Internet of Things – NBA edition, round 2

Internet of Things – NBA edition, round 2

For those of you that follow our blog, you may have read my post from April 8th, entitled Internet of Things – NBA edition. If not, then I’d suggest you click the title and read that post first.

Given we’re in round 1 of the playoffs, this post feels even more timely. The basic premise of the first post revolved around the use of wearables in sports, more specifically during games. As it turns out, there was recently a follow-up article on ESPN.com:

NBA union, wearable tech company Whoop to meet Tuesday

As I mentioned, the use of wearables goes well beyond just the technology, particularly to the ownership of the data.

I particularly liked the quote from the Whoop CEO, Will Ahmed: "…let's not deprive athletes of in game analysis. It's their careers at stake and data is not steroids."

As wearables get to be more and more ubiquitous, it will be interesting to follow their use. We see the benefit in insurance programs, such as Hancock’s Vitality, but the ultimate use of the information shows so much opportunity to truly change our lives. It will be fun to follow.

Internet of Things — NBA edition

Internet of Things — NBA edition

It is not often that I get to reference an article from ESPN for a blog post, but as March Madness is complete and we’re coming close to the NBA playoffs, this topic resonated with me.

The article, entitled Why the NBA slapped the wrist of Matthew Dellavedova, focuses on the use of wearable technology by NBA players. Not exactly an insurance topic, but it brings up many topics that do apply to our industry. It is also a fun read.

In a nutshell, a company has created a super-wearable for use by athletes called the Whoop (pronounced without the W). It is unique in that it not only captures current information, but more importantly trends in information. It focuses on my more than just activity during the game, but includes other areas such as sleep monitoring, including the impact of late evening caffeine.

The reason Matthew Dellavedova was slapped on the proverbial wrist was wearing a Whoop on that wrist during a game.

Now there are some obvious reasons why that might be a bad idea, particularly if that wrist came in contact with another player in the eye, or other sensitive area.

But the interest from the insurance perspective is narrower (although that could be a pretty big claim).

The challenge is the use of wearables isn’t covered in the current contract, which was negotiated well before wearables became a thing. So the issues include:

  • Marketing rights – what happens if the wearable in use is different than the ‘official wearable of this sports league?
  • Ownership of data – This is the big one for our industry. Does the player own their data? If so, that data may have value and they may need to be reimbursed for the data.
  • Use of the data – this is another big issue. If the data could potentially predict an injury, or the likelihood of an injury, this could affect the value of the player, lowering their total contract.
  • Security of the data – This one isn’t mentioned in the article, but what if a competitive team hacked your data. Worse a dishonesty bookie or bettor hacked your data. It would be interesting to know that LeBron was having breathing difficulties the afternoon before a game, wouldn’t it?

These are just some examples, but we can see how they could come across to insurance. If an insurance company wants my health data or my driving data, there better be a significant quid pro quo. Some auto insureres address this with a signing bonus when you enroll in their telematics program, essentially buying your data. Other programs offer you discounts for this information, if you do what you’re supposed to do (drive safely, exercise more). This gets more complicated as wearables evolve. The use of this data in underwriting could dramatically affect your premiums, but if you own the data and refuse to provide it, what happens? What are the legal ramifications of a declined life insurance policy because of wearable data?

For the average consumer, the security of the data really isn’t an issue and I’ve said this before. If a hacker really wants to know that I didn’t walk my expected 10,000 steps today (after all, I work from home, there are only so many steps I can take), than they are welcome to that data. I feel the same about a lot of health data. My cholesterol level isn’t something that could be used to steal my identity.

Just as driverless cars have ethical and legal issues to resolve, so do the expanded use of the Internet of Things in our industry.

