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How IoT will change insurance

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The IoT is seen as futuristic in the insurance sector, with many insurers hanging back, but they are not unaware of its potential to grow the insurance industry, writes ECKART ZOLLNER, Head of Business Development at the Jasco Group.

We are in the midst of a digital revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we do business, the way businesses operate, and how they interact with both customers and competitors. The world is gradually moving online in its entirety, one device – one thing – at a time. And so, the Internet of Things (IoT) is here, making waves in both the private and business sectors across the globe. The Insurance industry is not exempt from the impact of IoT and, in fact, is poised for complete disruption in the way it traditionally interacts with customers.

While it’s true that IoT is still perceived as futuristic in the insurance sector, with many insurers hanging back on full adoption until they are assured that the benefits outweigh the risks, they are not unaware of its potential to grow the insurance industry and launch it into the Digital Age.

Leveraging IoT for the insurance industry

IoT offers insurers the opportunity to leverage data from ‘Smart’, connected devices such as residential and automotive sensors; wearable technology; drones; GPS, mobile and telematics devices; ‘Smart’ appliances and more.  This enables them to develop new business, improve risk assessment and proactively engage with customers on how to minimise risk for both themselves and the insurer.

High value assets can be effectively monitored through the constant relay of tracking and usage data, and dangerous conditions can more easily be identified, enabling insurers to react accordingly, potentially avoiding dangerous situations and the associated losses and damage caused to property or people.

The data collected from IoT devices, when properly collected, collated and analysed, can aid an insurer by offering predictability, helping to identify current and future trends which the insurer can then act on. Analysis of usage data will be able to pinpoint customer trends and patterns in their lifestyles, buying habits and risk portfolios.

Data accumulation over time allows for stored data to be analysed for patterns or trends for both predictive and comparative use, ensuring that insurers are on the right path and that mistakes are not repeated.

It can also assist insurers to conform and comply with legislation. The customer’s right to privacy, for ‘opt in’ and permission based policy execution, and for consent of data supervision or surveillance, has never been more important than now, with the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act looming. Insurers will need to take care to moderate and control how they collect, use and disseminate data, and data storage and collection will be under the microscope.

Putting IoT to use

For insurers who are traditionally imbued with red-tape, bureaucracy and archaic siloed systems, digitalising and implementing an IoT strategy can prove a challenge. In order to be effective, IOT has to be operationalised through integration with existing business systems and workflow processes. These themselves may need adaptation to suit the introduction of digital technology and new data sources, as well as control mechanisms.

A step-by-step approach is recommended, starting with things like cloud adoption wherever it makes the most sense, and moving towards the goal of full IoT adoption.

Due to the multi-access nature of our environment today, customers expect to access service providers, like their insurer, from virtually anywhere across the platform of their choice. In order for insurers to maintain control of an omni-channel offering, they will need to integrate multiple channels through a single management platform, which will then be able to administer access rights and usage policies as required.

Monetizing IoT for insurers will ultimately come from the provision of greater efficiencies, greater data accuracy, better loss avoidance (predictability), improved compliance enforcement, and the influencing of customer behaviour. These, collectively, will serve to boost the capital growth of the insurance sector, and enhance profit margins significantly.

Navigating the challenges

Data security will be the prevailing challenge faced by insurers – in fact, any organisation or sector – looking to leverage IoT. Careful consideration of the digital strategy will need to be undertaken, prioritising end-to-end security in the overall system design. This will include data collection devices, aggregation gateways, operational platforms, back end business intelligence, and artificial intelligence/machine learning systems.

Where social networks and digital platforms are leveraged, it will be vital to establish the reliability of the data, its source and its compatibility with local compliance regulations. This data will likely only serve for indicative purposes, as it is not likely to comply across the board with legislation such as PoPI.

