Will Smartphones be the Only Technology Needed by Claims Personnel?
Insurance Experts' Forum, November 21, 2011
Insurance field personnel need to be equipped with effective tools that allow them to quickly and accurately record and report the situations and events with which they are concerned. An adjustor at a catastrophe site, for example, must be able to make both photographic and written records of what they encounter with regard to damages and possible claims.
While such personnel would most likely bring a laptop to the site, other tasks, like taking photos, might require other devices. That may be changing, however, as vendors are now producing dozens of inexpensive smartphone attachments that can easily convert a mobile phone into a mini-professional camera, The New York Times reports.
These products include zoom, fisheye and ultra-up-close macro lenses—all designed to snap onto a smartphone and make photos look as if they were shot with an expensive single-lens reflex camera, says the article. One popular product is a kit of three lenses, for $50, which will work with most smartphones. The kit includes a fisheye lens to capture wide-angle images, a macro lens for close-up detail shots and a telephoto lens for objects or people far away. The lenses can also be purchased individually for $20 to $25.
It would seem that Internet-connected devices with such capability would be a real blessing to the field worker. Of course, without the laptop, typing up reports on a tiny device could be a task suitable only for those with very talented thumbs. Then again, smartphone enthusiasts would counter that newly-developed voice recognition technology could enable the worker to simply speak his or her report into the device. The real question here would be the accuracy of the speech recognition software—always a problem, but even more so where critical facts and figures are involved.
My gut tells me that eventually our field personnel will go into the fray with a single device, whether it be a smartphone or a tablet. The tablet, perhaps with a virtual keyboard, seems more suitable for inputting documents, assuming you don’t yet trust the natural language capability available in smaller devices. Still, I would guess that the convenience of toting a single device will eventually win out, especially as the photographic add-ons are further refined and/or built into future versions of smartphones.
In fact, properly equipped devices may also be able to stream live video of the catastrophic event, complete with sound. There can be little doubt that these capabilities will benefit insurance field personnel, and it would seem that the days of sending them out with a single device in hand are not far off.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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