Archive for April, 2016

5 Ways IoT is Changing Insurance

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

You may appreciate IoT – for insurance, and you may not. Whatever you may think about the Internet of Things (IOT), generally, insurance industry experts think that the IOT will have significantly impact your insurance products, risk pools, loss control, data collection, and sharing of information. For those of you who aren’t so sure about it, here are some of the best things we found out about this feature.

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  • Usage-based insurance. Currently, insurance companies gather information from the vehicles of potential customers — think Progressive’s Snapshot — by combining telecommunications with information technology (telematics). They want to determine the vehicle’s history of speed, turning patterns, driving distance and other metrics in a particular geographic area in order to fix a price for insurance coverage how drivers are actually using their automobiles. In the future, IOT devices will talk to each other and give a more precise picture of this type of data, in real-time . The carriers of the future will know more about you and the steps you take to change your habits. IOT will enable carriers to reduce loss ratios, improve growth and margins. Insurance analysts expect that it will prove financially sound for both the carrier and the insured.
  • Sensors: Homes and businesses have been using sensors for a while to track light usage, temperature, toxic fumes, and other metrics in our buildings. Up until now, the sensor reported its information one-way. With IOT, the communication becomes two-way. The sensors will alert customers to the potential for dangerous conditions and reduce the risk of loss from environmental factors that the sensor recognizes as flawed.       Insurance carriers like this aspect because consistent monitoring reduces the risk of a problem spreading or in the case of immediate threat contact the authorities, fire, or health services automatically.
  • Biometrics: We are all familiar with smart devices we call “wearables”, like Fitbits. With the IOT emergence and the improved data enhancements, wearable devices will enable health providers to determine compliance with rehabilitation appointments for disabled patients. Employers will monitor employees activity times and the monitors will even track your heart health. Smart devices will get smarter, communicate with each other and become more customized to your behavior. In the future, biometric devices will not only collect information but report it back to the wearer or to the wearer’s physician, an employer or insurer. A monitor tracking blood chemistry, for example, will alert the wearer to a potential heart attack. This is one are of IoT that is already starting to gain traction. In fact, a recent CB Insights survey shows there are now more than new 50 start-ups with focusing on wearables for the life insurance sector alone.
  • Diagnostics:  Manufacturers embed smart sensors in all sorts of machines, from toys to appliances to industrial machines. As these devices are internet enabled and capable of “talking” to other smart devices, insurance carriers that provide warranties on these various smart devices will be in a position to sell products that offer reports identifying potential impending problems with the device before the problems happen.
  • Carriers’ transformation: The biggest change will occur in the way carriers operate. The tremendous amount of data will mean insurance companies have to figure out the logistics: how are their legacy systems going to communicate with all these devices, how will they store all this data that smart devices deliver; how will they sort through the information and make some sense of it. Some industry analysts predict the IOT will consist of billions of smart devices sending 50 trillion gigabytes of data by 2020. That is four, short years away. The time to figure out the logistics of these changes is now. The in-house IT department meet the need, not only in size but in sophistication. Carriers will need to not only look internally but at third party partners to help streamline and modernize to meet the come wave.

If you want to read more about how the Internet of Things will relate to the insurance field, please see the article entitled “IBM Internet of Things for Insurance“.

To talk more about how FAST is preparing insurers for the IoT future give us a call at 732-225-0008 or visit us at www.fasttechnology.com

 

Three Ways Microservices Will Modernize Insurance Systems

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Insurance producers and consumers have rapidly started to expect their insurance tools to function in ways similar to their consumer applications. Consumer mobile apps are quick and intuitive with seamless updates and minimal hassle. When business apps fail to respond, frustrated users fail to adopt the technology. It’s now time to modernize your systems environments to function optimally in the cloud and on mobile devices.

Insurance carriers often deal with legacy data and tangled architecture developed from a series of stop-gap measures. The results are clumsy, ineffective applications which lead to a profound lack of user engagement. How do you solve these problems?

The short answer is to modernize your systems environments. The better answer is to modernize your systems environments with microservices that offer a quick to market strategy, reduced costs, and dramatically lower risk.

Microservices, what is this?

