Wearables are not just a fad. They’re here to stay and will only become more popular in the coming years, according to a projection by CCS Insight, a market research firm.
In 2020, according to CCS’ analysis, 411 million smart devices, such as Fitbits and the Apple Watch, will be sold at a value of $34 billion. That represents more than a doubling of the sales in 2016.
Employers and insurers have already embraced wearable fitness trackers and other health-related devices as a way to push employees more health-conscious and thus less prone to expensive medical expenses.
Some corporate wellness programs have offered workers discounts on popular devices, such as the Apple Watch, and some have rewarded employees who meet certain fitness goals (as tracked by a wearable device) with lower premiums.
The same technology that has proven valuable for health-monitoring may soon play a big role for other types of insurers.
A new analysis by Quadrant Information Services, which provides pricing analytics to the property and casualty insurance industry, predicts that “telematics” could become a part of the auto insurance business.
Just as wearable devices detect human movement, heart rate, sleep patterns and all other types of vital signs, a device attached to a car that monitors the speed, braking patterns and other indicators of unsafe driving. And if auto insurers are able to assess the likelihood that a driver will have an accident with such technology, it’s almost certain the life insurers will want to get in on that data as well.
There have been even more radical attempts to predict driving behavior based on other seemingly unrelated factors. One insurer recently had to step back from a plan to base auto insurance rates partly on people’s Facebook posts, a proposal that ignited criticism over the privacy implications.
In all cases, whether telematic technology is being used to assess or track health or driving, there are bound to be complaints about invasion of privacy as well as inaccuracy. Indeed, studies of fitness trackers have cast doubt on how well they capture their users’ movements throughout the day.