IoT, Edge, and 5G present transformational opportunities

Property and casualty insurers use technology to provide better service for policyholders

by Victor Gallegos, Industry Solutions Specialist, AT&T Business

In this article, we share practical insights that emerged during our conversations with Mark Breading, an expert in advanced technologies and their implications for the insurance industry. A partner at Strategy Meets Action, his specialty areas include customer experience, digital strategy, InsurTech, and transformational technology. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @BreadingSMA.

The property/casualty insurance industry is primarily focused on insuring things and responding when accidents or incidents occur related to those things. Almost every physical thing in the world is subject to exposures that may mandate insurance coverage or, at least, make it highly desirable. These things may be vehicles, property, farms, equipment, pets, or even people. Increasingly, every type of thing imaginable is becoming instrumented with billions of sensors and devices – attached to or embedded in them.

This is the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). And a part of it includes the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in manufacturing and industrial settings. IoT presents tremendous opportunities for insurers and their customers to improve risk management. At the same time, the rapidly increasing number of connection points and related data flows demand edge computing capabilities and 5G capabilities.

A few use-case examples illustrate the power and potential of IoT combined with 5G and edge technologies:


The use of sensors in personal auto or commercial vehicles to collect data and improve vehicle operations is beginning to increase significantly. This data may be collected through sensors embedded with the vehicle, devices plugged into the onboard diagnostics port, or a smartphone in the vehicle. In the early days of this technology, most of the data was assessed after the fact to identify risk factors and was then used for underwriting and pricing. Now, there is an increasing demand for near-real-time solutions related to distracted driving deterrents, claims, trip and route management, and more. The high-volume, low-latency demands of these applications require 5G technologies, and in many cases, artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge is needed as well.

Claims damage assessment

Insurers are rapidly moving to virtual inspections for damaged vehicles – with the policyholder using their smartphone to submit the first notice of loss and related pictures of a vehicle’s damage. The next stage in the evolution of claims damage assessment is using computer vision and machine learning technologies to identify the parts of the vehicle that need to be replaced or repaired, and then generating an estimate based on parts and labor costs. As more insurers use this approach and demand results closer to real-time, the need for 5G and edge computing solutions will increase.

Video intelligence

Many businesses are subject to claims from individuals who become injured while on their premises. Prime examples are tavern or restaurant patrons injured in a fall. The commercial line insurer must determine if a claim is legitimate, who is at fault, and if it is fraudulent. One way to do so is by examining a surveillance camera video after the fact – something that can take hours of manual searching. Near-real-time, AI-based analytics of the video might spot potential fraud immediately, perhaps even before a claim is submitted. However, this requires high bandwidth, purpose-built AI imaging systems to help identify potential fraud and create timely alerts.

Many other use cases can be profiled for video intelligence. These include the use of drones and aerial imagery for emergent situations such as catastrophes and augmented reality for claims adjusters in the field. Smart home devices can monitor and alert for exposures such as water escape, fire, CO2. Break-in and asset monitoring can help manage a large inventory of IoT devices. Video intelligence can also support specific situations such as tracking vehicles in a salvage yard. The list goes on and on.

What all of these use cases have in common is that the IoT devices at the edge generate massive amounts of data that needs to be continuously monitored, analyzed, and acted upon. In some situations, the potential can be tested out in early trials or at low volumes. However, as insurers look to implement solutions for policyholders in large volumes and make smarter, faster decisions, it’s imperative that a robust 5G and edge computing infrastructure be in place to help support the technologies that enable them to provide better service for their policyholders. 

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