Embracing change

IoT will undoubtedly revolutionise the way that insurance is offered, brought to market, considered and chosen, and insurers should start looking at the steps they need to take to implement IoT now. The benefits are set to propel the insurance sector away from its perception as a grudge purchase, making it a value-added service that people will want to invest in. It will require, however, that insurers shake the chains of tradition and embrace the Digital Age.

Africa News

Smart grids needed for Africa’s utilities

Power utilities across Africa should rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem, says COLIN BEANEY, Global Industry Director for Asset-intensive and Energy and Utilities at IFS.

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Africa’s abundant natural resources and urgent need for power mean that it is one of the most exciting and innovative energy markets in a world that is moving rapidly towards clean, renewable energy sources. The continent’s energy industry is taking new approaches to providing unserved and underserved communities with access to power, with an emphasis on smart technologies and greener energy sources.

Power systems are evolving from centralised, top-down systems as interest in off-grid technology grows among African businesses and consumers. And according to PwC, we will see installed power capacity rise from 2012’s 90GW to 380GW in 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa. Power utilities are needing to rethink their business models and how they manage and monetise their assets to keep pace with the changing energy ecosystem.

Energy and utilities providers are transforming from centralised supply companies to more distributed, bi-directional service providers. They can only achieve this through the evolution of “smart grids” where sensors and smart meters will be able to provide the consumer with a more granular level of detail of power usage. This shift from an energy supplier to “lifestyle provider” will require a much more dynamic and optimised approach to maintenance and field service.

African companies must thus embrace digital transformation as an imperative. This transformation begins by embracing enterprise asset management to improve asset utilisation. The subsequent steps are enhancing upstream and downstream supply chain management; resource optimisation; introducing enterprise operational intelligence; embracing new technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and predictive maintenance; and becoming a smart utility.

Embracing mobility to drive ROI

Getting it right is about putting in place an enterprise backbone that accommodates asset and project management, multinational languages and currencies, new energies and markets, visualisation of the entire value chain, and mobility apps. Mobile technologies that support the field workforce have a vital role to play in driving better ROI from utilities’ investments in enterprise asset management and enterprise resource planning solutions.

Today’s leading enterprise asset management solutions feature powerful functionality for mobile management of the complete workflow of work orders – from logging status changes and updates, from receiving and creating new orders to concluding the job and reporting time, material and expenses. Such solutions are easy to deploy and intuitive for end users to learn and use.

Importantly for organisations operating in parts of the continent with poor telecoms infrastructure, connectivity is not an issue. The solutions work offline and synchronises when network connectivity is available. Users can work on any device—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—commercial or ruggedised.

By ensuring that field technicians have easy access to information and processes, the mobile solution enables technicians and maintenance engineers to easily do the following tasks:

·         Create a new work order on the fly and log new opportunities

·         Access both historical and planned work information when requested

·         Permit customers to sign when the job is completed

·         Capture measurements and inspection notes on route work orders

·         Create new fault reports on routing

·         Facilitate documentation through photo capturing

·         Provide easy access to technical data and preventive actions.

The power of mobility allows the engineer to be the origin of all data capture on a service event. They can easily inquire on asset history, record parts used or parts needed for repair, record labour hours, and expenses as they occur, and any notes of repairs performed. When coupled with workforce management tools, such solutions unlock significant productivity gains for utilities who are trying to get the most from their workforce and assets.

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Brands fall for app vanity

The experience of a mobile screen full of icons, representing independent apps that your need to open to experience them, is making less sense. Instead, businesses should serve customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the digital platform they already use, says PIETER DE VILLIERS, Group CEO at Clickatell.

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Many brands remain obsessed with creating mobile apps. This not only defies trends that point to increasing consumer app apathy, but can exclude a sizeable portion  of your customers in emerging economies. Companies need to engage with their users where they are rather than forcing them onto an app, in what can only be described as brand vanity. 

In 2017 there were around 2.2 million apps available in the iOS app store and over 3 million on Google Play. And, while the number of apps being downloaded continues to rise, analysis shows that consumers are only using 30 apps per month and accessing just 9 on a day-to-day basis. 