The world’s most connected human

The world’s most connected human
I recently read about Chris Dancy, Chief Digital Officer and Senior Vice President of Healthways, Inc. and “The world’s most connected human.” In my line of business and as an avid NPR listener, I really should have heard of him earlier than now. If you haven’t heard of him and you are reading this blog, you should know about him, too. Chris utilizes up to 700 sensors, devices, applications, and services to track, analyze, and optimize his very existence every minute of every day. I listened to a few of his interviews (I am a curious person!) and found that he has been doing this self-tracking for nearly six years. You can really say he was on the cutting edge of this idea of a quantified self before most people even heard of the FitBit. According to Chris, this quantification enables him to see the connections of otherwise invisible data. As a result, he has experienced dramatic upgrades to his health, productivity, and quality of life. So what does he track? In a NPR interview while wearing five sensors (FitBit, Nike Field band, BodyMedia sensor, Wahoo TICKR, and his phone) Chris talked about how he has become ‘one with the data’ because he has seen the benefits of understanding his moods, heart rate, and overall health. He admitted that it’s not for everyone, but being a data junkie he said this behavior fit right into his interests. He expanded what he measured because he was interested in the data for which companies are willing to give discounts. If a company was willing to give him a $600 discount for seeing a doctor, going to the gym, and eating better, he wanted to know what data were they considering and what benefits he would derive as a result of knowing what the data said. He also said something very key: “If you can measure it, someone will and that someone should be you.” So why has he intrigued me so much? Because he said in 2013 that he believed the idea of a quantified self would be ubiquitous in five years. And it would expand beyond the fitness worlds and health care implications to the physical workplace and other industries. He saw sensors as being omnipresent in giving people feedback while they work. Examples could be environmental sensors that let someone change the lighting in their office to reflect a mood one had while on vacation or track ambient sound so that the sensor notifies you to reflect on the tone of voice used in a conversation. The goal, of course, is to have a more productive work environment. Chris Dancy’s rationale for wanting to know more about the data companies use to give discounts intrigues me the most. Many health insurance companies give discounts for proving that you lead an active lifestyle and for years now, consumers have been able to send driving data to auto insurance firms who offer reduced rates for good driving via a dongle that is plugged into their car’s onboard diagnostics port. Recently this practice moved into the realm of life insurance. John Hancock has become the first life insurer to offer ratepayers a discount when they use Fitbit wristbands that enable exercise tracking. John Hancock policyholders who wear a Fitbit and connect it to the internet can get discounts of up to 15% on their life insurance policy as part of Hancock’s partnership with Vitality, a service provider that integrates wellness benefits with life insurance. I already consider myself a quantified being because I track my fitness daily through my FitBit, and use that data to push myself to walk more and be more active. I am not sure I believe that my work environment needs sensors to make me more productive at work, but maybe they would. I don’t share my FitBit data with anyone yet, but I would be willing in the right circumstances. My insurers are not asking for my data which to me means that many insurers are not ready to accept the data. As mentioned above, John Hancock is the first life insurer; maybe others are soon to follow.  Will it happen in the next three years?  My gut instinct says no but I hope to be proven wrong. IBM’s Watson Health Cloud suggests that the medical industry is looking more deeply into how to capture, analyze, and use the multitude of medical data that is created every year, some of which is from fitness trackers and other sensors.  Maybe Watson’s analysis and cloud availability of data will yield better methods of underwriting for insurance. Yet, going back to Chris Dancy . . . during one of the NPR broadcasts Robert Wachter, author of the Digital Doctor, said that today very little of the extraordinary amount of data Chris was capturing is truly useful to doctors or insurers. I guess if that changes, Chris will be ready.

