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CES2020: Big Themes Relevant for P&C Insurance

New SMA Blog by Mark Breading, Partner, Strategy Meets Action

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES) is where the latest TVs, smartphones, and a plethora of smart gadgets of every imaginable kind are introduced and on display. This year the press is breathlessly reporting on the latest in tech that relates to every area of human endeavor, including areas like sports, transportation, beauty, sleep, baby care, learning, fitness, and much more.

There are top themes or top 10 CES innovations articles from every major press outlet – everyone has their own perspective. The reason that I personally attend CES every year is to see the technology innovations and then think about them in the context of the insurance industry. While things like 8K TVs or digital appliances are of interest to all of us, there are many other tech products and advancements that have important implications for P&C insurance. Within that framework, let me present what I believe are the big themes of interest to insurance.

  • Security and Privacy: This might just be the biggest overarching theme of the event. The advent of regulations like GDPR in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), coupled with the intense dialogue in society about these topics, has resulted in many companies coming forward with new or improved products. There were hundreds of new solutions, including those aimed at specific domains like smart homes or connected vehicles, payments, security for personal devices and/or personal digital data, and others focused on areas like the IoT infrastructure. Expect this area to continue to be a big focus as both individuals and businesses grapple with cyber-risk and the issues of data ownership/sharing.
  • The Expanding Mobility Ecosystem: The automotive ecosystem was already complex before the digital age, but now there are increasing numbers and types of companies offering new capabilities and services. As vehicles continue to “become computers on wheels,” the expectation is that occupants will be able to conduct, from their vehicles, every type of digital interaction that they can now do from their office or their living room couch. Look for more details on this in my companion blog, CES2020: Digital In-Car Experiences and Distracted Driving.
  • AI and Voice Everywhere: These technologies were prominent at CES2019, but the tech continues to advance and become embedded in more and more products. Voice is poised to become a dominant way that we interact with the smart, digital world around us. AI is becoming not only pervasive but, in many cases, invisible. The Consumer Technology Association describes it as the Consumerization of AI.
  • Smart Tech for Commercial Vehicles: Just to reinforce what we at SMA have been saying for some time, it looks like connected, autonomous vehicles will have the most practical, real-world applications in commercial vehicles over the next few years. The options for autonomous public transportation vehicles continue to expand, and the use cases in controlled environments are many. Personal automobiles continue to add and enhance automated driver assist systems (ADAS) features and advance up the autonomy levels. But the many challenges of autonomous personal vehicles on the open roads mean that, while the potential is tremendous, the reality is many years away.

There are many other interesting products that insurers should follow, especially those in the health and wellness areas, drones, AR/VR, and others. Each of these areas will influence customers, risks, and operations over time, but the four themes identified above are most likely to have the biggest near-term impact on the industry.

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

After walking a great part of the 2.9 million square feet of floor space, visiting hundreds of booths, and reading countless articles, I’ve come up with a list of my personal favorites from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Some of these may never see the light of day. Others may go on to become big hits. But I’ve chosen these as favorites for their innovation and tech advancement.

  • NEON Avatars: These AI-generated, full-body avatars are virtually indistinguishable from live humans. They are able to interact and display appropriate emotions and movement. Of course, the CES versions were only prototypes, and there are none in real-world use yet, but the potential is not difficult to grasp. There are anticipated uses of avatars in physical settings as bank tellers and airline representatives, along with online use cases for customer service.
  • Segway S-Pod: This is a self-balancing transportation device where the passenger sits in a chair. The device can go up to 24 miles an hour and will be ideal for individuals with limited mobility, especially in restricted domains.
  • Norm Glasses: These are augmented reality glasses that are stylish and look like normal glasses, which may overcome some of the issues with early augmented reality glasses. They have a heads-up display and can be operated via voice commands.
  • Samsung Sero: This is a great example of simple innovation – a TV that automatically flips its orientation to align with your smartphone. Content can be scrolled in vertical mode or viewed in horizontal mode. Content on the smartphone screen will be mirrored on the TV.
  • Medwand: The Star Trek Tricorder is finally here! Medwand Solutions has built a small device that attaches to the body and enables medical professionals to remotely monitor many different vital signs. It can also be used to diagnose many medical conditions. This device could be very useful for the elderly and individuals with chronic diseases.
  • Byton M-Byte: This new car company made its debut at CES two years ago, and I have been fascinated by its evolution since. Production vehicles are now rolling off the line in China, and availability in the US market is planned by the end of 2020. They could become a formidable competitor to Tesla over time since they are EV and autonomous. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the vehicle is it’s human-centric design, with a variety of ways to interact via voice, gestures, and the 48” curved screen across the width of the dashboard.
  • Winston Privacy: This hardware filter sits between the modem and router in a home to protect privacy and filter out unwanted ads. There are many options for digital data privacy in the home, but this one is interesting and stands out for its simplicity.
  • Hydraloop: This refrigerator-sized box purifies and recycles wastewater in the home, re-routing it for use in toilets, gardening, or washing. The claim is that it dramatically reduces the water bill while promoting sustainability.

These are eight that are innovative and, in my estimation, likely to find their way into the market. Others are worth mentioning, some because of their practicality and others just for their quirkiness or the fun factor. Delta announced that they are working with Misapplied Sciences on “parallel reality” signage. Each person viewing a digital billboard will see a customized message, even if 1,000 people are viewing it at the same time. Hyundai and Uber are working on a drone helicopter, with the target of having flying taxis in the air by 2023. Hobot introduced a smart window cleaner, which seems like it would have immediate use cases, especially in commercial settings. The Teslasuit is a full-body suit with gloves for virtual reality applications. I spoke with Teslasuit, and their target is commercial applications, not so much for gaming. SpotOn introduced a smart, virtual fence for pets. And then we have the Charmin Rollbot, which, you guessed it, brings you a roll of toilet paper in your time of need.

There are countless others, of course, including every type of robot imaginable, smart appliances and devices for every room and commercial situation, and products for virtually every aspect of life. CES is always interesting, and it is the place to see the art of the possible. Many of the products probably won’t make it into real-world usage. But many of them will. And those will become important contributors to the digital transformation of our world.

About The Author

Mark Breading, a Partner at Strategy Meets Action, is known for his insights on the future of the insurance industry and innovative uses of technology. Mark consults with insurers and technology companies on forward thinking strategies for success in the digital age. His inventive methods and his ability to incorporate InsurTech and emerging tech into business strategies are unparalleled. Mark also leads SMA’s research program, has overseen the publication of over one hundred research reports, and directed custom research projects for insurer and tech clients. His thought leadership in the areas of InsurTech, emerging technologies, customer experience, and digital strategies has earned him rankings as a “Top Global Influencers in InsurTech” by InsurTech News and Onalytica and a place in the 10 finalists for the “Top Global IoT in Insurance Influencer Award.”

Before joining SMA in 2009, Mark spent 25 years with IBM, where he co-developed IBM’s Account Based Marketing program and led the global project office to implement ABM across all industry verticals worldwide. Mark has held both technical and business roles in sales, consulting, marketing, and business strategy and has advised insurers around the world for almost 30 years.

He is a frequent speaker at industry events; an InsurTech mentor with the Global Insurance Accelerator; and a frequent contributor of articles to Insurance Thought Leadership, Insurance Networking News, LOMA Resource, and many other industry publications.

About SMA

Exclusively serving the insurance industry, Strategy Meets Action (SMA) is an advisory services firm offering retainers, research, consulting, events, and innovation offerings to both insurance companies and solution providers. Learn more about SMA at

SOURCE: Strategy Meets Action (SMA)