Google: IoT a game-changer for insurance

Google financial services executive Tore Dimmestol believes the Internet of Things has the potential to transform insurance companies – so long as they’re willing to embrace change.

Speaking at the ITC 2015 conference earlier this year, Dimmestol – head of financial services for Google Enterprise – outlined the possibilities of IoT in insurance, saying that sensors could enable insurers to more effectively price risk, prevent claims, engage with customers and improve marketing.

The Google executive described how the Internet of Things forms just one piece of the puzzle, one part of an increasingly mobile-world.

“Consumer behaviours are changing drastically and it’s a mobile first world” he said, citing that almost 50 percent of all online Google searches for insurance are now coming from mobile devices. “Whoever has the best [mobile] application, they win this competition.”

Dimmestol added that mobile world was pushing insurers into becoming “super personalised and local” – especially through the use of wearables and geolocation data.

Yet the benefits of IoT are clear to Dimmestol – it’s simply a case of whether the insurance community wakes up to this opportunity.

“It’s about generating data for the insurance industry, it’s an opportunity to sell, be location aware, and help in the claims adjustment process. You can micro manage risk based on behaviours.”

He cited Vitality Health’s work in using wearables – and incentives – to reduce premiums of health insurance customers, and also noted Allianz France’s use of the Nest thermostat in high-risk crime areas. Google’s Glass also got a mention, with Dimmestol mentioning how Stake Farm claims adjusters are using the wearable device to go out and take notes, photos and “build up a portfolio of an incident.”

There’s an opportunity for reinsurers too, he said, with IoT potentially offering the ability to check assets on-the-move, and even detecting if a ship is sinking.

“You have a huge portfolio, loads of expensive assets like ships or cars. All devices represent massive value on the books. To be able to detect a ship sinking, and intervening, is phenomenally powerful and will reduce pay-outs and increase customer loyalty.

Dimmestol also dismissed concerns at the conference that Google, which already has insurance price comparison websites, plans to enter the insurance market.

“I love that question…Google isn’t an insurer and I can’t see us becoming an insurer. It’s a data-driven company. We are a disruptor, that’s what we do.”