Smartwatch adoption: don’t end up as a laggard

Smartwatch adoption: don’t end up as a laggard
Timex-DataLink_04LLet me present you my first smart watch: Timex Datalink. My mom gave me this as a present when I was 23, back in 1995 (Oh my, I just gave out my age!). For those that haven’t seen one of these, it was the first watch capable of downloading information from a computer. Co-developed by Timex and Microsoft it was capable of data transferring from outlook calendar and tasks, No email, no voice unfortunately. It didn’t look very different than any other digital watches from that time (did I mention they were water resistant?), but they were unique because they could synchronise wirelessly through light (using the monitor screen) with the computer and data was transferred from the computer to the watch quickly and easily. It seemed revolutionary those days. Nevertheless, it was a complete failure (do you see them somewhere today?) While the concept was fine, they were too ahead in time so the functionality was very limited, and there was no integration with mobile devices and apps (they didn’t exist!). So when everyone started talking about smart watches (again) I remembered my old Timex Datalink. I don’t use watches anymore (smart watch or not), but back then I did. So this triggered my curiosity as what are the chances for smart watches to succeed. I decided to run a small poll between my friends and asked:
  1. Would you use a smart watch?
  2. Why?
  3. Under what circumstances would you consider using one?
This is what I discovered:
  • Some people (10%) don’t know what a smart watch is.
  • 10% said no, my smartphone provides me all I need plus if smart watches connect through Bluetooth they make batteries die fast. They would only consider using a smart watch if it is free (as part of a smartphone purchase for example) and technology improves (and battery life becomes a non-issue).
  • 40% said they don’t use watches today so why start using it now? They recognize that it needs to have a compelling advantage over the other devices we use today (mobile, tablet, laptop, etc.). If it is about health monitoring there are a plenty of devices in the format of wristbands that they would use instead. Video streaming would be another good reason to adopt it.
  • 10% answered that a watch is something related to fashion (and in some cases luxury) so unless an established well recognized fashion/luxury watch maker brand enters into the segment and makes them attractive, there is no way they would use it. Clearly this segment of consumers wouldn’t buy it from Apple, even if they come in gold and with diamonds, but they would buy it from Rolex for example. The good news for them is that Rolex is launching one.
  • 10% said they would use it out of curiosity (this reminds me myself back then with the Timex Datalink smart watch). If smart watches provide much more functionality and convenience than they did before, there is a chance that this segment may continue to use them after the “trial” period.
  • 20% said definitely they would use a smart watch. Even more, they believe that it will become an accessory required for many daily tasks and interaction with business as in health for example. If you get a discount in health insurance (or life insurance) associated to a healthy lifestyle, a smart watch seems an ideal device to combine the monitoring capacity with other daily activities as talking and mailing. For those that today carry a watch it will be a seamless experience compared to when we moved from landlines to mobiles. Insurers moving into the use of wearables, including smartphones, to monitor lifestyle and provide benefits associated to it, will encourage adoption by people in this segment.
Some conclusions around this small and targeted survey are that smart watches don’t escape to the same logic of any other product market introduction. There are clearly some early adopters (30%) but with risk of some dropping out if the product does not convince (those that would use it out of curiosity). Pragmatists, that would only use it if provides a clear advantage (40%). Some of these will fall into laggards (or not adopt it) if they don’t see a real benefit. Conservatives, more reluctant to change as they perceive watches to have a different meaning (and use) than smart watches. Finally, laggards that will see how everything evolvers before jumping in (20%). Bell curve We need to see what happens with wearables in general, as there may be other devices and interfaces better than a watch? In my opinion there is still a long way to go before having all the ducks in a row, but no doubt that if linked to real benefits such as savings and convenience the chances of smart watches to succeed increases. Insurers, if not doing it yet, should be considering smart watches and wearables in general as part of its products and its customer experience. Don’t wait to see who the winner is in the wearables segment of the IoT, or you may end on team laggard.

Living with the Internet of Things (and crowd funding)

