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Benefits and Challenges of Wearable Technology in Insurance

The insurance industry has experienced incremental innovation by introducing wearable technology. After years of refinement, evolution, and advancement, the wearable technology has now reached a place of sophistication that we encounter today. Disruptions in wearable technology have brought in an opportunity for us to wear functional, connected, and powerful technologies just like any other accessory. But the first invention of wearable technology was something entirely different. The technology, which back then was as groundbreaking as it may seem today, is not recognized by most from today’s generation. There is a long-ranging story behind the wearable technology, and the past is something we had never thought of. You will not believe the fact that wearable technology first made its entry in the 13th century when eyeglasses were developed. Though now ubiquitous, it was a breathtaking innovation then. Since then, there was no looking back in the advancement of wearable technology. We can trace another invention in the same line from the 16th century - the Nuremberg Eggs. Designed to be worn around the neck, Nuremberg Eggs were widely used until wristwatches came into the limelight. In the 17th century came the ‘Abacus rings,’ which later got replaced by calculators. Over the next few decades, several innovative and noteworthy wearables came into existence, like TV glasses, Pulsar Calculator Watch, and the Sony Walkman. Today we see wearable technology in an altogether different way. Wearables of today pioneer a way to care for our health. Beyond personal well-being, wearables are also paving the way for sectors like healthcare and insurance. The tech space is seeing a lot of buzz due to the integration of wearables and insurance now. Let’s check out how: Wearables: What's All the Hype? Generally, if we ask about wearables, most of us will give a brief description of ‘smartwatches,’ ‘fitness trackers,’ ‘smartphones,’ and so on. For most of us, the meaning of wearables is merely confined to connectivity, which is a myth. We have mentioned a few applications of wearables above already. In the year 2002, the emergence of Bluetooth headsets attracted a lot of eyeballs, thereby making the technology widespread. Since then, a lot of wearables started to come up in the tech space, thus revolutionizing our personal lives like never before. Fitbit, an IoT-enabled wearable, which tracks our activities, sleeping patterns, heart rate, and so on has seen impressive growth in its unit sales over a few years now. In the year 2017, there were more than 15 million devices sold. 11% customers, within the age group between 16 to 24 desire to have wearable technology, today. Apart from activity trackers, we see a lot of other portable devices that monitor the health of senior citizens, infants, and also kids. With connectivity and processing capabilities, sensor-powered smart wearables can examine the onset of sickness also. There are numerous applications of IoT in the market today, ranging from fitness trackers to infant monitoring to smart toothbrushes. The competition has skyrocketed now, which is why several well-known brands are trying to introduce new features, benefiting us significantly. The Upcoming Trend of Medical-Grade Devices We know that there are numerous smart devices, but we want everyone to know that not every wearable is connected to the medical sector. Some wearables collect data on us and display it to us only. But, some brands have understood the importance of this raw data and have come up with IoT-powered products, capable of providing accurate health insights. Let’s take a look at few such applications: Breast cancer has become common amongst women today. Although there exist several tests for detection, most of the deaths are caused due to late diagnosis of the disease. To address the issue of late detection, a wearable which can be worn as a bra insert, developed by Cyrcadia Health, has come into the picture. Embedded with thermodynamic sensors, the wearable collects information on women’s changing body temperature, cellular-activities, and daily norms. The data is then sent to physicians, who can then detect the signs of cancer, if any, and carry out appropriate treatment. Likewise, we know that heart diseases are unpredictable. There is growing anxiety around the same. Traditionally, the only way to detect any flaws related to the heart was to go through an ECG test. But, now easy tests are available to monitor the heart rates. Just by placing fingers on sensors, patients can record their heartbeat rate on their smartphone. The collected data on heart rhythm can then be sent to the concerned doctor. The Benefits of Wearables and Insurance Brands have refined and evolved the wearable technology, offering the additional feature of sharing health insights with doctors. But not only the healthcare sector, but also the insurance sector is seeing the prominence of wearables now. Wearables can collect data on customers, as we know. The data gleaned from wearables will help insurance companies comprehend the customers, their health condition, the risk of mortality, and so on. So, wearables will allow insurance companies to rank insureds from ‘highly under mortality risk’ to ‘healthy,’ based on their health condition. Suitable premiums can then be calculated for the customers based on their real-time health records. Few insurers are using wearables to provide discount schemes and offer to their clients: Oscar, the health insurance company, is offering big rewards to customers if the predetermined goals are met. John Hancock, the insurance company, has now embraced wearables to offer benefits to its customers if they exercise regularly, keep track of health, get check-ups done regularly, and so on. The Concerns of Wearables and Insurance Did you know, the CEO of Fitness-tracker company Misfit, Sonny Vu has some bad news for us. He said, “You don’t know it’s safe – if someone really wanted to hack in and get this data, they could." While there are numerous benefits that wearables hold for insurance companies, there is an increased risk around data security and privacy also. Though the insurance companies or the fitness tracking companies never share their data with third-party vendors, there is always a concern around hackers accessing the data. We have another heartbreaking statement from Robert Hunter who is the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. According to him, “The general move in this direction (integration of wearables and insurance) is good, but it does raise some questions about privacy and transparency.” While the insurance companies wholeheartedly welcome the wearable technology to better access the insured’s health conditions, personalize the premiums, and benefit the company altogether, there are several benefits for policyholders also. As better health leads to lesser money invested in premiums, the clients will take special care and attention to improve their health condition. Hence, when wearables and insurance merge, there arises a win-win situation for both, the insurer and the insured. 

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