With Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot speaker systems amongst the most popular gifts under the Christmas tree last month, speech recognition and voice control has taken a big step closer to becoming mainstream. What would have appeared cutting edge technology only a few short years ago is now available to households everywhere, at consumer prices. We can now control our homes using our voices. Feeling a bit cold? Ask Alexa to turn up the heating. Shuffle your music, set an alarm, order groceries or consult the internet. We can do all of this and more with our voices and now it seems that our voices can also help in diagnosing our symptoms and reveal if we have an illness.
The story of Lemonade’s “world record” three second claim caused me to reflect on a number of ‘legaltech’ issues that flickered across my screen in the last month or so. Firstly the launch of the ‘smart Will’ by Legacy: downloadable to your smartphone for £5 per month. Legally irrelevant without the hard copy and ‘wet’ signature duly witnessed and expensive to boot where an old fashioned (effective) will can be obtained for just a few months’ worth of fees. But that said it does show where the law may be struggling to keep up with the virtual world. An e-probate that supplied the password to your next of kin for your vast Apple iTunes library of content would get around the “virtual” problem that was worrying Bruce Willis in 2012.
There is huge public interest in the issue of driverless cars with Rory Ceglan-Jones reporting from the driving seat of a BMW at the CES Tech Show in Los Angeles on BBC News last week. The huge investment of not only the traditional manufacturers but also the “tech” companies demands a regulatory response at several levels and the UK Government (with DfT leading) has been at the forefront of recognising the need to change, the opportunities of a safer motor environment and the economic opportunities that arise from encouraging the adoption of the technology.
Risk pooling has always been a tough sell – it is hard for the majority of members who are providing the pool of funds for the few that do suffer an event to focus on the value of the peace of mind purchased by the premium. For the consumer, insurance is a pretty remote value proposition (as they no doubt say in “sales”), a grudge purchase that is infrequent. These issues do feed through to reputational issues for the industry and a long term project to inform the public about the value of insurance was recommended by the Insurance Fraud Taskforce last year. This is a very big project and changing attitudes and understanding will take years and will no doubt be set back by every piece of poor press that so easily re-enforces misinformed stereotypes.
We are all aware that the world is becoming more connected. It is estimated that there will be around 26 billion internet connected devices worldwide by 2020 –a large proportion of which are related to health and healthcare. According to research – students are spending between 9 – 10 hours per day ‘engaged’ with their mobile device managing their banking, fitness and retail in addition to communication. If we are relying more and more on our devices to manage our lifestyle, including our health, what are the risks?
It’s no secret that technology is moving at a faster pace than ever before but are insurers able to keep pace with the emerging risks associated with the adoption of new technologies?
Households, vehicles and smart phones rely on new technology obtained from manufacturers abroad via lengthening supply chains and new legislation opens up potential liabilities for all involved. One must question whether traditional policies and exclusions are fit for purpose.