Canada has a rich history of innovation, but in the next few decades, powerful technological forces will transform the global economy. Large multinational companies have jumped out to a headstart in the race to succeed, and Canada runs the risk of falling behind. At stake is nothing less than our prosperity and economic well-being. The Financial Post set out to explore what is needed for businesses to flourish and grow. You can find all of our coverage here.
In its simplest form, insurance spreads the risk of loss suffered by one person amongst many. But in today’s modern economy, constantly evolving with the tides of innovation, insurance has never been so complex. Technological drivers of change present the industry with some of its greatest opportunities and risks in decades; however, if not managed carefully, technology could be as catastrophic as it is revolutionary to the industry.
Historically, the growth and establishment of insurance originated in the days of the shipping industry when a vessel and its cargo could be damaged or lost due to storm, loading and unloading, fire, or even pirate attacks.
Today, the rapid and significant changes in technological innovation of products present the insurance industry with its greatest risk – and opportunity – since pirates took to the seas. The most significant agents driving this change in the insurance industry are: the Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous vehicles.
The IoT is the connector between companies, products and consumers. It can also be the engine behind the creation of a multitude of connected devices and technology that will directly present both risks and opportunities for insurers and consumers alike.
Perhaps the most significant IoT-related development is the category of wearable technology. Wearables have expanded beyond their initial explosion into eHealth and are now equipped with the technology required to communicate with one another – and with insurers. Insurers can use this technology to adjust rates and premiums to more accurately reflect usage, as opposed to simply applying statistical averages that may not represent the specific individual.
This technology has advanced to the point where consumers are beginning to endorse insurer use of wearable data, as has been seen in the auto insurance industry using telematic devices that can be connected to your vehicle to transmit user data to insurers. This technology is being embraced by consumers as an opportunity to reduce premiums for good driver behaviours. Something that should only improve with the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
More than 90 per cent of car accidents are caused by human error. The advent of autonomous vehicles is predicted to eliminate human drivers and therefore human error. This likely won’t result in a 90 per cent reduction in car accidents, at least initially, but even a conservative estimate of cutting accident rates in half means massive savings in claims paid.
Technological innovations on the road today such as advanced braking and lane keep are already reducing collisions and accordingly premiums associated with vehicles equipped with those technologies. Some savings will be offset by the anticipated higher cost of repairing these complex and expensive vehicles, but if claims paid are reduced, premiums should follow suit.
Given that 42 per cent of property and casualty premiums are derived from car insurance, significant questions arise around how the industry is going to survive such reductions in its present structure.
As part of the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s (IBC) paper, Auto Insurance for Automated Vehicles: Preparing for a Future of Mobility, the IBC sets out a “single policy” insurance framework where one policy would respond to any claim made against the “driver,” even if the vehicle is being operated in autonomous mode. In this way, insurers move from insuring not only the negligence of the driver but also any negligence with respect to the autonomous features that may have been involved. Whether the various provinces and territories will adopt this approach remains to be seen, but the insurance industry has correctly perceived a risk and is attempting to mitigate that through new opportunities.
Of course, as technology advances, so do the accompanying risks. For example, many vehicles have a keyless feature wherein simply approaching your locked vehicle allows you to open the door and drive away without using the key. Car thieves have responded with a device that detects the signal being emitted from the key fob and can boost that signal so that it reaches the locked vehicle in the driveway. The thief can then steal the car while the keys are still “safely” locked inside the home.
Consumer behaviour changes gradually and this gap between initial adoption and understanding creates an opening for criminally-minded technology experts to manipulate.
Like the sea-faring pirates of old, the new security risks will both create opportunities for insurers and raise concerns for consumers and insurers alike. To succeed in the decades ahead, insurance companies of the future need to embrace innovation and adapt rapidly. Consumers will remain the central drivers of these changes as expectations for more personalization and convenience will remain high. But in a fast evolving industry which is as vital to consumers and business as it is the economy, caution and control must be applied. Regulators will need to listen to both insurers and consumers alike to futureproof the industry and develop frameworks that protect both the sector and society.
Robert L. Love is a partner in the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) and national leader of the auto industry group. He is one of the contributors for BLG’s latest report, Innovative Industries Reshaping the Canadian Economy.