IoT, AI and enhanced data to transform re/insurance


Much of the focus at SIRC this week has been around renewals and capacity, and not enough attention has been given to the importance of the emergence of new technologies, which Tony Hobrow, CEO for Asia Pacific at VenturesOne, said will ultimately transform the insurance and reinsurance sectors.

“This frankly is all short-term thinking. I’m not diminishing the importance of the renewals; it affects the bottom line next year. But to me, new technology such as IoT (internet of things) will transform not only reinsurance but our lives entirely,” he said.

IoT in particular will be able to provide better, much more focused pricing, he explained, by tapping into devices that monitor risk of the individual consumer.

He said this can already be seen in the motor industry, and even bicycles now have inbuilt IoT devices that offer the best route tracking and will measure heart rate and whether the rider has an accident.

Hobrow said there are many developments in insurance that have “masqueraded as insurtech”—which simply enhance distribution, provide better back office and better claims services—and are not disruptive.

He sees the truly transformative areas as not only IoT, but also the improved quality of data in the nat cat space, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.

In terms of blockchain, Hobrow suggested that if it were adopted across the industry, brokers and disintermediation could disappear, along with traditional banking—which would be replaced by peer-to-peer technologies.

“Blockchain could take out every intermediary in the world.” he said.

In terms of better data, VenturesOne invests in Geospatial Insight, an independent visual intelligence provider based in the UK, which mapped all the flooding in Houston following the large Q3 hurricanes within 24 hours.

Hobrow continued: “They were able to superimpose footage from private drones that people had posted on social media. They took the footage and mapped the streets, and clients could see where their insured clients were through every insured building, map all their staff, and see whether they needed help.

“It provided a bird’s-eye view and an angled view of the property damage.”

Hobrow noted that Asia and other emerging countries are embracing technology at a much faster rate.

“They skip all that intermediary technology, and go straight to payment channels,” he said.

China in particular is overtaking the world in terms of technology. Where there were next to no direct insurers in China nine years ago, personal lines insurance is now largely done directly through distribution platforms, he concluded.

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