Insurers need to pay heed to how technology is moving in to consumers’ homes, in to their cars, on to their bodies and changing their expectations of what they are entitled to – and how quickly they can expect it.

In the next decade or so technology – from driverless cars, to robot homecare – will at once replace the human element and protect it at the same time. The advent of automation promises to liberate us from drudgery, but also reduce our exposure to potential accidents. Wearable technology – from basic Nike + fuelbands, to ‘smart apparel’ lines from brands like Athos – is mainstreaming to the degree where it now has its own designated Amazon store.

This is the next stage in ‘digital narcissism’, where consumer obsess over their health, activity and performance and heralds a new future for insurers and health companies, in that it will call for sophisticated data partnership between provider and customer. Wearable devices will become the black box recorders that dictate consumers’ policy rates or the treatments they are entitled to from the state. We’ve already seen Russia’s Alfa-Bank give preferential rates to customers via a ‘fitness account’ synched to their running trackers and myHealthPal – a platform that tracks the impact of diet on medication to create a data partnership between neurologist and patient.

Child protection is a also a constant theme in wearable technology, from Sunfriend’s wristbands that warn against over exposure to UV, to Reebok’s Checklight caps that measure the severity of head impact injuries in sport – posing some interesting questions for insurers. Elsewhere in personal security and vehicle protection, the implications are more defined: as technology reduces the likelihood of accidents, it may even become something that insurers wish to invest in or expand in to.

This year at Mintel we’ve seen a slew of initiatives to protect personal belongings and prevent accidents. These encompass Nymi’s smart bracelet that eradicates a need for pins and passwords by recognising the users heart rhythm instead, Land Rover’s ‘Transparent Bonnet’ cameras that show drivers the terrain and obstacles normally obscured by their vehicle’s hood and in Australia, the RAC’ s creation of a headset that monitors a driver’s distraction levels and disables a car’s accelerator accordingly.

We’re also seeing social media endeavour to warn and inform consumers of potential hazards, from tagged sharks automatically tweeting their arrival to Australian lifeguards, to Twitter’s own partnerships with global crisis management agencies to help alert consumers and avert further harm. Again, these feeds and initiatives present ideal potential partnership, sponsorship or donation opportunities for those involved in financial protection.

A footnote to how technology protects and empowers consumers is how it also raises their expectations. The immediacy and instant gratification of the on-demand digital culture is something that consumers are beginning to desire – and demand – in the real world. We see this expressed in varying guises – from burgeoning click and collect retail services, to 24-hour salons, 7-minute exercise routines and beauty products that claim to deliver ‘instant facelifts’. For any customer-facing business this requires a service combination that fuses the convenience and speed of automation with a human element of care and expertise.

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