Issue: Sep 2014


Agero makes a major product announcement in the telematics category at the Insurance Telematics Conf



Automotive Industries speaks to Jeff Blecher, senior VP of strategy, Agero, Inc

by John A. Larkin

The Massachusetts-based Agero, Inc, a leading provider of vehicle and driver safety, security and information services, will be unveiling its latest mobile usage based insurance (UBI) platform at the 2014 Insurance Telematics Conference being held from the 3rd to the 4th of September, 2014 in Chicago. The new platform will provide a holistic UBI solution by introducing two new important mobile applications: PolicyPal, which tracks driving habits in real-time, and Auto Crash Notification (ACN), which automatically notifies emergency services within moments of an accident occurring.

Usage-based insurance programs are predicted to grow dramatically over the coming years. Traditionally, insurers have favored hardware dependent OBD-II solutions to record driving behavior. However, due to dependence on expensive hardware, such systems have been slow to adopt. With battery performance improvements, and mass adoption of smart phone technologies, insurers are increasingly turning to smartphone-based apps as a means of avoiding these hardware expenses. Additionally, mobile apps are significantly easier to update when enhancements and new features are added.

 

Agero’s mobile telematics platform will address the important challenge as UBI programs switch from embedded OBD-II devices to mobile app and cloud-based solutions. This is the latest addition to the company’s suite of insurance products and offerings. “Mobile UBI is game changing to the industry, I believe it could enhance insurance underwriting the same way credit score did in the nineties,” commented insurance industry analyst Richard Watts in an Agero press statement. “If so, the insurance providers adopting UBI the fastest will be at an advantage. Furthermore auto crash notification, as part of the package makes good business sense to the insurer and could save lives.

 

“We are excited to once again be participating in North America’s largest insurance telematics event,” said Dave Ferrick, President and CEO of Agero in a press release. “As a leader in claims management and security and information services, Agero understands the importance of UBI and we aim to transform the insurer-insured relationship by delivering key technology innovations for mobile solutions in this space.”

 

Agero’s innovative mobile telematics platform will provide UBI predictive analytics that uses mobile device sensors on the smartphone to track driver behavior in real-time, such as how often and far a policyholder drives; how hard they brake or accelerate; if they travel during peak urban traffic hours; and more. By having this data, insurers are able to precisely tailor a driver’s insurance premium to match their specific risk levels. In addition, using Agero’s ACN technology, the mobile device is able to determine the severity of impact in an incident and can respond by contacting emergency responders, designated personal contacts, and the insurer, while utilizing Agero’s years of experience in Accident Scene Management and proven national network of Service Providers.

 

Agero’s Vice President of Product Development, Julian Bourne, will present a keynote discussion at the Insurance Telematics Conference on the impact of mobile solutions on UBI programs. Mobile solutions have long been considered for UBI, with ongoing controversy over the accuracy of the data they collect. Julian Bourne’s insights and observations will dispel many misconceptions and uncover emerging truths as Bourne will discuss issues such as whether ‘noise’ created by smartphones collecting data when the insured is a passenger (or on public transport) can be eliminated in order to accurately define the driver population? How mobile crash notification combined with the filing of claims “on-the-go” through mobile apps will accelerate the claims process and improve customer satisfaction? And understanding the VAS suite deemed relevant to UBI (such as vehicle diagnostics – e.g., checking the engine light to determine the mobile solution’s ability offer these services).

Additionally, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Jeffrey Blecher, will participate in a panel session about the future of mobile apps as they relate to vehicle insurance providers. He will discuss the future of apps and how they will impact small insurance carriers. Specifically, Jeffrey will explain how apps and consumers go hand-in-hand, compare and contrast smartphone OBD-II data, and how to substantiate smartphone UBI data with traditional proxies.

Agero is confident that its latest technology will transform the insurer-insured relationship by building more trust between the insurance company and the driver. With automatic crash notification, drivers have confidence in knowing that their insurance provider is alerted to an accident and are available to walk the driver through the entire claims process. Furthermore, by tracking driving habits in real-time, drivers have assurance that their premiums are based on their personal driving behavior instead of general industry-wide standards. Agero’s holistic solution promotes improved driving behavior, while reducing driver risk and insurance premiums. Additionally, it provides a safety net for those unavoidable times when accidents happen through assistance with emergency services, along with our accident management services, which reduce claims costs and get drivers back on the road faster.

 

Automotive Industries spoke to Jeff Blecher, senior VP of strategy, Agero, Inc.

 

AI: What impact will your latest insurance app have on the vehicle insurance industry?

PolicyPal gives carriers a predictive analytics solution that provides a comprehensive view into their customers’ driving behavior. It has been designed to impact carriers – and their customers – in a number of positive and significant ways.