Microservices break down monolithic software systems into smaller, independent pieces. The pieces work in conjunction with one another through one or more APIs. The end result is a powerful system composed of smaller, scalable, flexible parts. Updates are easier and faster, while data is managed more efficiently while the end-user experience is less frustrating with the application. You can choose to modernize your entire system at once, or make incremental changes to only the essential segments.

Insurance Micorservices

 

Here are three ways microservices will modernize your systems:

1) Speed and Efficient Updates. Apps have a range of back-end services, from providing directions, to sharing content and messaging services. When these services are parsed into microservices developers are able to update one service without compromising others. This leads to quick and efficient updates. The end-user continuously uses other elements of the application, which amplifies the user experience.

Additionally, developers working on each microservice accomplish their jobs in small teams. Each team can function independently without having to meet or align their solutions with other developers. This promotes rapid deployment of services and conforms with agile development strategies.

2) Scalable Databases. Tech writer, Salil Deshpande summed up the problem of scalable databases for TechCrunch, writing:

This challenge [of database scalability] is in part due to not only the technical complexity, but also the very nature of databases themselves — the need for data consistency and preservation of ACID properties (atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability) even as data is replicated across multiple servers, possibly in different data centers. So databases, especially relational databases, have remained the Achilles’ heels of web-scale technology stacks. The database affects the application — and the application is the customer’s experience of your online services.

By separating elements of the database into microservices, many of these issues are resolved. Also, systems with large amounts of data, legacy and otherwise, benefit from microservices development and design. By prioritizing containers and streamlining data pathways, databases are not only scalable but more efficient.

3) API Gateways. How do all of these microservice end-points connect and communicate? After all, they are still part of a much larger system. Instituting a language-agnostic API that communicates with fine-grained endpoints is standard protocol in microservice architecture.

Typically users never directly access microservices. Rather, they access an API entry point, or gateway. The platform then funnels the user to their requested endpoint. APIs help alleviate tangled code and limit glitches for the end-user. When it comes to modernizing your systems environments, APIs integrate older segments and new segments.

Although microservice architecture bears similarity to Service Oriented Architecture, there are differences in structure. And one is not necessarily always better than the other, which is why the best insurance vendors and carriers support both.

Faisel Memon of NGINX explains that, “application developers rarely follow a single paradigm strictly, but instead choose the parts of various approaches that best suit their needs as they create a particular application.”

For more information on how FAST is helping carriers modernize their policy administration strategy by using microservices please contact us at www.fasttechnology.com or 732-225-0008.

 

Why a Good UI and UX Go Hand in Hand

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Designers like Saurabh Mehra see user experience design as the element that engages, and reengages, app users. According to Mehra: “The User Experience design works towards making the product easy, FUN, and efficient to use in terms of the functionality of the product, which can later be amplified by a good UI.”

Although Mehra and other UX designers might think that UX design does the heavy work, a good user interface can make or break the user experience.

Read on to find out why and how a good UI makes for a better UX.

Why a Good User Interface Matters
Not all employees sit behind a desk. They are out meeting clients and pursuing leads. For quite some time software developers failed to acknowledge this group of workers. Unfortunately, their software products reflected this.

Research has indicated that users in field environments also required access to business applications, so user experience designers aimed to make desktop websites suitable for mobile devices. Anyone who has interacted with such apps understands the issues with this approach.

People out in the field struggled with inadequate interfaces that weren’t suitable to their mobile devices. Icons and buttons were either cut-off or not in familiar places. Out of frustration, employees in the field were either forced to take handwritten notes or fill out paper forms.

However, with improved interfaces employees have a better user experience which translates to higher productivity and improved workflows. According to Techcrunch:

Before these applications arrived, field service teams completed all their paperwork on paper in the field. Office staff had to retype the information into a desktop invoicing system. Now, a technician armed with an app can collect data, pull product catalogs and file invoices in the field. This reduces administrative costs and enhances cash flow for field service businesses.

How A Good Interface Works
Even desktop knowledge workers benefit from high-quality user interfaces and well-considered user experiences. One user experience developer considers it his responsibility to build a “bridge between research and design”.

Whenever an app is developed user experience designers gather a team of stakeholders and set out to understand the user experience and user expectations.

They gather data through A/B testing, surveys and analytics. This process, called discovery, helps the designers build a product around user needs and expectations. Once they have designed the product they have to carry their ideas to the user interface developers. The user interface developers make their designs possible and usable.

