novo Sees Intelligence ‘Transforming Everything at MWC 2018’

This week at MWC 2018, Lenovo reinforced its 2018 vision for technology innovations, moving its core strategy to Augmented Intelligence.

With its roots in the PC space, Lenovo has created one of the most complete collections of smart AI devices, giving it a unique advantage to provide the three key elements of Intelligence: Data, Computing Power and Algorithm.

Through new AR, VR and voice-activated technologies demonstrated at the show, Lenovo gives you powerful new ways to live, work and play.

From intuitive new voice-enabled Yoga 2-in-1 laptops launched today, to transformative Moto Mods, to advanced data center solutions, Lenovo makes all the critical human connections to AI, from devices to data center.

At MWC, Motorola will be illustrating how it continues to challenge the industry with premium smartphone features at great value price points, and how innovation lives in our DNA with transformative Moto Mods that help you monitor your wellness, among other things. The Motorola Health Mod will be showcased, which allows you to easily measure five vital signs including accurate systolic and diastolic blood pressure, all via your moto z device.

Motorola will be sharing insights around its recently released global Phone-Life Balance Study which has been developed in partnership with Dr. Nancy Etcoff, renowned expert in Mind-Brain Behavior and the Science of Happiness at Harvard. The study identifies problematic behaviors that are impacting relationships with others and ourselves and shows how people are putting their phones before those they care about, with the most alarming findings tied to younger generations who have grown up in a digital world.

Motorola believes technology should enrich our lives, rather than distract from them and is offering intelligent solutions to help people manage their phone life balance. This includes a partnership with SPACE, an app that helps to make you more mindful of your phone usage, and Moto Experiences that support more intuitive mobile interactions.

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A New Implant Heals Broken Legs by Transforming into Real Bone

New Bones

When a bone breaks, medical devices and objects like screws and pins are often used to hold the pieces together while the bone heals. But this process can be extremely painful, long, and difficult. One new technological marvel might make these methods obsolete. This potentially game-changing new tool is a 3D printed ceramic implant that holds fractured bones together while turning into actual, natural bone.

Created by Hala Zreiqat at the University of Sydney in Australia and her colleagues, this implant has successfully repaired broken arm bones in rabbits in testing. Additionally, in a soon-to-be-published study, the team tested this ability with large leg fractures in sheep. Despite the small sample, the researchers were encouraged by the fact that the experiment was equally successful in all the eight animals involved in the study.

According to the scientists, the sheep were able to walk immediately after surgery where the implant was placed. However, for four weeks after surgery, the sheep did walk with plaster casts to improve stabilization throughout the healing process. Three months post-op, the researchers observed complete healing in 25 percent of the fractures, and this rose to 88 percent at the one-year mark. Additionally, as these bones grew back, the scaffolds of the initial implant dissolved gradually. So, not only does the implant allow the bone to heal while quite literally creating natural bone in places where it’s missing, but it also dissolves when it is no longer needed.

Speaking with the New Scientist, Zreiqat remarked on the success of this study that “They got their old bones back,” referring to the sheep.

Painful, less effective measure for treating broken bones could soon be in the past. Image Credit: Taokinesis / Pixabay
Painful, less effective measure for treating broken bones could soon be in the past. Image Credit: Taokinesis / Pixabay

Game Changing Grafts

The implant has a similar composition to natural bone, so the researchers concluded that it was able to dissolve seamlessly without any toxic side effects and meld into the bone because, “the body can’t tell the difference,” Zreiqat said. The implant is porous and acts as a scaffold that natural bone and blood vessels can grow through, which makes it a seemingly perfect tool in bone restoration.

This, if it continues to prove successful in testing, would be a drastic improvement to treatment for broken bones. The sheep in the study were observed to be extremely tolerant of the implants. Additionally, methods that use bone grafts can be rejected by a patient’s immune system, whereas the ceramic implant tested here was not.

Specifically, the implant is made up of calcium silicate, the mineral gahnite, and small amounts of strontium and zinc which are trace elements in natural bone.