It provides the tools and insights carriers need to determine more precise pricing decisions ­– while at the same time increasing consumer engagement and retention. Agero’s advanced driver-scoring algorithms identify the degree of driving risk for each user, and can also help carriers in identifying desirable prospects or streamlining renewals.

Unlike other apps on the market, PolicyPal is designed to improve driver safety by eliminating engagement on the road. It operates in the background, allowing a driver to stay focused while also minimizing battery drain.  

In addition, Agero’s advanced algorithms determine the type of vehicle being used, can differentiate driver from passenger, and even differentiate automobiles from boats, trains, bikes, and other forms of transportation.

 

When combined with our roadside assistance services and our auto crash notification app, which automatically identifies an accident and reaches out for emergency support, Agero is now able to offer insurance clients, and their consumers, a holistic solution that not only helps drivers become better drivers, but in the unfortunate case that they do end up in an accident or have an maintenance issue with their vehicle, we’ll be there to support them to keep them safe and get them back on the road. 

 

Our goal is to help our insurance clients engage with their policyholders, building trust and loyalty, which will ultimately drive increased retention and improved lifetime value.

 

AI: Walk us through the benefits of mobile UBI as opposed to OBD-II based UBI – what kind of cost-savings are involved with the former?

One of the key benefits of a mobile UBI solution versus an OBD-II solution is that it can be much more easily deployed to the mass market with its attractive economics. Without the costs of hardware, telecom, inventory, packaging, distribution and returns management, a mobile app can be deployed at much lower cost.

In addition, mobile apps have the opportunity to be much more engaging for the user, providing contextual driver coaching, rich data analysis, and gamification. They also allow for a broader array of data capture, such as identifying phone usage while the vehicle is in motion.

AI: What are the privacy issues of UBI that may put off vehicle-owners and how will they be addressed?


Because vehicle owners do not like to feel as if they are simply being monitored, the solution has to give value back to the user. Agero’s UBI solution offers a number of clear and ongoing driver benefits. All are designed to increase customer engagement. These include customized real-time feedback of personal driving skills, personalized driving and safety tips, automatic crash notification, and roadside assistance that includes real-time service response tracking.  In addition, vehicle-owners have to feel empowered with control of their data. We believe owners should have a “bill of rights” around their data, and have the ability to choose what data they want to share with their insurance carrier, understanding the tradeoffs between sharing data and potential insurance savings.

AI: What are some of the features of PolicyPal and Auto Crash Notification that make them fool-proof and effective?

Because the apps run discretely in the background (which minimizes battery drain) their effectiveness does not require any engagement on the driver’s end.

 

Drivers are free to engage with PolicyPal as much or as little as they like with no bearing on key data collection. Agero’s ACN is also designed to be foolproof: technology automatically determines when a severe impact occurs, records the exact location and swiftly initiates post-accident emergency notifications and safety protocols.

 

One of the challenges of mobile solutions is that the solution has to understand the context of the users’ behavior to make the right decision. For example, did the user just drop the phone, or was the phone in a car accident. Our data scientists work extensively with machine learning techniques to constantly improve our algorithms to make the solution as effective as possible while eliminating false alarms. While not perfect, the benefits of these technologies is that they self-correct and get better over time.   

 

AI: How is the insurance industry likely to respond to your latest offering?

We believe the industry will embrace these breakthroughs, since they offer safety features that we have not yet seen in market. We also feel that our timing is right, as insurance companies are now beginning to seriously invest in UBI and realize the importance of mobile UBI solutions.


Another reason we’re optimistic is that our 40 years of experience offering enterprise solutions that focus on safety and security has helped make Agero’s mobile platform a uniquely holistic approach to assessing driver risk while keeping drivers safe on the road.

AI: How will it impact smaller insurers?


Very positively, for a simple economic reason: The significant cost savings of not having to depend on an OBD-II device should prove very appealing to smaller insurers. In addition, Agero’s UBI app is designed to be a white label product, allowing smaller insurers to easily leverage their existing brand equity with customers through customized app interfaces.

AI: Tell us a little about the development process of behind Agero’s latest UBI.

 

Agero has spent millions of dollars with a dedicated technology and product development team on building our telematics product suite. The solution is not simple and requires a broad skill set including product managers, application engineers, sensor experts, data scientists, UI designers, big data architects, performance engineers, and data security specialists, just to name a few. We have setup dedicated testing labs that focus on data quality and algorithm tuning.  It’s a painstaking process, and the job is never done. We have an exciting roadmap of future enhancements and new features that we’re excited to bring to the market over the coming year… stay tuned!

 



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