Wearable technology and health
Taking out life insurance is neither one of the most exciting nor uplifting things to do. In fact, it’s often easier to bury your head in the sand than face the thought of taking out a policy which covers you should the worst happen.
Technology, however, is helping challenge this mindset. A new approach, delivered in a personalised and accessible fashion, is focusing on understanding the customer’s physical activity, and specific medical needs. Wearable technology, in fact, is becoming increasingly ubiquitous.
But how does it actually work? Wearables combine readings of movement, temperature, pressure and electric field sensors to monitor heart rate, brain activity, respiratory rate and skin temperature.
To obtain this information, some life insurance providers are partnering with smart device developers, including FitBit. The result is more tailored, and in many cases cheaper policies. The question is, does this potentially compromise our privacy and security?
“There is an opportunity for Insurtechs and tech driven companies to disrupt the way the current insurance model operates using alternative and real-time data to price risk.”– Jaco Oosthuizen, yulife
The number of connected wearable devices worldwide is expected to increase from 109m in 2014 to 578m in 2019.*
* Source: The Verdict
Tracking your health, step by step
The personal wearables sector is growing rapidly. Tech giants like Apple and Samsung have already embraced the trend, creating smartwatches which can track running pace, sleep patterns and much more.
But the makers of the world's best-known smartphones aren't the only ones playing in the wearables space.
Smart watches & fitness trackers
The Apple Watch can be linked with a heart rate app, designed to provide measurements of rest, workout, and recovery sessions, as well as personalised notifications as and when your heart rate reaches certain thresholds. FitBit and Garmin also provide a range of smart watches that allow you to track and even ‘gamify’ your physical activity, tracking personal records of steps taken and calories burned.
A third of Brits (33%) currently use a device to monitor their health or exercise
A personal coach, in your glasses
Designed to be worn while running or cycling, Oakley Radar Pace glasses act as a personal coach, incorporating your own bespoke training program and sending your health data to your phone.
- Heart rate monitor
- Power meter + Cadence
- Phone control
- Music player control
- Your own fitness coach, guiding you through your headphones
- AI means you’ll receive personalised coaching, learning your routine and fitness progress
With recent controversies surrounding apps that track fertility, it's more likely that people will look for something either more reliable, or easier to use. Tech company Ava have introduced a wearable that tracks your fertility around the clock, in real time. Continuous monitoring reduces the potential for human error and forgetfulness.
Some brands have turned their products into fully digitised personal experiences. In 2016, software company EVRYTHNG partnered with Avery Dennison RBIS to bring consumers a series of integrated fashion technology, including a range of footwear. When consumers interact with the products, they unlock personalised content, bespoke recommendations and other incentives, including loyalty rewards.
NadiX Smart Yoga Pants
Don’t have a yoga instructor? Fear not! These nifty pants feature haptic vibrations (a series of guiding motions) to help yoga-goers hold their balance and maintain the correct position. And, of course, they’re synced with a phone app to track progress and skill levels.
Komodo smart sleeve
Powered by electrocardiogram technology (which tracks the electrical activity of the heart), this wearable provides users with the ability to monitor their heart rate activity accurately. It also measures sleep quality.
Smart sports bra
The Supa sports bra features some seriously helpful technology. A heart rate sensor and AI provides wearers with in-depth workout feedback via Bluetooth, and can even track things like UV levels.
Health data and life insurance
54% of life insurance customers purchase a policy primarily to support their family when they pass away.*
The traditional life insurance model is experiencing slow but gradual upheaval, and personal wearables are a key driver of change. A business at the forefront of this change is yulife - an insurer that incorporates personal wearables and incentives to encourage preventative behaviours from customers.
Their approach is particularly significant given current insurance models are built around supporting the customer when something goes wrong. Customer risk profiles (and therefore claims) have not changed significantly in recent years. But what about a model that's preventative, first and foremost?
In order for personal wearables to serve their purpose, data must be collected. So what are the implications of this? More than ever, insurance and technology companies must be transparent when it comes to managing personal data, and disclosing for what it is used. Consumers have been generally reluctant to share this data, unless the value that it can create is made clear.
In the insurance case, this could mean policies that offer more tailored cover, at a lower price. It could also mean the process of buying insurance in the first place becomes quicker and easier.
For companies such as Vitality and yulife, focusing on health and lifestyle, the value for the customer is clear.
50% of those who have a health monitoring device also have a life insurance policy
61% say they would be comfortable sharing their data with a life insurance provider
An example of how yulife rewards their customers through their app.
Protecting your health
– Jaco Oosthuizen, yulife
“Our team brings together deep experience and expertise from the worlds of insurance, app development and gaming alongside thought leaders from fields such as psychology, wellbeing and behavioural change. Together we make tech that makes people happier and healthier. Our in-app challenges are all designed with clinical data in mind, meaning that we have the tools to keep everyone progressing and creating lasting change.
There are a number of studies that show that moderate to vigorous activity has a positive impact on mortality rates and life expectancy. Wearable devices provide insurers with ongoing real-time data to assess their client's risk in a dynamic way.”
On the other hand, as Emma Thomson, Relations Director at LifeSearch argues, there are limits to what data can achieve. Personal preference also remains as important as ever.
– Emma Thomson, LifeSearch
"There’s only so much data that can be captured through wearables, and some health conditions that no amount of data could identify."
"Equally consumers will appreciate and prefer different processes. Some might prefer a quick, data-led approach - whereas others will prefer to fill out a thorough questionnaire. Then, there are some who require specific, personalised underwriting - again, something data can't provide."
