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Is Apple's crash detection a threat to insurers ?

22/09/2022 • Valentin Juillard

Apple's first step into connected assistance

The last Apple Keynote marked the reveal of the new iPhone 14 with two new related features: the ability to make emergency calls via satellite and severe crash detection.  

Regarding this last feature, Apple released a video explaining more in detail the process. The principle is simple: when a severe crash is detected, the iPhone or Apple Watch triggers an alert for 10 seconds. The user can decide whether or not to call for help depending on the severity of the crash. If the user does not respond to this first alert, a second 10-second alert is triggered. If it still goes unanswered, the iPhone automatically calls for help.  

This feature, which is reminiscent of Apple's ambitions in the field of health, highlights the excellent performance of smartphone telematics. Given Apple's influence, it is safe to say that all smartphone manufacturers will quickly launch a similar feature. This momentum will benefit the entire telematics industry and push the general public to adopt telematics. Therefore, Apple's announcement is good news for insurers who want to democratize pay-as-you-go or pay-as-you-drive offers in reluctant markets.   

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The consequences for insurers

By launching this feature, Apple clearly strengthens its ambition to become a key player in connected assistance. To avoid losing ground and progressively abandoning certain aspects of the customer relationship to these new players, insurers should start thinking about connected assistance and on a larger scale connected insurance. It is also essential that they communicate massively on the added value of their telematics solutions. A few strategic assets can help them in their approach:  

1. An opaque and limited technology

Apple provides no technical details on how this new feature is triggered. This lack of transparency, typical of Apple, shed doubts about its deployment and adoption by private entities.  

Apple 's crash detectionScreenshot from Apple's website.

Moreover, severe crash detection is currently only a tiny part of the multiple functionalities offered by smartphone telematics. Insurers access a much bigger stream of data that generates better added value for them and their customers.  

2. Expensive technology

The severe crash detection is only available on the new iPhone 14, which costs more than 1,000 euros. Apple links the feature to the embedded hardware. However, it is not mandatory to have a 1,000 euros phone to benefit from crash detection. Indeed, all phones come with a GPS sensor, an accelerometer (three axes); and the majority have an inertial unit and a pressure sensor. Therefore, insurers are able to offer a universal smartphone telematics solution: the installation of an application via the App Store or Play Store. Thus, it is possible to benefit from crash detection (severe or not) on all Android phones equipped with at least Android 5.0 and all iPhones equipped with at least iOS 11 by relying on telematics companies like DriveQuant.  

3. What about assistance to insurers? 

Of course, the ability to generate calls for help is positive. However, and fortunately, most crashes do not require the intervention of emergency services. For this reason, it is essential for insurers to have a crash detection feature that also covers minor incidents and collects data to help understand what happened, improving and accelerating the processing of claims. Relevant assistance to provide, contextual analysis of the claim with direct feedback to the processing software or even a reduction in the time needed to process claims are all significant advantages that favor the historical players in the market and the insured.  

EDITORIAL : How does automatic crash detection work?

Things to remember

  • The telematics solution proposed by Apple is indeed an individual assistance solution in case of a severe crash. Beyond speculations about the market disruption by the GAFA, this confirms a fundamental trend: assistance and car insurance will be increasingly connected.

  • Insurers must accelerate and offer equivalent telematics services to avoid being overtaken. 

  • More than just communication, insurers need to think and implement connected services to digitalize their relationship with policyholders, otherwise there is a risk that other players will enter this niche. 

  • Are you an insurer? Do you want to launch a smartphone telematics offer? Contact us by clicking here!