Filing Your Claims Wirelessly
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jul 23 23:45:00 GMT 2004

The notoriously cautious insurance industry seems to be embracing wireless technologies to help agents do their job. They're just doing it... cautiously.

The insurance industry, by its very nature, isn't known much for risk taking or being particularly cutting edge. There simply aren't that many stories about innovation in the insurance industry. However, they are still a business that looks to improve efficiencies and minimize their own costs. It's not that surprising, then, that the insurance industry has started adopting wireless technologies to help them improve what they do. They may not experimenting with just how far they can push the technology, like those in the package shipping industry, but so far the results have been quite positive.

While the article at Mobile Pipeline cites a number of case studies, they're all pretty similar. Not surprisingly, it focuses on insurance agents on the go, who mainly use laptops and handheld devices to stay in contact with the home office. They get info on new claims to check out and send info back as they process the claims. Nothing revolutionary at all, but that might be the most interesting point. When an industry as cautious as the insurance industry is adopting wireless in a fairly widespread way, the technology is really becoming mainstream.

Almost all of the wireless technologies they use are designed for the widest possible use. Cellular connections are common, but Wi-Fi doesn't seem practical enough, with its hotspot model that would require an insurance agent to go find the nearest hotspot. The example of MBIA might be the most descriptive in explaining the cautious approach. The company bought a bunch of devices from Good Technology, but won't even give them out to all agents, but just gives them out on a case-by-case basis. They're afraid the devices will be obsolete within a year and a half, and see the decision to only buy a few devices as a temporary solution until "something better" comes along. Of course, as many technology fans quickly learn, there always seems to be "something better" about to come along. While its somewhat obvious that the on-the-go agents would be the first to connect wirelessly, the stories show that wireless technologies are spreading into other parts of the business as well. One executive, who was on the road at the time, made a sale after receiving an email from a prospective customer via his Blackberry, and realizing he was already in the same city as the customer. Still, the industry seems to mainly be focused on the most basic use of the technology: connecting what they already have. Perhaps, like UPS, the next phase will start to involve doing more thanks to the technology. It's worth noting, for instance, that nowhere in the article does anyone mention camera phones -- which would seem like the next obvious tool insurance agents would want to have in their gadget bags.