One downside to the new implants seems to be their rigidity, but for many people the use of these grafts could significantly reduce pain and allow them to heal faster.

The future of medicine will benefit from unique applications of advancing technologies. 3D printing isn’t just for plastics and digital devices. Biological elements can be used within the medical sector to improve the lives of patients, physicians, and the continually developing field.

The post A New Implant Heals Broken Legs by Transforming into Real Bone appeared first on Futurism.


A Revolutionary Sensory Tool is Transforming the Lives of Children with Autism

Too Bright, Too Loud

When my little brother was born in 1993, I don’t think my parents were the only ones who didn’t know much about autism. For the next decade or so, as they tried to understand why my brother seemed constantly overstimulated by the world and heartbreakingly inconsolable at times, they did what many parents of children who would ultimately be diagnosed with autism did: they tried to experience the world through their child’s eyes and body.

Autism was not widely discussed in the early ’90s, in part because there wasn’t much to discuss. The research was limited, and high-profile celebrity activists were few and far between. For those whose lives had not been directly touched in some way by autism (at least not yet), the general understanding of the condition was defined by cultural interpretations, such as Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

For families raising children with autism — whether they had been formally diagnosed yet or not — it was an interesting time. The emergence of the internet provided a vital tool for parents, giving them access to information beyond what they could dig up at their local library as well as the opportunity to carve out community spaces and connect with other parents.

Questions like “How do you deal with this?” or “What works for you?” are not unfamiliar to parents in general, but for parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorders of any kind, they can refer to situations more serious than the standard toy store tantrum. Parents were often desperate to help their child stop physically harming themselves (either intentionally or unintentionally) and to find something — anything — that might calm them in those moments when chaos reigned.

My family did what many others did: tried various things and hoped that something would stick. My brother was ultimately more high functioning and verbal than children with autism are expected to be, but that was only after years of diligent intervention. When he was very young, the tone of every day of his life (and ours) was dictated by how he felt. On a good day, his meltdowns were infrequent and no one got hurt. I try not to dwell on what the bad days were like — as hard as they were for me and my parents, I can only imagine how they must have been for him.

Temple Grandin & The Hug Machine

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Temple Grandin, one of the most well-known researchers in the field of autism and someone who is, in fact, autistic herself. During the lecture, she discussed a number of topics, but primary among them was perhaps her most significant contribution to the body of research on autism and sensory processing disorders: her “hug machine.”

A number of the hallmark features of autism involve sensory processing. Specifically, children with autism tend to become painfully overstimulated by a variety of sensory input: sights, sounds, tastes, tactile sensations, etc. This was a tendency that Grandin was well aware of in herself from an early age and one that I remembered afflicting my brother. He was particularly overwrought about fire alarms, would often tear off his clothes in public, and has more or less eaten the same foods every day of his life for more than 20 years.

Not unlike Grandin, he also had an interesting contradiction about touch. He did not like to be hugged and had a number of interpersonal struggles that made him seem “unaffectionate.” However, at the same time, he exhibited self-soothing behaviors that made it seem like he wanted to be wrapped up or held. In fact, if he was thrashing about in the throes of a tantrum, a firm hold not only kept him from hurting himself (or anyone in close proximity), it also seemed to calm him down.

image credit: temple grandin / autism wiki

Grandin, who loves animals, spent much of her research career working with livestock. Her fascination with them began on her aunt’s farm when she was a child, during which time she observed the “squeeze machine” often used by dairy farms to quell anxious cows as they’re being branded. From there, she developed the concept for her own such device for people. The prototype involved two air mattresses and a wooden framework that she could stand within and then control the degree to which she was compressed by the mattresses.

Grandin’s brilliant, systems-thinking mind reasoned that something about the “deep touch pressure” provided by the squeeze machines calmed both the livestock and herself. Her seminal paper on the topic, Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals, was published in 1992 — one year before my brother was born.

Deep Touch Pressure

Grandin’s research defines deep touch pressure as “the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals, or swaddling.” As she notes, it’s important to distinguish this type of touch from light touching, such as tickling or the sensation of hairs moving on the skin of your arm. That type of touch stimulates the nervous system and puts it on alert, which can then cause a person to feel anxious. Deep pressure touch, however, has been shown to have the opposite effect: it calms you down.

