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10:36 AM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Can Electric Toothbrushes Yield Insurance-Relevant Data? One Company Thinks So

Per AdAge, at least one insurance company has partnered with an electric toothbrush manufacturer to share brushing data.

We've chronicled some theoretical, potential insurance applications of the "Internet of Things," a concept defined — and championed — by Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior as "a world of intuitive connections between people, processes, data and things on the network."

According to Advertising Age, one insurance company is beginning a pilot with Beam Brush, a manufacturer of toothbrushes that connect with smartphones to collect data on brushing habits.

The article states:

Take the $49.99 Beam Brush, launched in January. It syncs with a user's smartphone to record brushing time, and that data can be tracked and shared with dentists, orthodontists and, eventually, insurance companies, all on an opt-in basis.

"People often refer to us as a toothbrush company, but we're not. We're actually not interested in toothbrushes at all. We're interested in health data," said Alex Frommeyer, co-founder of Beam Technologies, based in Louisville, Ky. "In many ways, [data-tracking] is the entire point" of the Beam Brush.

Beam is conducting a pilot with an insurance firm and negotiating a deal to distribute the Beam Brushes to policyholders, who would agree to exchange usage data for incentives such as lower rates.

I've led a number of roundtable discussions recently in New York, Hartford and Boston on big data, mobility, and telematics. These three technologies — once seen as "emerging" — have not only emerged: They've combined.

Take telematics, for example. Is that just a concern of the auto industry? Well, if you boil the concept down to its base, it's essentially an agreement by which policyholders agree to turn over rich, personalized data on themselves in order to receive some sort of benefit. How is turning over data on braking, speed, and cornering that much different than data on how often and for how long you brush? Here's another wrinkle: Life and health insurers have a stake in finding out from a policyholder's auto insurer how dangerous that insured's driving habits are. Is the industry ready for that kind of collaboration? How about regulators and consumers?

And, of course, the baseline technology enabling all of this big data transmission is mobile networking. Sometimes, a smartphone is directly involved, as with the toothbrushes or some of the latest usage-based insurance models, like Aviva's Drive app. Other times, the mobile connection is implied, like with many of the existing "black box" telematics programs (including those from Verizon-owned Hughes Telematics).

Mobile is clearly about more than just smartphone apps at this point. It's about an entire ecosystem of location-aware devices continually transmitting personalized data. And, the insurance industry is taking notice.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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