At the global conference in Davos earlier this year, Accenture released its findings on the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), and how the incursion of constant data collection into our homes and lives will create opportunities for all sorts of businesses, including insurance (have a look at John Cusano’s blog series ( for the details).

On a similar subject, the Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2015 looks at the emerging IT developments that will have the greatest impact on insurers in the next three to five years. Topping the list is “The Internet of Me,” which is changing the way people around the world interact through technology, placing the end user at the center of every digital experience. Another trend is “The Intelligent Enterprise,” embedding software intelligence into every aspect of business to drive efficiency and innovation.

From both of these pieces, the message is clear: More devices are collecting more data about more people than ever before possible in our human history.

Yes, this represents big opportunities. But it also means increased risk: not in just the obvious way, as hackers and identity thieves find more opportunities to steal our stuff, but in more subtle areas, such as increasing concerns about privacy and what businesses do with that data.

In a recent IoT study of American consumers by Harris Poll and NXP Semiconductors, 81 percent said their concern for privacy impacts their decision whether to invest in a smart home device, connected workspace gadget or connected car.

And they’re right to be concerned. It’s one thing for businesses to collect data for specifically stated reasons, such as the black boxes used by car insurers to collect driving data that could affect premiums. But what of the torrent of data that’s being compiled on us without regulation or our tacit permission by Google, Facebook, and other social media?

I believe that the next big thing in data analytics won’t relate to how it’s collected, but how it’s purposed. Collecting data for a specifically stated purpose is the overarching concept that sooner or later will drive the activities of all participants in the data lifecycle/ecosystem.

The NXP study is suggestive of how public perception of data collection is trending. We’re beginning to emerge from the “Wild West” phase of social media and digital disruption – where everyone shared data and nobody worried about laws – into a time when people will be demanding to know how the data they’re so willingly giving up is being used.

This means our current approach to data collection and use will be turned on its ear. Instead of individuals having to search for and figure out how to protect their data and reputation, the burden of proof should reside with those who would seek to collect the data—including the insurance industry.

Next time I’ll take a closer look at how insurance can focus beyond simple data collection and analytics to take advantage of the shifting risks they represent.

Read more on this topic by downloading the Beyond insurance: Embracing innovation to monetize disruption report.

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