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October 02, 2018

From the Intersection of Technology and Risk: Sensors in P&C

Roost brings smart sensors and customer-focused connectivity to P&C

Key Takeaway
Sensors are only the start - they open up the opportunity to meet customers' needs and build relationships

The popular press has written about how car sensors are transforming the auto insurance, but property and casualty companies are also looking to sensors to transform their business too.  And these businesses are also using connectivity to add more value by going beyond data collection to meeting customer needs - to not merely detect problems, but also to help build a stronger relationship with their customers.

Take Roost , for example, a four-year-old San Francisco-based startup that has raised about $17 million in funding from both venture capital firms and insurance companies.  They've begun partnering with about two dozen P&C companies to use home sensors to  reduce risk and help them engage their customers more regularly.

Oliver Wyman caught up with Roel Peeters, Co-Founder and CEO of Roost at Insurtech Connect 2018 to talk about the venture.  Like the executives from more than 175 companies exhibiting at ITC 2018, Peeters sees the opportunity to Roost's message out, to meet new contacts, and to get a sense of where innovation is driving the industry.

Roost has developed wifi sensors to detect smoke and water damage. The sensors send a message to customers’ mobile phones, alerting them of any damage and giving them other relevant information, such as a list of plumbers, who can then be contacted to fix the leak.

Here is how it works: The company developed a wifi-chip that can be incorporated into a low volt battery or work on its own. The battery plugs into a smoke alarm and then transmits information wirelessly to mobile phones. The water sensor looks like a small, round bar of soap. It can be placed under the sink, next to a water heater, washing machine or dishwasher and then it transmits the information.

With the sensors customers can get information about leaks or fires faster. If, for example, a smoke alarm goes off and someone is not home, they would receive an alert on their phone. The case for water damage is even stronger.

“The average claim for a broken water boiler is about $10,000,” said Peeters, adding that the often the initial leak goes undetected for weeks or even months. The same is true for many other household appliances.

Perhaps more importantly, the alerts go beyond the initial detection and alert to give insurance carriers a new way to interact with their customers via a new mobile app.  The app gives customers a list of recommended professionals who can fix the problem. Customers can even use the app to make an appointment with, say, a plumber to replace a broken pipe. Roost is working with Home Advisor, the company that owns Angie’s List, a data base of recommended plumbers, roofers, and the like.

What's next?  Roost plans to sell sensors that let homeowners know when they have left their garage door opened.

Roost has sold its technology to about two dozen insurance companies and their sensors are in hundreds of thousands of homes, said Peeters. Some of its clients are large insurers, but other clients are smaller firms, who would be unable to develop the technology on their own. With over 300 companies in the US alone, Peeters sees the P&C industry as fertile ground. “Our technology allows P&C companies to engage their clients in a very simple way,” he said, adding that most of these insurers have no direct relationships with their customers and until now, only limited ways to build them.

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