Terri Goveia
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An iPhone as Claims Tool? Insurers Look to New Technology | Canadian Insurance

An iPhone as Claims Tool? Insurers Look to New Technology

It makes calls, plays your favourite songs and can find restaurants,
but can the iPhone be an insurance claims tool? A major U.S. P&C insurer
thinks it can, and is taking its claims applications mobile—a move
that could mark the start of a new wave of consumer-oriented insurance
technology, analysts say.

Nationwide Insurance debuted its Nationwide Mobile claims application
through Apple’s App store in late April. The tool lets users record
accident information right away, using the iPhone’s camera and GPS
to capture pictures and the exact accident location, and start the claims
process immediately. It also includes a flashlight function and a list
of agents. Though Nationwide’s tool is very specific—it only
works on the iPhone—it represents a move toward newer technology,
including mobile applications, social networks and podcasting, for insurers,
says Jeff Goldberg, an senior analyst with Celent’s insurance practice.

Insurers tend to focus “outward’ technology investments on
the agent and broker side. “Traditionally, budgets aren’t
dedicated to policyholders,” Goldberg says, acknowledging that policyholder
technology is more common on the health insurance side, where portals
make it easy for customers to download forms, or pay a bill. “But,
we’ll see that change,” he says, especially since most P&C
insurers have “caught up” with where they need to be with
agent or broker-focused technology and are poised for a shift. The Nationwide
application “seems to be the starting point of this kind of technology.”

That change is already afoot, says Gordon Gaar, vice president, global
insurance sector at CGI.  Gaar says more P&C insurers—especially
in the U.S.—have policyholder portals that let customers upload
pictures of their insured items, or enter a notice of loss. Those same
web pages can translate to any mobile device—like an iPhone or a
Blackberry—depending on how “friendly” the page is.
Mobile applications for claims adjusters have been around for awhile—allowing
them to capture photos of damage or make inspections– he notes,  but
insurers are “in exploration mode” when it comes to policyholders.

Some, like State Farm, are looking to Twitter or Facebook, to find a
new pool of customers, though this, like the mobile apps,  is more
prevalent in the U.S. than in Canada, Garr says.  “Different
companies are climbing on board,” he says. “They’re
trying to figure out what to do with it all.”