Article Blog - Suresh Insurance July 16, 2014 3 minute read

Big Data’s Influence in Behaviors That Could Reduce Insurance Premiums

By Suresh Katta, Founder and CEO, Saama Technologies

Time and again we have seen how technology can radically change people’s behavior and deeply influence how things work.  When the smartphone became such an incredible productivity device, we observed the influence of it across the intersection of the world.  The benefit of the technology for the individual was so great that it radically altered the behavior of the masses.

I believe we are on the cusp of something similar, where Big Data technology will radically change behavior and how things work for many, many people.  In the Big Data era, companies are finding all sorts of ways to make the technology streamline business processes and improve bottom lines.  There is a potential coming in the not too distant future, however, of Big Data practices that will impact the consumer directly to the extent that it is the consumer’s bottom line that will benefit.

I recently met with executives in the insurance industry.  I was quite pleasantly surprised to hear about a Big Data innovation that is capturing the attention of the industry resulting in several pilot programs.

One such pilot program currently underway is a special toothbrush that can track our brushing habits.  The brush is capable of tracking how long you brush, how many times you brush and how well you brush in a day.  In today’s world of “always connected”, the system not only can process this machine-generated Big Data, but also provide required insights to the consumer, dentists, orthodontists and the insurance companies.  This kind of system allows the insurance companies to determine the good, bad, and ugly behaviors of consumers.  These insights can provide clear structures that will penalize behaviors that are determined to be ‘bad’ and incentivizes good behaviors.  While we need to iron out the wrinkles in this kind of innovative system, it will ultimately lead consumers to more willingly adopt preventive hygiene practices that will keep personal premiums low.

For the auto industry, the same concept applies, but instead of brushing habits, it is about consumer driving habits.  The “connected car” is getting closer to being a reality in the near future.  All major automobile manufacturers are moving towards the production of nothing but connected cars over the next decade.  These new technologies can track the behavior of the drivers on a second-by-second basis.  The system is capable of tracking our behaviors in braking, speeding, closeness to other vehicles, as well as other safety alerts.  The machine generated Big Data again will play a major role in determining our insurance premiums.  The drivers will be certainly rewarded for their proven good driving behaviors and will be penalized for bad behaviors.   As a result, insurance premium criteria are anticipated to change dramatically over the next decade.

Before long, policy makers and consumers will be engaged in a very healthy debate about the usage of modern technologies that will radically change our insurance premiums.

But we don’t have to wait for data collection to influence behavior changes.  I recently acquired a wearable device that reminds me, on a daily basis, of my physical moves, my sleep patterns and a few other things.  In just few weeks, I was surprised by how clearly the device influenced my personal behaviors.  I feel great when the system is able to tell me how well I’m doing when compared to an average consumer like me.  It further motivates me to choose what is considered as good, healthy behavior.

As we move forward, there will be huge personal incentives where the change in consumer behavior (be it brushing teeth extra well, driving the car more carefully, or additional physical moves, sleep or other such activities) will enhance our preventive measures ultimately leading to better quality of life.  Our policies and business models will evolve around what level of new technologies we are willing to accept toward living a more healthy life.

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