- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Mobile on the Move: Applications Growing in Sophistication, Users Growing in Numbers, Regulations Growing in Support

We identified Mobile Technology as one of the major technology trends impacting insurance practitioners in 2012.  The applications are growing and covering a wide range of insurance disciplines.  Demand from customers and distributors is driving  insurers to exploit mobile devices.  Even governments are supportive.  The only wrinkle is a lack of standardized approach.

We recently posted on some of the newer applications, including Progressive’s use of mobile phone cameras to collect data for comparative quotes.  David Schwartz,  VP, product marketing, of Obopay, Inc., notes in a recent Insurance & Technology piece, that banks and telecommunications companies are adopting mobile technology to effect new payment methods.  Schwartz believes that insurers could take advantage of the same technology for field disbursement of payments in claims. “These new mobile technologies when combined with digital payment capabilities can dramatically reduce the cost of issuing claim payments for an insurance company, and improve customer satisfaction by enabling real-time payments that are instantly spendable by the claimant.” Schwartz says.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of smartphone capabilities for managing financial transactions and lawmakers are moving to set appropriate regulations.  This past week, the US House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Credit examined the growing trend of mobile payments (or “m-payments”) that allow consumers to make purchases with their smartphones.  According to C-Span, “During the proceeding, lawmakers touted the technological advances that make it possible for consumers to purchase items in stores using their mobile devices.”

While Canada has lagged behind some other countries in adoption of mobile payments, Canadians’ use of smartphones is growing rapidly, and commentators expect increased use combined with appropriate regulation.  (See commentary from business law firm Osler on the subject.)

One element that could hold back mobile implementations is the debate concerning deployment of functionality using dedicated mobile apps versus using standardized internet-based applications via  browsers.  With mobile apps, the insurer can write custom applications for specific devices.  At the present time, this essentially means writing the application twice:  once for iPad, and once for Android.

The other alternative is to write the application so it runs on mobile browsers.  Since there are a number of such browsers, there is inevitable loss of some functionality.  There are some suppliers that are offering technology to allow a write-once, deploy-to-many strategy, but these still require significant customization.  (See Insurers Look to Streamline Mobile App Development in Insurance & Technology.)

The fact is that consumer demand will force a business standard.   And mobile will continue to move.