the dangers of seemingly innocuous activities, like walking down stairs, climbing ladders, or getting out of the shower. Watch enough of these shocking public service announcements and you might be convinced the only way to stay safe in your home is in a full-body, medical alert-enabled bubble suit.
And let’s not even get started on the road safety commercials. I don’t think anyone has the emotional fortitude to deal with those right now. But as distressing and graphic as these videos can sometimes be, they touch a truth that many of us don’t really want to think about. Whether at home, or on the road-, in fact, especially on the road- death and danger pass us by within a hair’s breadth without many of us even noticing, or in many cases, even looking up from our phones.
But while mobile technology is getting used to, by now, taking the blame for our dissipating attention spans, insurance companies are in a unique position to develop custom mobile apps to actually improve their clients’ personal safety… Regardless of how many children’s toys or staircases they need to navigate in their daily lives.
Geo-Tracking and Motion Detection Can Prevent Cars and People Going Missing
Or drive, for that matter. But one of the features that has become so ubiquitous across a range of different apps- our GPS locator- offers myriad opportunities for insurers to ensure that their clients get home safely, and avoid dangerous areas while driving solo. Kitestring, for instance, is the perfect partner for paranoid pedestrians- and their equally concerned friends and family.
Insurers are no stranger to geo-tracking. Many theft policies are conditional upon an approved tracking device being installed in the insured vehicle, and monitoring where, how fast and how recklessly you’re handling your car has already been at the heart of telematics based car insurance for going on more than a decade now. There’s room for innovation in this area, but it might still take some time and serious consumer education for drivers to acknowledge and accept advice from a backseat app.
Life insurers, on the other hand, have the advantage of targeting the performance of a vehicle we’re all a lot more concerned about- our own bodies. As the trend (and hopefully the aesthetic design) of wearable health-trackers continues to escalate, health insurance are starting to see the monetary benefits of referencing this kind of data when it comes to providing employee health insurance plans. This has been evidenced by the recently launched Pact app- the first health-tracker to make the seamless jump to health insurance.
Pact joins a virtual plethora of iOS based health-tracking apps, including:
But while these apps are still all about, ‘How many times have you hit the gym this week, dude?’ and ‘Why did you only get four hours of sleep last night?’ (because Netflix happened, that’s why), there is a lot of room for insurers to add some proactive, and positive, empathy to their service.
Proactive, Mobile Health Analytics Meet Personalized, Early Warnings
Let’s face it, we can be lazy. As Internet comic, the Oatmeal, has lovingly nicknamed his own inertia, sometimes the Blerch wins. Unless we’re provided with the ongoing motivation to attain a specific goal, many of us grow complacent about our health habits.
I know from experience. I had a tracking card linked to my health insurance once. It logged every time I went to the gym, and I used to get regular email and text message reminders when my gym visits dipped into deficit and I was at risk of losing my preferential premiums. And I cheated that system all the damn time. I used to swipe my card, hit the sauna for half an hour and then cruise out along with the sweaty cross-fitters. Sometimes I used to just buy a smoothie. Eventually, I became so nonchalant about my fake gym visits, I didn’t even bother to switch my sandals for sneakers.
Appalling, I know. I would be ashamed if I hadn’t run (figuratively) into a number of friends who did the exact same thing.
The thing that we all know though, is that all those empty swipes might have been cheating our health plans a little, but really, we were cheating our own health a lot.
There’s a lot of room for health insurers to innovate in this space, just imagine an iPhone app that:
- Lets you know when you need to step out of the room, or pull over to take a few breaths when your blood pressure gets dangerously high.
- Provides you with a day-by-day eating plan to help you manage your hereditary, elevated cholesterol.
- Could let your emergency contacts know if your breathing, blood pressure or heart rate was worryingly slow, if you hadn’t logged your insulin shot, or hadn’t moved in 8 hours.
- Worked along with your car’s own telematic measurement device to let rescue services know that you had been in a collision- before you even called 911.
- Deduced what kind of exercise you were more likely to engage in long-term, prompt you to take nearby classes and even provide you with directions to your nearest Krav Maga or Yoga studio….Instead of just rewarding you for swiping your card while wearing sandals.
Some of the more paranoid among us might still be afraid of putting all of our personal stats ‘out there’, but as those creepy commercials from the antipodes will attest, it might not be a bad idea to have a big brother keeping an eye on you.
Using Mobile Technology to Transform the Role and Reputation of Insurance
Insurance companies have years of stigma stacked against them. From being considered a grudge purchase, to being called ‘thieves’ for rejecting claims, to being forced to use increasingly ridiculous anthropomorphic mascots; many insurers find it difficult to stand out for the right reasons.
But the mobile revolution offers insurance companies the potential to use their clients’ information to create proactive, valuable solutions to everyday problems.
No more need the underwriting and claims stage be the only time that insurers chat to their clients. The ongoing data-dialogue provided through custom designed mobile applications means that insurers can create a more personalized relationship with their clients, one more akin to a financial adviser. Helping their clients to manage and avoid life’s nasty risks will do more than just reduce the claims rate for insurers (and thus, their clients’ premiums), it will provide a tangible service, and the kind of touchy-feely, always-on attention we’ve grown used to from service providers.
New technology and low premiums are all well and fine, but the competitive insurer of tomorrow will have found a new way to actually care about their clients in all of their clumsy, lazy, human glory. And in a world where perils lurk around every corner, behind every shower door, and in every major artery, caring has become a pretty valuable commodity.