“Research on autistic children indicates that they prefer proximal sensory stimulation such as touching, tasting, and smelling to distal sensory stimulation of hearing and seeing,” Grandin writes, citing a paper from 1981 that observed how children with and without autism responded to various sensory modalities.

Other research Grandin discusses concerning deep touch pressure therapy (DTPT) applies more broadly to “neurotypical” folks as much as those with autism spectrum disorders. We’ve long known that newborns need close human contact not just to thrive, but to survive infancy at all. Those early experiences with touch – particularly being held and comforted physically by a caregiver — have been linked not only to how a child develops mentally, but physically as well.

More recent research has shown that touch can have an almost miraculous influence on the health of preterm infants in neonatal intensive care units around the world. The impact reaches beyond babyhood, too — benefits can extend well into the first decade of a child’s life.

DTPT research has also been shown to be helpful for children and adults who are not on the autism spectrum, but may suffer from anxiety. Occupational therapists have known for decades that deep touch pressure can help not just children with sensory processing disorders, but those with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder, too.

While there are certainly hug machine-inspired apparatuses in use, for those of us who don’t have the space (or wouldn’t even know where to start in terms of constructing one ourselves), weighted blankets are a more user-friendly and generally affordable option for providing the benefits of DTPT. And, since you can use them in bed, it’s also worth noting that weighted blankets have been shown to help with sleep, too.

In the conclusion to her paper, Grandin points out that deep pressure touch can’t be expected to work for everyone, and not every child with autism will respond well to it. Still, her initial research and the two-decades-worth of additional research that followed it have helped countless families. By bringing to light the power of deep pressure touch, she’s given those struggling to help their children live in a world that is, at times, quite literally painful to bear an incredible tool and the previously unattainable possibility of calm.

The post A Revolutionary Sensory Tool is Transforming the Lives of Children with Autism appeared first on Futurism.


Battery-free Bluetooth tech from Wiliot one step closer to transforming IoT

Battery-free Bluetooth tech from Wiliot one step closer to transforming IoT

In its latest investment round, fabless semiconductor start-up Wiliot has secured funding from Qualcomm Ventures and M Ventures that will help bring its battery-free Bluetooth technology to fruition.

For all the advancements that battery technology has brought to computing, communication and the internet of things, it also serves to limit these fields. Modern devices can go further, for longer but their power-hungry nature is still constrained by the limitations of current batteries and the need to recharge.

Wiliot’s mission is to scale IoT with battery-free Bluetooth. Based in Israel and California, the company was founded by Gigabit Wi-Fi pioneer Wilocity, a group of wireless engineers experienced in building new wireless products and their associated ecosystems.

The latest investment round follows Wiliot’s Series A funding, which ended in January, yielding $ 14 million. The start-up has raised a total of $ 19 million in its first 10 months as a semiconductor company.

“The quality and experience of the founding team at Wiliot, coupled with their passion to envision a more pervasive IoT, gives us the comfort that Wiliot will significantly change the game, particularly in the medical field, while expanding use and acceptance at a far larger scale,” said Edward Kliphuis, investment director of new businesses at M Ventures.

Read more: Brunel scientists develop flexible, wearable 3D-printed battery

How battery-free Bluetooth works

The current Bluetooth beacon market has peaked in terms of reducing costs, size and ease of maintenance – a limit born largely from the use of batteries. Wilocity’s solution is to remove this element completely.

You may be left wondering how a wireless device can be powered without a battery. The answer is all around us – radio waves. Wiliot’s low-power technology can harvest energy from the electromagnetic radiation that saturates the air with our communications and broadcasting.

“This new technology will allow a sensor/radio/processor combination to be embedded in products, packaging, walls and furniture so that these things can be smarter and communicate with other Bluetooth devices, including smartphones,” said Tal Tamir, CEO and co-founder of Wiliot. “We will enable everything to be intelligent and every place we go and anything we wear, touch or use will include sensing, connected, passive devices with an unlimited lifetime.”

