Has a “New” Theme Emerged at InsureTech Connect 2019?

September 27 2019 | Mark Breading

After three intense and exhausting days at ITC2019, I’m a little conflicted. It was quite exciting. And there are many fascinating companies and ideas that are truly transforming our industry. But then King Solomon’s words (from the Bible) come to mind – “There is nothing new under the Sun.” I don’t mean to express negative sentiment regarding the state of InsurTech and innovation in insurance. It’s just that, in many ways, what we are witnessing is an increasing maturity of the movement. Of course, virtually everyone is talking about AI/machine learning. Digital transformation is high on the list of activities and discussions. New options for distribution, the evolution of new ecosystems, and the continuing progress of the new era of computing are compelling topics. And finally, the potential and progress of transformational technologies like the IoT, autonomous vehicles, wearables, and many other technologies are what is fueling much of the innovation. But it still leaves me wondering whether I saw anything fundamentally new at ITC.

ITC 2019There were a few announcements and companies that raised some eyebrows, to say the least. Here is my list of those that the industry should take note of:

  1. USAA and Google partnership. These companies have collaborated to create computing visioning/machine learning capabilities for auto vehicle damage assessment. As far as I know, this is the first instance of Google actually developing or co-developing a purpose-built insurance solution. Sure, they tried Google Compare and have invested in Applied Systems. But this is a case of Google leveraging their deep machine learning capabilities to provide a capability specific to insurance.
  2. Mitchell/Qualcomm smart glasses solution. Augmented reality for use by repairers at auto collision repair facilities is a very cool solution from two well established incumbent tech companies, demonstrating that there is substantial innovation coming from these corners (in addition to the startups).
  3. The spread of great use cases. Although not new, we are seeing many examples of innovative uses of machine learning, aerial imagery, the IoT, new digital brands, interesting products, and more. In past years, there might be one or two examples to cite in a particular line of business and/or business area, but now there are many InsurTechs, incumbent tech companies, and insurers that can cite multiple examples of business value delivered.

So, I suppose it depends on your definition of “new.” I prefer to think of it as the evolution and maturity of ideas and technology solutions that have been around for a while. But now it is real. And it is a great thing for the industry. The last few years have been revolutionary for insurance in some ways, but based on the trajectory that I am seeing at ITC and elsewhere, there is tremendous innovation and transformation yet to come. This industry is likely to look quite different a decade from now.

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