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June 13, 2016

Will Connected World Make Us Sloths?

Summary:

Maybe, maybe not. But the connected world will certainly change people's habits in ways that insurers should be tracking.

Photo Courtesy of Ontley

The possibilities of a fully connected world are unfolding before us. Technological progress has always been about making our lives easier and providing us with more options to enjoy life – to travel, be entertained, buy stuff and communicate with others. But, the connected world promises to shift progress into overdrive. Many of the smart home, connected car and sharing economy capabilities already allow us to sit back and control the world with our mobile apps or via voice commands. Even today, a person can adjust a thermometer, launch a music playlist, check flight schedules and order a box of Twinkies – practically without lifting a finger or moving a muscle. Will this ultimately result in a populace that doesn’t think, exercise or know how to do anything except control the world through devices? Will we all end up as unthinking, lethargic, good-for-nothing sloths?

I suppose some would argue that we are already there. The YouTube-Netflix-Facebook culture spends enormous amounts of time entertaining themselves, and it conjures up images of people with eyes fixed on screens, ranging in size from tiny handheld devices to enormous, wall-mounted TVs to those giant screens on buildings in places like Times Square. Those at home are in danger of becoming couch potatoes. Others in more public places are just as mesmerized and are so attached to their devices that some fall into fountains in shopping malls or risk walking into traffic on busy streets.

See also: How to Think About the Rise of the Machines

But the developments in the emerging tech arena are made for more than just entertainment purposes, and the resulting changes in society demand a deeper exploration. The full truth is always a bit more complex. Consider the following connected world possibilities and the positive effects they can have on individuals and society:

  • Fitness Wearables: Sales of wearables for fitness and health monitoring continue to climb rapidly. Athletes and non-athletes alike are tracking a variety of biometrics and being given incentives to improve their health.
  • Smart Homes: In addition to entertainment and convenience capabilities, smart homes offer considerable opportunities to improve security and safety, reduce accidents and enable the elderly or disabled to have more options for independent living.
  • Robotic Exoskeletons: Workers in warehouses, airports and other locations are being outfitted with exoskeletons that allow them to lift heavy weights while reducing injuries.
  • Connected and Driverless Vehicles: Developments in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and progress toward autonomous vehicles hold the promise of dramatically reducing vehicle accidents and the related injuries and deaths.

These are just a few of the hundreds of examples of the emerging, connected-world opportunities that may improve our health, promote wellness and enrich our quality of life. In addition, the entrepreneurial spirit and venture capital related to emerging tech and the connected world are engaging legions of individuals, both young and old. There may be one group of individuals that is looking forward to binge-watching Netflix while interacting with their world from the comforts of their living room couch. But there are many others that are actively engaging in the connected world to better themselves and the world around them.

See also: How Connected Will Connected World Be?

You may be wondering what this has to do with insurance. The answer is – a lot. Just as mobile and social media technologies have changed expectations, patterns of communication and the business environment, so will the connected world. Positive and negative implications of the connected world will affect human health, traffic patterns, accidents, population distribution, employment opportunities and many other areas of life and society. In short, virtually everything that the insurance industry covers will be affected in some way. There may be some who will sit on the couch as their health deteriorates and their societal contributions decrease, but there will also be many more who thrive on the opportunities of the connected world. Either way, the needs and risks of customers will change.

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About the Author

Mark Breading is a partner at Strategy Meets Action, which helps insurers develop and validate their IT strategies and plans, better understand how their investments measure up in today’s highly competitive environment and gain clarity on solution options and vendor selection.

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