Would You Sacrifice Privacy for a Lower Auto Insurance Bill?

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- More than 400 insurance providers from around the world are in Des Moines Wednesday for the third annual Global Insurance Symposium.

It's fitting such a large event is happening in Des Moines - according to the Iowa Insurance Division, the insurance industry creates about 100,000 jobs in the state of Iowa, with 25,000 just in the Des Moines area.

"The point of the event is the event is to showcase new ideas and innovation," said Nick Gerhart, Commissioner for the Iowa Insurance Division. "People don't think of insurance and innovation together, but there's a lot of interesting things happening in insurance with innovation. But broadly, it's really an opportunity to discuss issues that are impacting all consumers, all insurance companies."

Attendants heard from the 2016 class of the Global Insurance Accelerator - a group of insurance start-ups working on innovative technology to make insurance more personable for consumers.

One of those six start-ups was Telematic, a group working on smartphone technology that syncs with your vehicle, and tells your insurer about your mobile usage habits while driving. While similar technology already exists within some vehicles, what makes Telematic's software special is that it actually exists within the user's phone, and not only just tracks when you're texting and driving - it can tell how often you simply pick up and set down the phone while behind the wheel.

"Millennials are more willing to give up privacy, and they're the early adopters of usage-based insurance," said Marti Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Telematic. "So, again, if it's done correctly and strategically, as a convenience for the driver, I think we're going to see more people willing to give up their privacy for the convenience factor, and for insurance that is rated, probably at a lower rate, based on driving behavior - especially if you're a good driver."

Of course, this technology would be opt-in with your insurance provider; no one will force you to be spied on by your agent. But as Ryan points out, for safe drivers, proving just how safe you are through a smartphone app could result in a much lower monthly bill.

"It's money," Gerhart said. "That's why people give up privacy - to save money."

Telematic says in the U.S., there's a 10 percent usage rate for consumers with similar technology; as this technology advances, the company expects more Americans to opt-in.

Here's a full list of the six start-ups who pitched technologies to insurance providers today:

  • Smart Drivinc (St. Louis, Missouri): Distracted driving and crash prevention app disables drivers’ cell phones while driving.
  • Fluttrbox (Montreal, Canada): On-demand aerial imaging and mapping application that provides detailed property assessments via aerial drone images.
  • WeSavvy (Dublin, Ireland): Health insurance app that rewards customers with cash off their insurance premium based on physical activity.
  • Telematic (Madison, Wisconsin): Connected car app that offers auto insurance companies the ability to price insurance by monitoring driving and mobile usage.
  • InsuranceSocial.Media (Orange, California): Automated social media marketing software for insurance agents.
  • Isaac RE: Peer-to-peer online insurance marketplace, where investors back policyholders in exchange for underwriting profit.