Living with the Internet of Things (and crowd funding)
Earlier this week some users of the Wink smart home hub found that their smart home hub was more useful as a door stop or brick than as a hub. A fix is being worked on and rolled out to customers but for me this looks like the teething problems of the still nascent Internet of Things movement and one of the hurdles Apple is trying to jump with the Apple Watch. Earlier this month I received a portable handheld scanner from Dacuda. It’s not unusual for me to receive gadgets in the post but this one was particularly interesting to me as I had been one of the kickstarter funders of the item and have been following it’s creation with some interest. It piqued my interest particularly because I’d seen the technology almost two decades ago in a research lab but not seen it come to market at a reasonable price – a scanner that one moves over the page and software builds a picture of the underlying document. This isn’t the first item funded via crowd funding I’ve bought. My keys have a tile attached to them and I’m still wearing the original Pebble wrist watch (with e-ink display). I guess this firmly places me as an early adopter in the Internet of Things, wearables and crowdfunding space. I don’t have a Wink hub although it’s sort of appealing but not available in the UK yet. So far though it hasn’t been all clear pastures and dreams ideally realised. The Internet of Things has it’s teething problems. Let’s take the Tile for instance, a small device that emits a bluetooth and short rage wifi signal so you can track it’s location from a phone or tablet, thus, never losing it. I used to have 3 of them and now have 2, that’s right I lost one. I was rushing out the door, the school run running a little behind schedule and forgot my phone. Somewhere on the brief journey I dropped the Tile and what it was attached to. Had I had my phone with me it would have given me the location of the last place it connected to the Tile, as it was it told me the last time it saw the Tile was at home. No matter, in theory if I retrace my steps I will come in range and be alerted that it is found. This didn’t work either so I assume it was picked up. Since the battery lasts two years perhaps someone with the app will go near it and it may yet find it’s way home – but not yet. Part user error and part an unfortunate series of events perhaps, but another technology found fallible and a dream not quite realised. The Pebble has been more successful. The fact I answer the phone when it rings is largely down to my smart watch rather than the phone these days and the wrist-borne notifications are hugely helpful. I use the misfit app on it to tell me I’m not doing enough exercise and a Withings smart body analyser at home to let me know the end result of not having done enough exercise – all great fun! I may still invest in the Apple Watch. I have a standing desk so do stand, something misfit on my pebble doesn’t track and I feel I want to be recognised digitally for this at least. The little handheld scanner is more work in progress. My son’s somewhat fascinated when it works and hugely interested in the errors it makes and where they are made – such is life as an early adopter. More teething issues there. No doubt though we as a population are moving to a world where anything we buy could be connected, where we can buy a $50 hub that controls our lighting from an app and it’s failure is covered in the global (technology) press and where we can fund and follow the development of gadgets we’ve dreamt of owning for a couple of decades (even if the software needs a little more work). So what does this have to do with insurance? The fact is the Internet of Things appears to be running apace, smart homes are being tried out by the early adopters and bugs are being squashed. Did you know with the Wink hub, the app on your phone and this $40 quirky+ge water sensor you can get alerted in real time regarding escape of water events? Ever been out of the house and come home to find the kitchen, bathroom or basement flooded? Indeed just yesterday Karen pointed out this article suggesting insurers are getting involved with smart homes. There’s a lot of buzz around health and life insurance in part driven by the Apple Watch launch. I’m looking forward to Apple doubling down on the HomeKit API or someone credible getting there first; I’m looking forward to the same boom around the Internet of Things and insurers handing out moisture sensors to home owners. I’m looking forward to prevention and intervention products, rather than selling services after a loss. Perhaps we just need to squash a few more bugs first.

Next step in the Internet of Things for life insurance

Next step in the Internet of Things for life insurance
The last seven days have been exciting for the next wave in Life insurance (and Health). Last week we saw John Hancock introduce the Vitality program into the US. This week we have a collaboration between IBM, Apple and Medtronic, the huge maker of medical devices. Just yesterday we had an inquiry from a major Life insurance company asking about a service that consolidates data from multiple users of wearables. We were not aware of a major player offering the service, but that same afternoon, this partnership was announced. As the use of wearables increases, particularly for use beyond an individual’s fitness, it will be critical for standards and services to emerge to bring this data to multiple users. Including Life insurance companies. Of course, we still have the obvious challenge of competition in the industry. This is great for users of Apple and Medtronic’s products, but what about people wearing a Moto 360 or Fitbit? We are not quite there yet, but everything happens with a first step. I commented the other day to a colleague that this is the most excitement we have had in Life insurance since the introduction of Universal Life in the 1980s. The pace will only increase.