How Wearable Technology Is Influencing Your Life Insurance

Wearable technology is becoming increasingly popular and holds great promise in influencing life insurance claims. We took a closer look.
Liezel Wakens
2018-10-02

Insurance companies have been averse to change for a very long time. As such, they have been unrushed when it comes to wearable tech. Since risks are changing, however, it stands to reason that in order for insurance companies to survive, they have to be innovative and build new products to address these changes.

Maybe you are a health-conscious gym bunny that counts their calories on a smartwatch or a gadget-hungry tech-head that wants the simplicity of a fitness tracker within a smartphone. It’s becoming evident that wearable technology is becoming more popular.

According to Statista.com, a 5.2% annual growth increase from wearable technology revenue is expected in South Africa in 2018. This will lead to a $102 million market with user penetration expected to hit 6,2% by 2022.

Let’s break down everything you need to know about wearables.
 

Types Of Wearable Technology

Wearable tech has made our lives easier; it's improving our health and our efficiency. There are various wearables technologies available to suit just about every pocket.

We took a look at three of them that are predominantly used in data collection for life insurance:
 

Smart Watches

Smart watches have been at the forefront of wearable technology since it was first introduced on 7 February 2000. Apart from the fact that they inform users of new messages, emails and social media, they have the ability to turn the most hardened couch potato into the fittest athlete, well, that's the intention.

Smart watches come with a lot of add-ons such as motion sensors and heart rate monitors. Once synced with a smartphone or computer, they are able to share data with life insurance companies. In return, your health stays in check, your premiums are lowered and you get rewarded.
 

Fitness Trackers

Fitness Trackers such as the Fitbit Alta HR and the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro are commonly used when tracking fitness data for life insurance purposes. There has been a lot of hype around the “king” of fitness trackers; Fitbit. For those who are still not in the know, Fitbit is a physical activity tracker that helps you become more active, eat a balanced diet and sleep better.  

Injectable Sensors

Injectable sensors are the newest wearable technology that has taken the world by storm. Their purpose is to track your health via a small sensor that is injected under the skin. One of the most popular wearables is the Dexcom G6. This nifty device tracks your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes, and can tell you when your health is in danger. The need to do a finger prick every day is also minimised as the device has shown accuracy in blood sugar readings when synced with your smartphone.  

How Could Life Insurance And Wearables Work Together?

The use of wearable technology is still in an infancy stage, however, a lot of consumers are starting to see the benefit it has on their life insurance premiums. Wearable tech has the potential of giving you real-time health indicators, and therefore real-time risk profiles.

We chatted to Matt Riley from Indie, and he had the following to say about wearables.
 

Wearable technology has the potential of giving you real-time health indicators, and therefore real-time risk profiles. The potential is there to offer highly customised premiums meaning a much fairer spread of risk and price to all. The big advantage is twofold , clients are informed (and incentivized) about their state of health and more stuff can therefore be prevented or treated before it becomes more serious.

Other benefits of the wearable technology include:  

Lower Your Life Insurance Premiums

Insurance companies are tapping into wearable technology to help their customers stay active and healthy, by doing so your insurance premiums can be lowered considerably based on your risk profile.

Riley agreed with the impact of accurate, real-time and trackable data on your life insurance premiums.
 

For the insurer ,the advantage is that they get ongoing information about the health of the client as opposed to a snapshot at policy inception only. Providers would use that to price more accurately, they couldn't use that to cancel a policyholder's cover for instance once they have been diagnosed with a serious disease, but it may get more expensive. The flip side is as your risk decreases so should your premium.

Patient Engagement

Patient engagement is a key driver in collecting data that will enable life insurance companies to accurately assess your claim. Wearables can provide greater convenience and functionality at a much lower cost. These tools give patients, doctors and insurers the right information at the right time. So, whether it comes to saving a life due to accurate, timely information or assisting at claim stage, accurate information is imperative. 

Improving The Obesity Epidemic

Wearable tech can be used to increase physical activity and health among consumers who are at risk of obesity and other non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. It encourages people to get active even if it is for a short period of time. 

Some people need tangible motivation beyond the reward of simply living longer and feeling better, so yes, it helps encourage healthier behaviour across a broader group.

The Disadvantage Of Using Wearable Technology

Much like a smartphone, wearable tech has its disadvantages, especially in the life insurance sector. Riley agreed that together with the advantages, there are a few downfalls of wearables.   

At the moment, wearable tech can be hacked or cheated to give the impression of activity. In the future, it will more closely be linked to biometric authentication to ensure the user is the person performing the healthy behaviour and delivering the data. Just this month devices like the new Apple watch has EKG and fall detection built into it, which are live signals of one’s health or threat status.

There are various other problems that could possibly impact the customer. 

Inaccurate Data Measurements

Accuracy is one of the top priorities when it comes to wearable tech. A lack of insight from data is a common reason why most consumers ditch their trackers. In the event that you died of a heart attack and there was no data available, there could be a negative impact on your claim in the future.
 

Short Battery Life

Battery life is crucial when it comes to wearable technology, most work in combination with a smartphone or tablet. This means that they need to be charged at least once a day in order for one device to sync with the other.
 

Security

Sharing electronic data raises potential security issues. While it can save on your insurance premiums, unauthorised access to your medical and health data is still a big cause for concern. Many consumers are unaware that poorly managed information can be stolen through a data breach and sold to unscrupulous organisations.
 

As the world evolves technologically, our lives become more dependent on it. With this holding both advantages and disadvantages to our individual lives, we ask, how are you going to be using wearables to improve your life?