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iPhone Insurance App Helps Truckers for the Long Haul

1st Guard's TRUCKER1 application for the iPhone includes claims reporting capabilities and a variety of self-service functions for customers as well as a suite of functions useful to all truckers.

Scale can be a critical factor in an insurer's ability to adopt leading-edge technology. But -- as demonstrated by 1st Guard Insurance's development and launch of the TRUCKER1 application for Apple's iPhone -- that can be true of small-scale operations as well as large enterprises. Offered free to the public since October 2009, TRUCKER1 features claims reporting capabilities and a variety of other self-service functions for 1st Guard customers as well as a suite of functions useful to truckers, including social media, navigational and insurance quoting capabilities.

Venice, Fla.-based 1st Guard Insurance ($22 million in annual sales), the insurance carrier affiliate of 1st Guard Corp., exclusively sells physical damage truck insurance directly to owner-operators. Based on a "well-connected trucker" concept that arose during an internal meeting in May 2009, TRUCKER1 addresses a variety of customers' needs while serving both as a mutually beneficial policyholder/carrier interface and a marketing tool to reach prospective customers, according to Dan Ribar, 1st Guard's CIO.

The Well-Connected Trucker

"TRUCKER1 goes beyond the idea of helping in a claim situation and focuses on the totality of the trucker's life," comments Ribar. "Leased operators are on the road and away from family a majority of the time, so a social component is important. Combine Facebook, Google Maps, Web services, Internet and e-mail, and you've provided a heck of a tool for long-haul truckers."

TRUCKER1's generally available features include alerts that connect users via e-mail and Facebook, enabling communications such as Facebook wall posts showing location, trip status reports and a link to a current location map. The application's "Friends" tool enables users to connect with up to four other people with an interactive map showing everyone's location. TRUCKER1 also includes two speedometers -- one that displays speed in an easy-to-read format, and one with a speed-sensitive zoom that includes elevation and direction. All users also have a connection to 1st Guard's instant quote engine for monthly premiums, as well as a built-in call-back feature to which agents respond during business hours.

Fighting Fraud 2010

Features exclusively for 1st Guard customers include access to all policy information, the ability to make payments and claims functionality that includes the ability to submit photographs with encoded data showing location, claim number and other information needed for a claim file.

Commitment to Innovation

From concept to production, TRUCKER1 took only about six months to develop, according to Ribar. He credits a commitment to technological innovation on the part of senior leadership, which is exemplified by the fact that the company's technical resource pool comprises 25 percent of its overall staff.

"The investment in technology resources at 1st Guard has given the company the ability to turn on a dime in response to business needs," Ribar remarks. "Concept to delivery has been so compressed that we're able to deliver while others are reacting."

Since it's October 2009 launch, more than 600 users -- roughly 7 percent of whom are current 1st Guard customers -- have downloaded TRUCKER1 from the Apple iPhone App Store. "The customer base has alerted family members over 300 times, and we have collected over 75,0900 latitude/longitude location points," Ribar relates. "We have also started a marketing campaign targeting users who are not customers, through e-mail and interactive TRUCKER1 channels."

Developing for the iPhone in Apple's xCode environment posed some challenges to 1st Guard's historically all-Microsoft Windows technology environment, according to Ribar, who notes the arrival of the first pair of iMac computers ever on the company's network. "The primarily Visual Studio-based ASP.NET development staff had to learn quickly both the new Mac OS environment and the nuances of the Objective-C programming language," he explains. "But the beauty of the 1st Guard technical environment is that everything is built in-house, so when TRUCKER1 needed to talk to a corporate Web service, the staff created both ends, making the transaction seamless -- with the absence of typical B2B finger-pointing."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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