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.
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.
Online retail gets real
After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.
Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.
The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.
This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping.
But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.
On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.
He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.
According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.
In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature.
Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.
A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand.
In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.
Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.
It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time.
It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.
Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.
The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.
Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.
Reliable satellite Internet?
MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company.
“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.
The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.
The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022.
The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data.
C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.
MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity. Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.
Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content.
The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.
Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online.
“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”