User interface designers have many options to choose from. They can build an interface using animations, floating buttons, drop-down menus, cards, old-school carousels or newer adaptive content blocks. There are some limits to what they can do, depending upon the platform they use.

According to VentureBeat, hiring “mutually exclusive experts in Android and iOS design and development and enabl[ing] them to complement (not copy from) the other. While you’re at it, focus your UX/UI to accommodate more one-handed use — it’s happening more and more with the use of larger phones.”

This means that UX professionals and UI professionals must collaborate on how to efficiently meet the needs of a diverse group of users interacting with a wide range of devices with a varied set of uses.

Moving Forward
As mobile devices proliferate and wearables enter the mainstream, UI designers have to remain adaptable and inventive.  A recent trend is the development of a common interface, so that users come to expect the same app features to appear in the same area across a range of applications and platforms.

FAST is continually striving to innovate and make the best experience for our users through a great UI that is simple and enjoyable. If you’re an insurance carrier looking for ways to enhance or replace your policy administration system we invite you to contact us and learn more how our microservices and service oriented architected solutions can help you meet your goals. Visit us at fasttechnology.com

 

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Modernizes The Legacy World of Insurance

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is all about quickly sharing and consolidating data. Today, insurance companies tend to find themselves drowning in an ocean of disparate data replicated across systems, that are in some cases 30 plus years old. There’s no wonder it’s hard, for some, to manage even a simple beneficiary change. It takes an army of developers, network engineers and business analysts just to keep the oars on the boat of these massive legacy systems.

old computer

There is no doubt about it, insurance administration systems are complex and are the backbone of any carrier’s business. When it comes to delivering services in the life insurance industry, being able to share accurate and up-to-date information between various programs is critical. Not only for ensuring that the information being used is current, but also for making a customer’s experience as positive and efficient as possible.

Information Integration
Large applications tend to be information silos. They are big bulky things full to the brim with information. Having big applications that can store a lot of information is a great thing! The problem with them, however, especially in the insurance industry, is that it is difficult at best for these systems to share information well with one another. Integrating the information from one large information silo to another is often very expensive and even then the information is not always accurately integrated completely. Using smaller software services is a way to share information more freely between these large applications. In this way service oriented architecture can help companies dramatically save money, time, and hassle when it comes to bringing data and other platforms together.

Increase Customer Satisfaction
Consumers, agents, and distributors are looking for easier ways to manage the way they interact with insurance companies.   Everything from pre-populating their application to filing claims now needs to be automated. In today’s world of everything Internet those companies who do not automate and meet these expectations will fall further behind. Organizing internal systems in a service oriented architecture makes it simple to exhibit a software’s functions externally. This reduces the rate of customer inquiry by showing them exactly what they need and when they need it. Having such architecture helps the company quickly adapt to customer expectations without the cost and risk associated with monolithic systems.

Event Processing
Besides just being able to communicate and share information with applications, and software internally, service orientated architecture allows your applications and programs to respond to events from other allowed sources. This data sharing occurs in many ways. A simple example to illustrate the point would be an insured’s term policy hits its three year anniversary, a trigger automatically runs a quote for additional insurance and passes that into the marketing automation software where it is in turn added to a lead campaign that notifies the agent of an upsell opportunity. Services like this save countless hours of manual work and missed opportunities that can now generate additional revenue.

Risk Reduction
For insurance companies reducing risk is a primary goal. Managing mortality risk, investment risk, and business risk. Most carrier administration systems are old, based on archaic programming languages and are expensive to maintain. Even though these all have their own risks, for carriers the thought of wholesale replacing a monolithic system can be daunting to the point where nothing is done. A service oriented architecture provides a means to employ componentized mircoservices allowing for smaller projects ultimately ending up to be a full scale legacy system replacement.   Such a strategy dramatically reduces risk and resource constraints while providing a more immediate payoff.

Service orientated architecture makes doing business smoother, more reliable, and more satisfactory to all parties involved. In a field that can get as complicated as life and annuity insurance making the process simpler and more transparent is in a company’s best interests.

Contact us today to learn more about how FAST’s componentized service oriented architecture can help your business stand part from the competition and prepare you for the future.

 

FAST – Flexible Architecture. Simplified Technology.
Phone: 732-225-0008
Email: sales@fasttechnology.com