Celent Says

Augmented Reality and Auto Insurance—One Step Too Far?

Catherine Stagg-Macey
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 23, 2012

Growing up, I was fascinated with the TV shows of "Star Trek" and "BattleShip Gallatica." The combination of strange looking aliens, interesting planets, and tele-transportation had me captured. It is perhaps not surprising that I ended up in the field of computer science. And so my inner-geek was intrigued at the news reporting the impending release of Google’s glasses.

The future may be closer than we think with this example of augmented reality features moving into the real world of you and me. (Much can be said about the impact of technology on the consumer when we have to use “real” to describe the world we live in).

Through these glasses, Google will be able to project a wide range of data onto your vision of the world, including advertisements. Using GPS features, the glasses would know where you are in the world and offer up data from your social connections on buildings and businesses around you. Using facial recognition software, the glasses could offer social data about the person in front of you.

The cynic in me rails against the practicalities of this all. Walking down any busy street requires my full attention to ensure my safety from cabs, pick pockets and SMSing locals. How could my mind possibly deal with another stream of data through the glasses overlain on this already busy reality?

And perhaps this is just too much data. Aside from the neurological constraints of the brain processing this volume of information, there are serious concerns from consumer groups about the lack of safe guards. As the Times article notes, American consumer privacy groups are lobbying for the suspension of use of facial recognition software until such a time as adequate safe guards are in place. And quite rightly so.

In the world of insurance telematics, there is huge interest, if little current evidence, that the mobile phone could take on the role of the blackbox device in future propositions. Google glasses could play a similar role in telematics as the device offers many of the features of a smartphone. This could be an example of one technology leap-frogging another in its application.

Even if you are uncomfortable with my "Star Trek" proposition of glasses as a telematics device, as an industry, we need to recognise that this will be another marketing channel to our personal lines customers. This presents an opportunity of the most personalised form of marketing available. As insurers get a handle on marketing in digital channels, understanding the value of marketing in augmented realities will be next.

But for you, like it is for me, this may well be too much information. For the moment, I will forego opportunities of augmented reality and stick with mere reality. And maybe catch-up on old episodes of "Star Trek."

This blog has been reprinted with permission from Celent.

Catherine Stagg-Macey is a senior analyst in Celent's insurance practice, and can be reached at cstagg-macey@celent.com.

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The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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