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Farmers Insurance eyes drones, Internet of Things

Clint Boulton | Jan. 5, 2016
Led by a new CIO, fresh from Toyota, the insurance carrier is looking to revamp internal IT and tap emerging technologies to better support its 19 million policy holders.

cyber insurance

Farmers Insurance may test drones that detect wildfire hazards and sensors to detect motor vehicle damage, says new CIO Ron Guerrier. The concepts are part of a corporate imperative to embrace emerging technologies that can help its  representatives more quickly resolve claims.

Farmer's Insurance CIO Ron Guerrier.
Farmers Insurance CIO Ron Guerrier.

"Emerging technologies is definitely top of mind for this organization,” says Guerrier, who joined the company earlier this month from Toyota. He credits his bosses, COO David Travers and CEO Jeff Dailey, with being progressive in their thinking of how technology can add value to the organization.

Guerrier’s duties include upgrading back-office systems and identifying emerging technologies, a bi-modal IT construct practiced by Ford, among other companies. Farmers is not alone. The insurance sector is replacing manual, paper-based processes with online and mobile software and services, the modes with which consumers and employees prefer to conduct business. But the industry is also looking to use technology to help consumers mitigate risk and accelerate claim resolution, a traditionally onerous and time-consuming chore.

Drones, IoT could spark innovation

Guerrier says Farmers is evaluating how it may use drones to check if brush has been sufficiently cleared in California neighborhoods prone to wildfires, which have cost town millions of dollars in property damages. "We're looking at where technology can extend our view and better inform the customer," he says. Allstate recently revealed that it is testing drones in this capacity, which it says can be especially after a catastrophe or an accident, when local authorities or potentially hazardous conditions make it impossible for agents to conduct their assessments.

The Internet of Things phenomenon could also play a role in automobile claims resolution. For example, Guerrier says a sensor-equipped car that gets hit by a shopping cart in a store parking lot could notify the owner, via an alert to their smartphone, about incident and offer to contact a Farmers claims representative. He says some Farmers staff will attend the Consumer Electronics Show this week to see how the company could leverage IoT tools.

Progressive ideas are something Guerrier appears well-suited, and willing, to bring to fruition. He gained attention cultivating an innovation lab at Toyota Financial Services, where he worked for the last three years as CIO, overseeing a staff of 1,200 people. In this lab, Guerrier encouraged business partners to co-develop technology for customer knowledge, marketing and operations and with his IT staff. The lab, which Guerrier "hardened" with security protocols, explored such IoT initiatives as using beacon technologies to send text messages with car details when a customer walks past the car at a showroom.

 

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