Internet of Things

Insurance: connected objects for better prevention of occupational diseases

1 December 2015


Insurance: connected objects for better prevention of occupational diseases

Although we are used to seeing more and more connected objects in everyday life, they are also starting to invade the working world. They may not be as spectacular or given as much media coverage, but they are still as effective and offer advantages to both users and companies alike. They can enable insurance companies to be major players in the prevention of occupational diseases.

However, the use of these objects, by insurance companies, requires a number of precautions, particularly in terms of safety and confidentiality.

Connected objects invade the daily life of users, in almost all areas, with more devices already in circulation today than the actual population, and forecasts estimating that this number will rise to seven connected objects per person in 2020 according to the Institute of Studies. In France alone, the phenomenon is impressive: masses of connected objects are designed or manufactured there, and no fewer than 120 French companies, including 66 start-ups, attended CES 2015 in Las Vegas which is considered to be THE high-tech tradeshow.

What about professional use? In reality, these connected objects are not particularly new, as the first versions began to emerge at the start of the 21st century under the more generic idea of an “Internet of Things”, notably with labels known as RFID in the form of smart chips for logistics.

Nowadays, the Internet of Things connects objects to each other and with the IS of the company. The added value of a connected object is not, therefore, in the object itself, but in its interface with the outside world, the data it produces and what it is or could be used for. They pave the way for providing new services and improving existing processes. Other major changes include ergonomics, the maturity of technologies and cost control.

Reducing claims

Professional applications have in fact arrived. We have begun the first experiments on preventing diseases affecting bakers, lorry drivers and indeed other sectors of industry.

Let’s consider bakers for a minute. This profession has very specific health problems. Diseases affecting bakers represent a major challenge as regards pathologies known as “baker’s caries” as well as asthma.

Consequently, bakers, pastry chefs and confectioners, between 18 and 25 years old, have five times as many crowns as other self-employed professions. Between 36 and 40 years old, they have seven times as many complete dentures (prosthetic devices) due to the presence of flour and sugar suspended in the air. This problem may have functional, aesthetic and social repercussions, requiring costly long-term care, and even result in incapacitation.

In summary, a high claim level, substantial costs related to claims and an inability to measure the effectiveness of preventive actions undertaken.

There are clear benefits for the insurer: better management of the actuarial risk, development of policyholder loyalty over the long-term, improved image and appeal. And in the medium term, there should be fewer claims.

Connected objects represent an innovative and relevant solution in this case. Sensors installed in the baker’s laboratory measure the particles suspended in the air, give a warning if there is a risk of asthma and indicate whether it is necessary for workers to brush their teeth. The correct use of the smart toothbrush enables good oral hygiene to be restored as quickly as possible, which is an essential factor in limiting the number and impact of dental claims.

The data collected in a cloud are processed in real-time and can be consulted by the baker on their smartphone using a mobile application or on their smart watch, etc.

The Professional Federation of Bakers and the insurer can therefore compile a set of data enabling them to better understand the actual risks, paving the way for better prevention, better risk coverage and improved professional practices.

Policyholders: a reduction in occupational diseases

For employees or self-employed people, as in the case of bakers, there are numerous potential advantages. The first is to make the employee play an active role in prevention by raising awareness about their work place. He or she can then improve their professional practice by reducing their exposure to the risk.

Insurer: a reduction in the cost of claims by at least three-fold

For the insurer, this effective prevention will make it possible to reduce by at least three-fold the claims for bakers who observe the guidance related to oral hygiene. Other benefits are also expected: better management of the actuarial risk thanks to actual knowledge about risk exposure levels, development of policyholder loyalty over the long term, and creation of a positive image thanks to this active and connected prevention.
Also worthy of note are the prospects for improving social dialogue with a reassuring device made available to employees, reducing absenteeism and even decreasing the number of those leaving the profession due to incapacitating asthma.

The technology helps policyholders and insurers on the path to achieving better health. In the medium term, there should be fewer claims.

Invaluable expertise…

The use of these connected objects requires both real technical expertise and numerous precautions.

On a technical level, comprehensive expertise is necessary with the need to integrate both the safe capture and transmission of data. A technological and application context requiring mobility, Big Data, Cloud, predictive analysis and safety… not to mention command of the objects themselves.

This connected ecosystem is itself becoming a new counterpart for the insurer’s IS.

Protecting personal data and safety

In this type of application, it is essential to protect personal data: there can be no question of using connected objects for the sole purpose of improving economic performance or of linking the risks to those who work in controlled areas. The aim of “localised” knowledge is not to personalise the insurance response, but to assist the policyholder in their preventive actions.

It is therefore important to guarantee the safety of the connected objects and ensure that the data produced is used correctly.

For an insurer, connected objects can therefore be a means to improve services and, ultimately, reduce claims on the proviso that the safety of connected objects is managed, that we don’t fall into the trap of hyper-personalisation and that the protection of the policyholder’s personal data is guaranteed.

Computer Science, Robots and Artificial Intelligence have been my passion since the 80’s. Thanks to Moore’s law and the great work of researchers all over the world, I’m happy now to deliver IoT and A.I. projects to our customers and to advise on those topics.
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