This is made possible thanks to the low-power requirements of the passive sensors and processors –the culmination of decades of fabrication process shrinks, as described by Moore’s Law.

Read more: Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

Could battery-free Bluetooth transform IoT?

“The range of new applications is endless, given the level of miniaturization and lack of power dependency,” said Boaz Peer, Director at Qualcomm Ventures Israel. “As we look at the IoT space, we see battery-free Bluetooth technology as the next great leap, driving exponential growth for the entire IoT ecosystem, from smartphones and Wi-Fi hubs to battery powered beacons.”

It’s a grand vision that adds another piece to the battery-free IoT puzzle. Battery-free RFID sensors and actuators, triggered by the presence of things like temperature and pressure, have been available for some time. The widespread ability to transmit a Bluetooth signal with energy drawn from radio waves has the potential to bring sweeping changes to IoT.

Read more: Microsoft and GE team up on wind energy and battery tech

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Transforming vehicles and aerial dogfights are coming to ‘GTA Online’

GTA Online manages to do more than hang on to its playerbase, despite its source game Grand Theft Auto V coming out four years ago. The continual flow of bonus content every other month net studio Rockstar Games over $ 400 million in Q2 2017. GTA Onli…
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Blockchain Is Radically Transforming Society’s Oldest Institutions

Banking Everywhere

From our ancestors exchanging livestock tens of thousands of years ago to the brokers trading stocks on Wall Street today, bartering is a foundational aspect of human society. Throughout history, we have traded what we have for what we need, and through these transactions, we have survived.

As we made the transition from trading in cattle and grains to dollars and cents, we started relying more and more heavily on financial institutions such as banks, investment firms, and lenders to help us manage our assets. As of 2015, 93 percent of U.S. households had at least one checking or savings account, and that’s not including the millions of people who also have mortgages, credit cards, or other ties to the finance industry.

For decades, nearly every aspect of our lives has involved a third-party financial institution in some way, but despite their ubiquity, these institutions are fundamentally flawed. Unexpected fees and slow transaction times can regularly leave users frustrated, but even those problems are relatively benign compared to other, more foundational issues.

Because they store data on centralized servers, banks and other traditional financial institutions are susceptible to security breaches. In some cases, those breaches can lead to the loss of huge sums of money, such as when hackers stole $ 80 million from Bangladesh’s central bank in 2016. In other instances, identities are the target, like when a Brazilian bank’s website was hijacked for five hours in April, during which account holders willingly supplied the hackers with sensitive personal information.

These institutions also have barriers to entry that prevent some from participating in them. For example, a single past mistake like a bounced check can leave a person blacklisted from opening a bank account for several years, and in some nations, such as Saudi Arabia, women aren’t even allowed to open accounts without permission from their husbands.

For these reasons and others, a whopping 38 percent of the adult population worldwide doesn’t have a bank account. That’s roughly 2 billion people who are largely unable to participate in the world economy as it currently operates.

Thankfully, an alternative to traditional finance has emerged in the form of the blockchain.

Enter: The Blockchain

A blockchain is a distributed digital ledger, which means it doesn’t have one centralized authority verifying and recording transactions (like a bank or a brokerage does). Instead, when two parties want to trade blockchain assets (better known as cryptocurrencies), the request is sent out to a network of computers. These “nodes” individually verify and record the transaction on their identical copy of the ledger, and a group of these transactions will become one timestamped block on the blockchain.

This process can be completed within seconds, and because it is distributed (and not confined to one central server), a blockchain is protected against the security issues that plague traditional finance institutions. Anyone can participate in the blockchain economy, and transactions can be completed anonymously, further protecting individuals’ identities.

Over the last year, these various benefits have caused interest in cryptocurrencies to skyrocket. From a relatively paltry $ 17 billion in January, the global cryptocurrency market cap has grown to $ 126 billion. Wall Street traders are turning their attention to cryptocurrency exchanges, and instead of debit cards, customers are now using their crypto wallets to buy everything from coffee to video games.

