Here’s an open secret to start things off: Connected technologies are evolving like never before. We’ve always seen the advent of wearable manufacturers and have seen different use cases for trackers, and while the market might be plateauing a little, it’s opening a window to explore more varied use cases.
Perhaps one uncharted territory for the wearable market has been the insurance industry. Given that most wearables today are capable of pro-active health monitoring, and are connected with specialised data aggregators and personalised focus areas, it does bring about the big question: Can wearables bring about a disruption in the insurance sectors?
This will be the question I’ll be answering here, as I try and take a look at the insurance industry, and the impact that wearables might bring to it.
THE WEARABLE MARKET
To give an idea of how wearables might disrupt an entirely new sector, let’s try and look at the wearable market first.
According to an IDC report from June, vendors will ship a total of 125.5 million wearable units worldwide, this year alone. This shipment volume will be seeing a 20.4% increase from 2016’s numbers, which were at 104.3 million units. IDC predicts that these numbers will further rise to 240.1 million units in 2021, with a five year CAGR of 18.2%.
Now out of these shipments, it’s interesting to see the division of the market according to the type of wearables being shipped out. Again, I’ll be analysing IDC’s data in this regard.
It’s not much of a surprise that watches are expected to see the most growth when it comes to the type of wearables being shipped. Watches come with the added advantages of being connected to a wide ecosystem, which enables them to provide a playground for multiple applications, thereby increasing the number of use cases.
Wrist bands, on the other hand, will be plateauing out unless they can themselves see a disruption in the type of sensors and the parameters that might be measured. When it comes to the market share, wrist bands are expected to lose out market share to watches. Indeed, it is also interesting to see the smart clothing market to grow out in size.
The target audience too, has evolved. From early stage Quantified Self enthusiasts, to wearable enthusiasts, to even healthcare providers and employers (QS has a very strong presence in workplaces!) , the target audience itself is maturing.
These numbers are important because they help us to gauge the interest levels in the time to come. In turn, this will help us assess the success rates in the industry sector as well.
HOW IS THE INSURANCE SECTOR ADAPTING?
Pretty well, I would say. According to a research conducted by Chapuis Halder & Co., insurers such as United Healthcare, Cigna, Oscar and AXA (among others) are now integrating wearables and trackers into their marketing strategies at multiple levels – right from product development, sales and distribution to underwriting and risk management, the latter of which is easily the most significant.
For insurers, the challenges have always included customers who are sceptical of what’s being offered. Therefore, the cost of wearables and trackers have been included in the pricing of certain insurance products, along with set pricing options on how frequently policyholders want to share their personal data. Needless to say, free wearables and discounts are adding the cherry on the insurance cake.
EMERGING AREAS FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES
The next big things for the insurance sector will be in the form of what QS has really been all about – correlating data with the parameters observed, gaining information from the numbers and then converting the information to insight and improving prediction success rates.
Through the inclusion of trackers and health monitors, insurance companies can predict the most vulnerable risk types, underwrite specific diseases, detect passive signals through data (and thereby avert risks) and better personalise healthcare. All these factors will come together to help insurance companies better price their products to match the customer expectations, while at the same time facilitating in decision making and improving profits.
EMERGING AREAS FOR WEARABLE MANUFACTURERS
I’ve always looked out for more varied use cases for wearables and trackers, and I believe that a broader scope would be extremely beneficial here. Basic wearables (which track heart rate and exercise) can make way for more advanced wearables and trackers which can help in identifying heart diseases, epileptic seizures and allergic reactions, among others. Other lifelogging apps, especially with mental/emotional health can add value to the insurance healthcare area.
It’s time for wearable manufacturers to step up their game and make more advanced wearables which would offer a wider scope of parameter tracking.
HOW CAN INSURANCE PROVIDERS EVOLVE?
One word: Partnerships.
As evident from the initial graphs, the market for wearables are mainly revolving around smart watches and wrist band based trackers. The primary areas of focus for insurance companies will be to partner with OEMs – not just to track the data, but to also integrate content and leverage the wearable data to support diagnoses.
But to better assess the improvement areas, it’s also imperative to understand the challenges for insurance companies. Capgemini has some very interesting data in this regard, so I’ll just quote them here.
As always, there will have to be a balance between the data privacy measures, and the management of the data flow. Insurers and wearable vendors alike will have to study these challenges and come up with solutions accordingly.
IS THE INSURANCE SECTOR READY?
In terms of interest, definitely. According to a report by Accenture, 63% of insurers believe that wearables will be seeing a wide-scale adoption rate, 31% of insurers in 2015 leveraged wearable devices to engage and interact with consumers, and 51% of the insurers wish to partner with major digital technology and cloud platform leaders.
The challenges in terms of data management and overcoming consumer apprehensions have to be dealt with. But it won’t be long before every health insurance comes with a specialised wearable in tow!
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