Efficient, effective, and quick access to data and applications is key to the success of any computing environment. This truism may be driving the marriage of mobile devices and cloud based applications and data as next generation of insurance technology.
It is clear that the use of smart phones and tablets is growing and Canadians are among the early adopters. In a recent survey (reported in Canada.com) of 34,000 individuals worldwide, including 1,000 in Canada, Global research firm TNS found that 41 per cent of those polled in Canada had a smartphone, compared to 28 per cent worldwide. In regards to tablets, the survey found “seven per cent of Canadians respondents said they had one, compared to five per cent for North America overall (and) Thirty-one per cent of Canadians said they intended to purchase a tablet within the next six months.”
Mobile devices are rapidly becoming a required business tool for many. A survey by Staples found that users are taking to tablets to help balance personal and professional lives and 60 percent of survey respondents say they get more work done using a tablet.
And behind the scenes, cloud computing has matured to the point that data and applications are becoming available on demand. Mary Allen, writing in IT Canada, says: “cloud makes possible the kind of anywhere, anytime connectivity that is prerequisite to the full mobility of our increasingly nomadic workforce.”
So, the infrastructure seems to be maturing, but what does this mean for insurance?
A recent article in Insurance & Technology notes that insurers initially responded to the rise of mobile computing by developing proprietary applications, or ‘apps’ to support marketing, on-line quotes, and claims functions. However, according to Novarica’s Matt Josefowicz, many insurers have found that keeping up with with development for the various operating environments has been a challenge. “Core systems modernization, business intelligence capabilities and other things are taking priority, and the immediate value-add in mobile is less well-defined,” Josefowicz says.
The response seems to be a move to the mobile web. This allows access to applications using a standardized web browser approach. According to the I&T article, “David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at New York-based digital agency 360i, notes that some prominent web properties already are drifting away from the app model for tablets. And as developers get more adept at designing web pages for the unique user experience of a tablet, he adds, there’s less pressure to create downloadable and installable apps.”
As an example, I&T indicates that Farmers Insurance found that a number of customers were using mobile browsers to access the companies normal web applications. As a result, the company is migrating some of its proprietary apps to support web browser access. Farmers manager of e-business projects Michael Leek says “What our downloadable app supports today is a one-time payment feature only. It’s not fully integrated with our account billing system,” he says. “But what we’re working on now is mobile web rather than an app, and the payment features on the mobile web will mimic what we have on the desktop.”
This mimics trends in the past away from proprietary environments to more open systems, what ACORD CEO Greg Maciag referred to as ‘plug and play’ technology in a recent guest blog post here. All of this indicates a rapid maturing of the mobile computing model.