While these numbers still seem attractively high, in reality the majority of the apps we use are for messaging (like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) and our social networking, gaming, leisure, dating or utility activities. 

Despite the facts, the application strategy as the holy grail for digital transformation is still being pushed even within large progressive brands. What’s more, some advertising agencies and digital consultants are still pushing apps as the best means for companies to connect with their customers. This has resulted in some organisations stubbornly doubling down on app strategies which are simply not showing return on investment (ROI). 

It’s not immediately clear to us whether the fascination with apps is a roll-over from long overdue projects or whether brand owners equate a mobile-first strategy with a mobile app. Mobile-first in 2018 means customer first, and therefore embracing chat commerce in order to deliver services with convenience and simplicity in mind. 

Why apps won’t win the internet

The problem with apps goes beyond user fatigue. In the first instance, many apps are poorly designed, assuming technical sophistication which may not match reality for the average customer. Poor user interfaces and attempts to provide complex engagement can result in even the best ideas missing their targets due to lack of engagement. 

Secondly, we all know that economic realities drive consumer behaviour. In Africa, new mobile phone users typically opt for feature phones over smartphones. With a longer battery life and a much more accessible price point, feature phones still allow for a basic internet connection, chat platforms like WhatsApp, and call and message functionality. In these regions, the cost of an app – even if it’s free – goes far beyond installing it. Constant updates require reliable and cheap access to the internet. For the average phone owner in an emerging market, this can be a serious challenge. 

Thirdly, and most importantly, apps must be relevant to their intended market. Frequency of usage is a key measure of relevance. 

Apps which are used on a daily basis, like health and fitness trackers, enjoy constant engagement. New features which are added are eagerly awaited by users who are happy to update their apps. 

However, users may well question the relevance of the app if they are required to conduct updates on a monthly or even weekly basis when they are only making use of the app once or twice a year. 

On average, I download one app per quarter. Some I use more frequently than others, but all of these apps need to be regularly updated to maintain security, update features, and fix bugs. Many apps are pushing out updates much more frequently. I noticed over the past year that I could go from having all apps updated, to 32 apps requiring an update in five days.

When it comes to a customer-first digital strategy, companies should be asking themselves if an app is really the best way to reach their target audience. 

In fact, at the end of 2016, Gartner predicted that by 2019, 20 percent of brands would ditch their mobile app. What’s more, in its 2018 predictions, the company forecast that by 2021, more than 50 percent of corporations would spend more per annum on bots and chatbots than on mobile app development. 

So, we need to ask, what is the alternative for CIOs, CDOs, CMOs, and digital leaders who are looking for ways to reach, retain and grow their customer base? 

The logical app alternative 

The old battle advice goes: fight your enemy where they are not. Military strategists agreed that having your enemy come to you and fight you on your own terms was preferable. In a world where customers have access to thousands of offerings and millions of deals online, we need to flip that idea to Meet Your Customers Where They Are. 

Any marketeer will tell you just a how difficult it is to drive app downloads. Development, cross platform testing and user interface aside, the marketing campaign required to get customers to download the app can swallow entire annual budgets and still come up short. 

Looking at the facts, it makes infinitely more sense to work within the digital platforms already being used by your target audience. 

Clickatell is already enabling chat commerce for some of the leading global brands with its Touch solution. This allows organisations to serve their customers with an ‘app-like’ experience inside the chat or browser platform of their customer’s choice (Twitter, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 

Brands can now send an actionable Touch link such as ‘find the nearest ATM’ or ‘reset my password’ within a chat stream that will open an intuitive touch card without the user having to download an app to perform the action. Services can also be linked to the in-app experience for brands not looking to abandon their app efforts. 

Working with our clients, many of whom are global innovators and thought leaders, we’ve found that having the courage to design with an ‘end user first’ approach and dealing with the back-end complexity behind the scenes results in cost efficient customer delight and ROI. 

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