Q&A: The Floow’s take on smartphone UBI

Q&A: The Floow’s take on smartphone UBI

Andrew Goldby is the chief product officer at The Floow, a global, fast-growing provider of telematics systems related to driver behavior and safety.

He is an experienced and respected insurance industry executive, as well as a qualified actuary, with a deep knowledge of industry issues garnered from his many years of participation on the Association of British Insurers’ Motor Committee and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau’s Levy Committee.

At The Floow, Goldby is responsible for working with customers to provide the ideal fit of the company’s telematics systems with the business needs of the motor insurers, carmakers and fleet managers who use them.

He spoke to Telematics Update’s Siegfried Mortkowitz about The Floow’s smartphone application for UBI insurance.

What is your company’s business model?

The concept of The Floow is to take data from any source and develop scores for drivers, and to enable all drivers, whether on low or high premiums, to maintain or even lower their premiums and improve their driving ability. We are device-agnostic and provide our service through a dongle, a black box, a smartphone paired with a device or just the phone itself.

Our smartphone app does exactly what our dongle and black box do – gathers data on driving and sends it back to our server. We analyze the data and provide it back to the app in a number of scores, six scores in all. These include the total score; a score rating how smoothly the person drives; their speed, both as an absolute figure in itself as well as compared to the speed of other drivers and … the speed limit; the level of fatigue, the risk based on the time of day; and the level of distraction.

For the comparative speed score, we have been given access to data from government sensors on major roads on how fast people drive, which we use in conjunction with data that we have collected. The level of fatigue is determined by how long the driver has been behind the wheel. Distraction level is based on the level of the user’s interaction with the phone, both to make calls while driving [and] to physically interact with it to send texts or e-mails.

There are many UBI smartphone apps on the market. What makes yours unique?

We have a very good start/stop function in our app, an auto start, which turns the app on when it notices a change in its signaling – for example, when the driver has moved between cell phone towers or lost the Wi-Fi connection. That means it could start as early in the journey as when you back out of your driveway.

If you don’t have a quality stop/start function, you don’t gather enough data to process. If the user forgets to push the button and you’ve missed a journey, you don’t get anything. And there will be a selection effect when the driver chooses to turn on the app only for a long motorway journey with few turns and few braking opportunities.

Once we have the data, our servers can identify different types of journeys and automatically tag journeys as plane, train, car, etc., with a very high degree of accuracy. Also, one of our management team is Lisa Dorn, who is research director at DriverMetrics, [reader in driver behavior] at Cranfield University and the godmother of driver psychology. She helps our team gather data and hypothesize which scores will predict bad drivers and high risks. [She also] helps us and the insurer present the feedback in a way that helps drivers.

How do you compensate for some of the smartphone’s potential weaknesses, such as battery drain and verification of data and user?

In regard to battery time, our app has a very light touch when the phone is not on a journey, about 0.5% of battery life per hour. When the driver is on a journey, we collaborate with the insurer to arrive at a trade-off between the amount of data gathered by accelerometer and gyro, and the drain on the battery. Basically, the insurer can choose how much they want to impact the battery and the resultant frequency of data gathering.

Regarding data verification, there are some things you can tell and some you can’t. You can tell the difference between a car journey and one by train, plane or on foot. It’s harder if you take the app into a taxi. There are driving footprints, such as how a driver accelerates and brakes, but the difference between a driver’s good day and bad day is sometimes greater than if someone else is driving or if he went by taxi.

What added value does the insurer get from your app?

We give a range of scoring components to insurers and allow them to tailor them to their needs. For example, DLG doesn’t use every score we provide and tweaks others for its own purposes. Using the same data provided by us, you would see different scores derived from that data by AIG and DLG, depending on how they use it.

In addition, some insurers use our app as a try-before-you-buy to establish a premium, and then use driving data accumulated to set a new premium the next year. Other insurers are using it to change premiums throughout the year, as the driver collects good points.

We will soon be able to provide accident data with our app. A smartphone is not quite as good as a black box, or any device attached to the chassis, in providing a picture of an accident. However, we are working on being able to move the accident identification from the back end to the phone itself in order to enable more real-time accident notifications. We’re just months away from that. The problem is that our telematics policyholders are not having many accidents because our app is producing better drivers. So there’s not much data to go on yet.

It seems as if the app is changing the insurer-insured relationship.

It is. For one thing, it helps to build up trust between the company and the customer. Traditionally, consumers think the companies are asking for too much money, and insurance companies think that drivers make false claims and drive badly. In reality, this perception is based on experiences of a small minority of both. Our app allows the user to tag journeys which, for whatever reason, he does not want included in the scores. This would include, for example, journeys he or she took in a taxi or bus. This feature lets the insured person be in control and shows that the insurer trusts him. This can engender the same feelings in reverse.

In addition, the relationship is changing from a once- or twice-a-year relationship to something more regular, where feedback is provided constantly to improve driving and fuel economy as well as [to] reduce premiums. And the insurer can be perceived as a helping hand throughout the year.

Siegfried Mortkowitz is a regular contributor to Telematics Update.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics Europe 2014 on May 6-7 in London, Data Business for Connected Vehicles Japan 2014 on May 14-15 in Tokyo, Telematics India and South Asia 2014 on May 28-29 in Bangalore, India, Insurance Telematics Canada 2014 on May 28-29 in Toronto, Telematics Update Awards 2014 on June 3 in Novi, Michigan, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, Advanced Automotive Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan, Insurance Telematics USA 2014 on Sept. 3-4 in Chicago, Telematics Japan 2014 in October in Tokyo and Telematics Munich 2014 on Nov. 10-11 in Munich, Germany.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Insurance Telematics Report 2014Connected Fleet Report 2014The Automotive HMI Report 2013 and Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013.

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