Despite this growth, however, the blockchain economy is still in its nascent stages, and all of the kinks haven’t been worked out yet.

One of the biggest issues involves how cryptocurrencies are traded. While the blockchain itself is decentralized, the major exchanges used for the buying and selling of assets are not. That means that, just like banks, these exchanges are susceptible to security breaches, so when traders entrust them with their funds, they are leaving themselves vulnerable. In fact, just a few months ago, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges was hacked, compromising the data of 30,000 customers and leading to the loss of an estimated $ 870,000.

Because trading is spread out over dozens of exchanges, individual exchanges can also have problems meeting volume demands as interest in crypto grows. This lack of liquidity can force traders to pay higher fees, as well as lead to “flash crashes” that can send the value of a cryptocurrency plummeting from hundreds of dollars (or more) down to mere cents in just a single second.

Of course, there have been attempts to make decentralized exchanges, but these, too, are problematic. For example, they have inherently higher latency, higher fees, less fluidity, and an increased potential for unfairness than centralized exchanges.

But new, alternative ways to exchange cryptocurrencies are emerging, and they could help solve many of the ongoing issues. One of these newest contenders is AirSwap, which is a platform that is built off of a truly peer-to-peer model.

Peer-To-Peer Trading

AirSwap is a new way to trade Ethereum tokens. Unlike bitcoin, which is essentially a form of digital money, a token offers its holder some utility within a system, such as voting power, access to special features, or an amount of a virtual currency. Because Ethereum’s decentralized platform was designed specifically to support token networks, it has become the go-to blockchain for anyone looking to launch a new token.

When ready to trade these tokens, members of the AirSwap community can announce that they are interested in trading and connect directly with other members — no third party required. To ensure they’re getting a fair deal, AirSwap provides real-time price suggestions before committing to a transaction, both for sellers and buyers.

AirSwap members can even build their own storefronts, creating new ERC20 tokens from the ground up and seamlessly bringing them to market.

Because tokens are in the possession of either the buyer (the “maker” of the order) or the seller (the “taker” of the order) right up until a smart contract is executed on the Ethereum blockchain, the AirSwap protocol eliminates the opportunity for theft provided by centralized exchanges. Liquidity is no longer a problem either, as sellers aren’t beholden to the asset price set by the exchange. Because each deal is negotiated directly between the two parties and not set up through the blockchain, the problems of decentralized exchanges are also eliminated.

AirSwap takes everything that makes the blockchain itself revolutionary — its high level of security, lack of a centralized authority, and low barrier to entry — and applies it to the trading of blockchain assets. All that token traders need to do to take advantage of this new decentralized exchange is purchase the AirSwap Token (AST), which will launch on October 10. After that, they’ll be free to use AirSwap to frictionlessly manage their tokenized assets in this new era of finance.

The preceding communication has been paid for by AirSwap, and Futurism has a small financial stake in AirSwap’s token launch. This communication is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to sell shares or securities in AirSwap or any related or associated company. The AirSwap tokens are not being structured or sold as securities or any other form of investment product, and consequently, none of the information presented herein is intended to form the basis for any investment decision, and no specific recommendations are intended. This communication does not constitute investment advice or solicitation for investment. Futurism expressly disclaims any and all responsibility for any direct or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from: (i) reliance on any information contained herein, (ii) any error, omission or inaccuracy in any such information or (iii) any action resulting from such information.

Each recipient of this communication expressly acknowledges that the AirSwap tokens are being sold solely for the purpose of providing purchasers of such tokens with access to the services associated with the tokens, and that such persons are not being offered, and will not be purchasing, any tokens for any other purposes, including, but not limited to, any investment, speculative or other financial purpose. Each recipient further acknowledges that they are aware of the commercial risks associated with AirSwap and the network associated with its tokens.

