Highlights from the Insurance Telematics USA conference

Highlights from the Insurance Telematics USA conference

Representatives from the world’s top telematics and insurance companies arrived in Chicago for the first annual Insurance Telematics USA conference, hosted by Telematics Update. The conference highlighted the opportunities and challenges within the burgeoning field of insurance telematics. Keynote speeches were complemented by demonstrations and product announcements in the Exhibition Hall.

Insure Telematics

Insure Telematics introduced MiDriveStyle, a rating device that transforms vehicle use data into detailed driver profiles. Insurers can use these profiles to offer flexible personalized premiums. The device also communicates with customers by way of simple images. Traffic lights alert customers to the behavioral factors that affect premiums, and a water basin drains each time drivers expend some of their premium. Insure Telematics piloted the solution in South Africa before introducing it to the global market. “It’s a beautiful time to be in this market,” says Insure Telematics founder, Johan Van der Merwe. “Telematics is going to drive the next wave of innovation in the short-term insurance industry.”


Zoomsafer announced the commercial availability of MobileSafer, a safe driving solution designed for mobile professionals. The smartphone software eliminates the temptation to text, email, or browse while driving with a “safe drive mode” that automatically turns on whenever users connect their BlackBerries with their in-vehicle Bluetooth systems or accessories. The software doesn’t stop the smartphone from connecting to in-vehicle hands-free services and accessories, and 911 calls can still be placed. Zoomsafer also announced a discount partnership for MobileSafer with AAA of Northern California, Nevada, and Utah.

Towers Watson says insurance telematics on the rise

Telematics applications are becoming increasingly important for auto insurers, both in the US and abroad. Fleet operators are harnessing the power of vehicle telematics not only for basic tracking, but for applications in vehicle routing, fuel expense reduction, accident response, stolen vehicle recovery and improved safety, according to global professional services company Towers Watson. The technology is also helping insurers gain a competitive advantage through enhanced pricing sophistication and loss cost reduction. “When telematics is used to verify annual mileage, use classifications and garaging addresses, insurers can collect adequate premiums on misclassified risks, increasing profitability by several points and, in some cases, allowing lower rates for new business,” said Alex Laurie, a Towers Watson consultant. “Through innovative product offerings, whereby pricing is based on how much, when, where and how vehicles are driven, telematics holds the potential to revolutionize auto insurance pricing.”

Trimble launches DriverSafety

As part of its fleet safety initiative, Trimble introduced Trimble® DriverSafety solution, a stand-alone solution designed to provide real-time feedback on unsafe maneuvers to drivers and a comprehensive safety picture to safety managers and fleet operation teams. “The purpose [of DriverSafety] is not only to help fleets become safer, more efficient and productive, but to allow companies to better partner with their insurance providers to reduce risks,” said Rick Beyer, vice president of Trimble’s Mobile Solutions segment. “Trimble’s DriverSafety solution enables organizations to actively reduce hazardous driver behavior, which can lead to reduced costs associated with vehicle accidents and negligence suits. It also promotes behaviors that can increase fuel efficiency and further reduce fuel expense and environmental impact.”

In-Drive finds traction

Hughes Telematics announced it has secured client relationships with three industry leaders, including two Fortune 100 companies, for its In-Drive aftermarket solution. As a self-installed solution, In-Drive’s portfolio of services ranges from emergency response and family monitoring services to diagnostics and driver behavior data services. In-Drive was designed with the flexibility to provide connected services across multiple industries. The new clients include leading companies from the automotive insurance, motor and travel assistance, and financial services industries.

Walking Navigation

Google unveiled Walking Navigation, a service that combines walking directions with GPS navigation in Google Maps for Mobile. The service, still in beta, is available for smartphones on the Android Platform. When walkers arrive at a turn, the smartphone will vibrate and offer voice guidance if the user wishes. Integrating Street View, walkers can see a digital preview of where they’re headed. Integrating Google Maps, walkers can search for nearby points of interest and pinpoint their exact locations.

Apple opens its doors to developers

Apple eliminated the App Store policy that required outside developers to use Apple programming tools in designing apps for iTunes. The company issued new criteria for what makes an app—whether targeted at location-based services or mobile advertising—appropriate for Apple. The criteria include such measures as providing some form of lasting entertainment and delivering content that isn’t “over the line.” The US Federal Trade Commission was in the process of investigating antitrust complaints against Apple. The Commission is yet to respond to Apple’s decision.

OnStar for free

GM hinted that it would roll out a “freemium” version of OnStar in 2011. The plan will include some apps and features for free; upgrades and installation of the hardware will come with a fee. Basic navigation services and maps are expected to be among the free apps and features, due to the high volume of free navigation apps already available on smartphones. OnStar in the past has been a subscription-only service, but pressure from other automakers, especially Ford and its modestly priced Sync service, has forced GM to reconsider.

Charging stations go mobile

At the Vehicular Technology Conference in Ottawa, a team of researchers from Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, unveiled a novel solution to the electric vehicle challenge: mobile charging stations. EV drivers become anxious when they are not sure where the closest charging station is or how long they have until their batteries die. Telematics solutions can help relieve some of this anxiety by providing accurate information about battery life, range, and closest stations.

The Mitsubishi Electric team says the mobile charging stations provide a second solution. Individual drivers won’t tote the stations around in their trunks; instead, a company will own the mobile stations and move them to wherever the demand for recharging is at its peak. The vehicles will regularly report back to a central database that determines where they’re needed most. The team forecasts that fives stations will cover approximately 100 kilometers of highway. Development is already under way.

We will be organising an Insurance Telematics show in Europe in April 2010. Contatct Ruthana Foulkes at [email protected] for more information.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

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