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The Next Big Thing

Industry experts point to data-related technologies as the next 'killer' insurance apps during last month's ISOTech session.

The future of the insurance industry seemingly will be shaped by data-related technologies. Speaking at last month's ISOTech session in Las Vegas, "The Next 'Killer Technology' in Insurance," a panel of industry experts told attendees that data analysis, distribution and integration solutions; geographic information systems; and next-generation visualization tools would be among the emerging technologies that will transform the insurance landscape.

"Carriers are coming to recognize that one of the true resources that the insurance industry has is its data," said Jamie Bisker, global insurance industry leader, institute for business value, IBM Business Consulting Services (Armonk, N.Y.). Bisker referred to the findings of an IBM study called "Insurance 20/20" that projects what the business/technology landscape will look like in 10 to 15 years. "Many companies, such as State Farm, Allstate and Jefferson Pilot, ... are looking for better ways to engage the data and make their connections with customers more meaningful," he said. Bisker also identified geographic information systems (GIS) as an under-appreciated technology that likely would see greater play in the near future.

Visualizing Data

Building on Bisker's identification of data as a key area of innovation, Donald Light, a Palo Alto-based analyst with Celent (Boston), identified a new generation of data visualization tools, including link analysis representations; hot/cold density maps; and maps with rich, deep, real-time data layers as a new area of enabling technology. "These are applications that can take the huge amount of data that insurance companies have - and which they are sorely challenged to make sense of - and give executives tools that can make it faster, more fun and easier to go into the data and discover patterns that are important across every insurance process," he said. According to Light, such tools could help in distribution through multiple channels, micro-segment pricing, underwriting guidelines and processes, claims, catastrophe management, fraud protection, and data management.

Chuck Johnston, group director, insurance, Siebel Systems (San Mateo, Calif.), affirmed the importance of data while submitting that "integration is the killer app." Johnston referred to the integration of both data and processes. Insurers realize, he explained, that processes "have lots of pieces, and they're trying to bring them together using things such as Web services underneath." In contrast to data warehousing projects in the past, he told attendees, "People are now saying, 'I've got good data within my operational processes, and if I start to integrate them end to end, I no longer have to go through that large information-building process; what I'm focused on now is, How do I use analytics in my process to further my process?'"

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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