40% of those aged 18-34 would be more likely to take out an insurance policy if their provider had partnered with a smart watch or fitness tracker provider, and was able to incentivise them to complete fitness goals
How it works
A smart watch records your exercise and health data
This data is collated within the app, providing you with 'goals' to achieve
These achievements then transform into incentives, such as vouchers and rewards
The result? A policy that reflects the data from your personal wearable, and the healthier you are, the greater the reward!
If you were to think about taking out a life insurance policy, which of the policies below would most appeal to you?
- A life insurance policy based on the traditional process of taking out an insurance policy
- A policy based on both the data received from a wearable, and from filling out a questionnaire/form
- A policy based on data received from a wearable health monitor
Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit has driven a 47% increase in members' physical activity levels.
Stay active with Vitality
– David Priestley,
“Vitality provides life and health insurance policies, while incorporating reward schemes to encourage healthier lifestyles.
The Vitality proposition is specifically designed to encourage healthy behaviours, and therefore works for those who are not currently making the best lifestyle choices and need more motivation to change.
Through our Active Rewards programme, we not only use technology to help incorporate physical activity into our members' daily lives, but also as a mechanism to monetise their engagement and incentivise activity with immediate rewards in the form of Starbucks coffees and cinema tickets.”
Chief Digital Officer at Vitality
The future of life insurance
20% of millennials already have a wearable device.*
Wearables might already seem pretty hi-tech, but the technology is only in its infancy. In the future they will be able to tell us much more about ourselves and our health, creating more opportunities to impact upon our lives.
Recent studies have shown that wearable tech can be used as a means of predicting how different patients will react to chemotherapy.
The research has shown people with active lifestyles react better to this type of treatment, and a fitness wearable can easily identify exactly how active a person is.
– Jaco Oosthuizen, yulife
"In the future clients will own their data, including health (electronic health records) and wearable device data. They would be able to make this data available to trusted providers. AI and machine learning would enable the creation of algorithms that would guide you towards the best life insurance (and other financial services products) for your needs and create personalised pricing and user experiences."
The wearable can also be used throughout the treatment to see how the patient is coping. It also means that doctors could potentially step in and give medical advice before an emergency hospitalisation occurs. The implications are enormous.
Wearables could be also used to track mental health and medicinal side effects.
In keeping with the focus on prevention, health technology and wearables could be moving towards helping people monitor and identify health triggers before their condition worsens.
Fitness trackers will be able to diagnose a broader variety of health problems via sweat, heart rate and other trackable triggers. This information will be passed through an algorithm and the best course of treatment selected, which may include a referral to a doctor.
Wearables yet to come
Click or tap on the blue icons for information on each future wearable.
Amazon, Apple and Google are all currently racing to develop the next big thing in hearable tech - a hybrid between a hearing aid, high performance headphones and a smart phone contained within a tiny wearable earpiece. In the future, hearables could eliminate language barriers, become an in-ear personal trainer and motivator, personal assistant, therapist and teacher. Your hearable will be able to monitor and update you on your stress and activity levels and advise on the best course of action.
Sleeping with Wearables
The science of sleep is an area that could grow exponentially with the help of wearable tech. Improve the quality of sleep, and a general improvement in quality of life will almost certainly follow. In the future, a tech sleep suit could soothe the body to sleep, monitor and adjust body temperature for optimum comfort and wake us up gently when we ask it to. Tech sleep suits could also protect against sleep disorders like sleep apnoea or extreme sleepwalking, and even alert us to dangers such as fire or carbon monoxide leaks.
Micro-technology designed to go inside the body could be an extremely effective and non-invasive way to diagnose and treat all sorts of issues. In theory it will mean that diseases and developing internal conditions can be caught and treated much earlier, and with a greater level of accuracy.
From a ‘smart bra’ that could monitor your breasts for irregularities, keep track of your heart rate and even take readings from your sweat, to specialist underwear that stimulates the muscles of bed-bound patients to prevent sores while administering medication, the potential for tech-fuelled underwear is broader than you might think.
We asked how those who use a health monitoring device would feel if a personal wearable could identify early health diagnostics by monitoring heart rate, sweat, and other biological elements. This would mean cutting out the initial consultation with a doctor.
seeing a human doctor
Would feel unsure but would consider using after seeing proven results
Would feel uneasy and would rather deal with a human doctor
A word of caution, though. While wearables are driving new patterns of behaviour, the question remains as to whether they can also drive purchasing habits. Our research found that despite higher levels of life insurance adoption from wearable owners, 50% of consumers overall have no plans to take out a policy.
The silver lining is that, including those who plan to buy a policy, consumers under the age of 35 are more likely to purchase life insurance than those aged 35-54. While this is not so surprising, the broader attitude of this younger segment is most telling. More than half of them believe policies should include wearable data, while three quarters would willingly share this data with their provider. Finally, over 7 in 10 would be willing to trust their wearable potentially playing the role of doctor. From protection to prevention, as technology and tastes continue to evolve, it seems increasingly likely that wearables will be at the heart of the of life insurance solution.
MoneySuperMarket compare life insurance providers, in order to bring you the best deal on your insurance. If you're thinking about taking out a life insurance policy, you've come to the right place. Equally, if you're unsure whether you need it or have any questions surrounding life insurance, we have an abundance of guide pages to provide you with all you need to know about taking out a policy.
* According to consumer research carried out on behalf of MoneySuperMarket, between 14th to the 17th August 2018, with a sample comprised of 2,003 nationally representative UK adults.
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