Other parts of this series:
- Blockchain start-ups are training their sights on the insurance industry
- Blockchain could force insurers to radically rethink their businesses
- Major insurers are starting to put blockchain to the test
- Blockchain gains support from technology heavyweights
- Blockchain still needs to clear some big hurdles
While many blockchain start-ups are focused on the banking industry some fledgling firms have set their sights on the insurance sector.
Blockchain is spawning legions of start-ups eager to capitalize on the technology’s potential to substantially improve the efficiency, security and transparency of a wide range of digital transactions.
Fledgling blockchain firms attracted investment of close to half a billion U.S. dollars in 2015, according to researcher CB Insights, and they’re likely to secure greater funding this year. Early innovation has focused mainly on banking applications such as crypto-currencies, digital asset exchanges and smart contracts. The impact of such initiatives, however, is likely to be felt throughout the financial services industry. Digital transactions between insurers, brokers and customers, as well as many back-office applications, look ripe for disruption.
Some start-ups are already looking to shake up the insurance industry and related markets. They include:
SafeShare: This UK firm is using blockchain technology to provide insurance solutions for the sharing economy. It recently teamed up with Vrumi, a start-up that links homeowners with professionals looking to hire workspace, to provide its customers with insurance. SafeShare’s blockchain platform enables it to provide multiple parties with insurance cover at short notice, for varying periods, at competitive rates.
Everledger: Fellow UK start-up, Everledger uses blockchain technology to facilitate the finance and insurance of diamonds. The company claims that its blockchain solution eliminates fraud and protects valuable items such as diamonds by validating their authenticity and ownership. Everledger is looking to broaden the application of its blockchain solution to include the protection of other high-value assets.
SweatCoin and Bitwalking: These UK firms are looking to gain a foothold in the fast-growing wellness market. They are using blockchain technology to encourage people to exercise. Their smartphone apps track the number of steps taken by each of their subscribers. Once subscribers pass pre-determined milestones they are rewarded with digital currency – Sweatcoins or Bitwalking Dollars – which they can use to buy goods at the companies’ on-line stores.
ShoCard: This U.S. start-up is using blockchain technology to produce highly-secure digital identification cards. The company claims its digital IDs can quickly and easily prove the holder’s identity.
Ascribe: Another U.S. firm, Ascribe uses blockchain technology to protect works of art from illicit copying. Its blockchain solution allows artists and writers to create unique copies of their work that can be traded but not replicated.
The diversity of these start-ups shows the flexibility of blockchain technology. A host of new applications are likely to appear in the year ahead. The growing number of blockchain start-ups targeting the insurance industry will accelerate the use of this technology among big insurers as well as newcomers to the sector.
In my next blog post, I’ll discuss some of the emerging blockchain applications that could force insurers to rethink how they do business.