Once commercialized, Google Glass could potentially transform how insurers adjust, assess risk, engage with customers, and ultimately process claims. Here's what it'll take for Glass to have real business impact.
What will life after smartphones look like? The majority of technology visionaries are betting big on wearable technology. That begins in earnest later this year with the release of Google Glass, the first commercially available smartglasses.
Interest in the technology is understandably high. Not only because Google Glass looks like something out of Star Trek, but because it further extends the miniaturization, portability, and human interaction with computers. As such, many see Glass as the next iteration of the recent smartphone and tablet revolution.
Separating Hype from Reality
Let's get one thing straight: Glass adoption probably won't happen as rapidly as smartphones. Researcher, BI Intelligence, for instance, expects Google to sell 21 million units of Glass by 2018—a fraction of total Android phones over a longer period. That's just one forecast, of course, but a recent BiTE Interactive survey found that 10% of U.S. smartphones owners would buy and wear Glass all the time, if the price was right. According to recent ComScore numbers, that could translate to around 14 million potential Glass users in the U.S. alone.
To further legitimize the technology, other notable suppliers of wearables computers are already marketing similar products. Samsung, Sony, Nissan, Nike, Vodafone, and dozens of upstarts are promoting smartwatches and wellness bands today. Apple, too, is rumored to be creating a so–called iWatch. While these devices are more subtle and less socially awkward than Glass, their proliferation lends significant credibility to the promise of wearable technology, including eyewear.
Ultimately, we believe that product design, price, and battery life will be key factors in driving user adoption of Glass. And in its current form, Glass is not yet capable of enabling meaningful business utility. But in our view, the refinement and evolution needed are not far from realization. These include:
A virtual keyboard that allows the user to project a keyboard onto any surface.
Remote control with zooming, enabling the person with whom the Glass wearer is speaking to adjust the focal point.
A data and voice connection that operates as an independent device.
Sufficient battery life for video and Web usage (an oft criticized weakness of Glass prototypes).
A robust ecosystem with more supported apps (aka "Glassware").
Despite these features, many industries have already begun experimenting with Glass applications. Doctors are using the technology to collaborate on complex surgical processes or to view vital signs on Glass while operating. Farlo, a digital health startup, has even developed aRRTGlass to assist emergency responders in providing live video of patients to remote specialists.
Meet Patrick Jackson. He's a Google Glass Explorer, developer and firefighter from Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Patrick is building Glassware that he hopes could one day help firefighters everywhere by providing hands-free access to the information they need, when they need it. Join him as he tests his Glassware in the field.1
Banks are exploring the possibilities, too. Fio Bank has a prototype for Glass to check current balances and list the transaction history. Fidelity Investments has developed a Market Monitor app for stock quotes and real-time alerts in the corner of the wearer's eye. Wells Fargo and Bank of America are also developing customer apps.
Google, meanwhile, is providing Glass to students at major film schools to find its potential for documentary filmmaking, character development, and action-based storytelling.
How Insurers Benefit from Glass
As other industries explore the possibilities of leveraging Glass and building apps for customers and employees, we think it's an opportune time for insurers to consider the first–mover opportunities of Google Glass as well. The following four use cases in particular could enhance insurer operations as well as contain costs.
Use case #1: Faster claims, fewer devices, better evidence. Property and casualty claims adjusters today carry multiple devices for appraising automobiles and homes, including a camera, mobile phone, laptop, mobile hotspot device, and GPS. The hodge podge of devices often results in a time–consuming and cumbersome process. With Google Glass, however, adjusters could carry a single device and be free to take photos and videos using voice commands while under a car, provide captions using voice dictation, or upload evidence as it's collected. Adjusters would also have easy access to remote specialists, such as investigators or total loss specialists via first–person videoconferencing for enhanced analysis. In all of these ways, Glass could significantly improve the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of adjusters, while reducing costs by consolidating five devices into one.
Use case #2: A better mousetrap for risk engineers. Risk engineers carry a similar array of devices when inspecting properties and conducting risk assessments. Here again, Google Glass eliminates the need for multiple devices. As such, risk engineers could have a risk assessment checklist and survey guidelines right in front of their eyes, ensuring that nothing is missed. With their hands free, risk engineers could also capture photos and videos using voice commands, whether on scaffolds or looking inside a boiler. With a remote control–enabled feature, Glass could reduce the need for multiple site visits and turnaround to prepare risk survey reports, leading to improved quality and underwriting.
Use case #3: Improving the claims experience for customers. In most auto accidents, photos are not available when the customer service rep is engaged, since the first photo is usually taken later by the claim adjuster. With Google Glass, however, customers could share their first-person view of the accident with the claims service representative in a hands–free way and obtain guidance through the claims submission process. This could result in reduced claim settlement times and also drive increased adoption of the carrier's mobile app. Of course, getting Glass in the hands of each and every customer would be unrealistic, but with proper pricing and even moderate consumer adoption, it could be a viable and improved experience for customers with access to smart eyewear.
Use case #4: Improved tracking of good driver discounts. Because insurance carriers do not have actual data on driving behavior at the time of underwriting, automobile policies use proxies such as age, gender, marital status, and number of miles driven to estimate risk. Sometimes they use telematics. When drivers wear Glass, however, it will be difficult for reckless or aggressive drivers to escape notice, given the expected deluge of video and photo evidence in a post–Glass world. This use case presents some legal limitations, as lawmakers in states such as West Virginia and California have already introduced legislation banning the use of head–mounted displays while driving. If these challenges are overcome, however, Glass could provide a significant information advantage to insurers for better risk selection and pricing.
As technology continues to evolve, Google Glass promises to be a considerable force, with the potential to change consumer behavior and disrupt industries with new ways of doing business. In its current form, Glass will have limited business use. But the features and capabilities needed to enhance its use and adoption already exist or are taking shape today. As such, insurance carriers must consider how and where wearable technology such as Glass fits into their roadmaps and begin anticipating the innovation now. Let the strategizing and pilot programs begin
To learn more about How Insurers Gain Business Acuity with Google Glass, read the full version of the white paper, Google Glass: Insurance's Next Killer App (PDF). Also visit Cognizant's insurance practice for more insights
1 Explorer Story: Patrick Jackson [through Google Glass], Google Glass, Jan 20, 2014