NeuroPace’s responsive neurostimulation system, or RNS, is a medical device that is surgically implanted in the skulls of people suffering from seizures. An installed RNS analyzes the patient’s brainwaves in real time to invisibly monitor for and prevent seizures. In its first year of use, it has been shown to reduce instances by 44 percent.

The RNS is not something from science fiction. It is one of a growing number of technologies that combine robotics, artificial intelligence, and connected devices to bring a new level of technological sophistication to the physical world. Such tools will have huge implications for the life insurance industry.

The creation of these innovations is driven by the need to push intelligence to the edge of the network. Current projections suggest that devices and smart sensors enabled by the Internet of Things will generate at least 500 zettabytes of data by 2020. Executing all the computation needed to turn that data into insight in the cloud will be inefficient. To realize the promise of the Internet of Things—to transform it to the Internet of Thinking—businesses must push event-driven analysis and decision processing closer to points of interaction and data generation.

This creates a need for special-purpose, customizable hardware at the edge of a network for cases where it is impractical or inefficient to send all the data into the cloud for processing.

The insurance industry broadly grasps the implications of this trend. Eighty-four percent of insurance executives surveyed for the Technology Vision for Insurance 2018 report agreed that businesses must balance cloud and edge computing to maximize IT agility and enable intelligence anywhere. Eighty-two percent agree that the next generation of intelligent solutions is moving into physical environments.

Life insurers looking to unleash the true potential of the digital age will take a keen interest in such hardware. Indeed, some already are taking steps in this direction.

Groupama, the French multiline insurer, offers a service called Noe for seniors who live alone. Noe uses a fall-detection wristband to identify an emergency and then alerts a helpline service and designated care giver automatically.

It is very easy to imagine other Internet of Thinking technologies which are relevant for life insurers. Customers with strong allergies could be monitored and automatically treated for life-threating reactions by smart devices, for instance.

But finding the right use cases for such solutions and building them will not be straightforward. Life insurers will need to avoid the mindset that tells you “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. Cloud computing offers important advantages over “intelligence at the edge” in some circumstances. Recognizing where computing power should be architected to the edge will be as important as knowing the best way to do so.

As life insurers consider the future of the Internet of Things, they should ask themselves three important questions:

  1. Does your business ‘architect to the edge’ today? Should it? Technical architects are the gate-keepers to the realm of product and service possibilities. Ensure at least some of your technical architects are trained in the latest hardware accelerator technologies and are encouraged to use them in new designs. Challenge them to architect systems where the cloud is only used for the most computing- and storage-intense parts of your operations.
  2. What new products/services can you deliver without using the cloud? Which projects have you altered because sending data to the cloud was too costly or slow? Revisit these projects and consider using processing power on the edge of your network to perform the work.
  3. Is it time to use hardware accelerators for your business? Companies that struggle with scaling services that require immense processing power are finding paths forward by using hardware accelerators like field (re)programmable gate arrays and application-specific integrated circuits. These specialized tools can unlock new levels of computing efficiency.

As we’ve seen over this series, technology is creating important new opportunities for life insurers. For forward-thinking organizations, there’s a unique window here to work with governments, partners in other industries, customers, and regulators to maximize the opportunities of a world where technology has become invisible in, and indivisible from, people’s daily lives.

Those life insurers able to seize this opportunity will unlock value for their shareholders and their customers.

Yet this moment is not just about profits and efficiencies. The life insurance winners of tomorrow are not only ensuring their survival in a world where traditional business models are threatened by new digital competitors. They are also about helping to improve the quality of human life, to the benefit of everyone in the ecosystem.

To read the full Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2018, on which this series of posts was based, head here. Or, to continue the conversation about how technology is changing life insurance, feel free to contact me.

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