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Millions of “Citizen Scientists” are Transforming our World From Their Homes

Citizen Science

Andrew Grey, a mechanic from Australia, was able to discover an entire star system through analyzing data from the Kepler Space Telescope. Grey is among the millions of “citizen scientists,” ordinary people with a curiosity and interest in science, who help researchers with their projects in order to expand the collective knowledge of humanity. Although science has always been the province of ordinary people to some extent, advances in technology have democratized science in a much more radical way.

“This is a collaborative endeavor that anyone could get involved in,” Oxford University astrophysicist Chris Lintott told The Christian Science Monitor. Lintott is also the cofounder of Zooniverse, a citizen science project platform that allows anyone to participate in a range of projects online from home.

The Milky Way Project, now on Zooniverse, is another example of citizen scientists helping classify images from space. In this case, volunteers study infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE satellite observatory in order to classify various objects. Citizen scientists helped astronomers source “yellowballs,” star-forming regions, as part of this project.

Citizen scientists can advance research in almost any field, and so long as pattern recognition is part of a project, it has the potential to become a citizen science endeavor. According to Lintott, anyone can identify patterns in data, graphs, or images after a short tutorial. And while machine learning enables computers to recognize patterns, the human brain gets distracted easily — and in this case, that’s actually a benefit. Lintott told The CSM that distracted observers are the ones who notice unusual things in data sets.

A professional scientist himself, Lintott commented to The CSM, “people think that we’re intelligent, but science is easy and we need your help.”

Crowdsourcing Science

Recent opportunities for non-scientists to contribute and advance science and research have been plentiful. On the Zooniverse platform, a project designed to help Hurricane Irma victims has begun. In this project, citizen scientists are assessing pre- and post-hurricane satellite imagery in order to help experts produce a heat map of urgent priorities for response teams.

In July 2017, NASA asked citizen scientists to participate in an experiment during the August solar eclipse. Participants were asked to collect cloud and air temperature data and report it using smartphones. The observations made by citizen scientists will be used to produce an interactive map.

Hurricanes Have Been Enhanced by Climate Change
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Director of the Harvard University Program on Science, Technology and Society, Sheila Jasanoff, pointed out to The CSM that citizen science isn’t always organized or directed by professional scientists. As she put it, “citizens generating knowledge in places where official organs have failed them” can also result in great projects, like the Flint, Michigan drinking water testing project that led to the widespread public health investigation.

There are many resources out there for finding citizen science projects and getting involved. The Zooniverse platform has many opportunities, as do iNaturalist, Crowdcrafting, and For projects suitable for kids, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s citizen science section, or National Geographic’s citizen science projects, each classified by grade level. Who knows — you might discover the next “yellowball” area of space that turns out to be something really cool and significant, and no matter what, you’ll be advancing human understanding in many scientific fields.

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Intellect SEEC: Transforming the underwriting role for the IoT age

Intellect SEEC: Transforming underwriting for the IoT age

For insurance companies, digitization, artificial intelligence and IoT data hold the key to getting the most from underwriting talent, as Pranav Pasricha, CEO of Intellect SEEC, tells Internet of Business.  

Traditionally, the underwriter has been one of the most important roles in an insurance business. In fact, a 2015 report from management consultancy Ernst & Young makes a strong case for considering underwriting as being synonymous with the insurance sector itself: “The industry would simply not exist without the ability to evaluate risk, and price and issue policies,” say its authors.

Pranav Pasricha of Intellect SEEC
Pranav Pasricha of Intellect SEEC

But the role of the underwriter is changing very quickly, according to Pranav Pasricha, CEO of Intellect SEEC, the insurance software division of Intellect Design Arena, a specialist in digital technologies for the financial services sector. What’s more, he adds, that change is absolutely needed, because the skills and experience of talented underwriters are simply not being used to their best advantage today.

As someone with deep insurance industry experience, Pasricha has seen this problem up close. Until 2011, for example, he was executive general manager of strategy, technology and operations at QBE Insurance Group. From his own experiences and those of Intellect SEEC customers, he reckons that around 70 percent of an underwriter’s time is spent on activities that don’t add real value: searching for information, collating it, sorting through claims histories and so on.

That’s not appropriate work for people who are highly skilled, not to mention highly paid. “As an experienced underwriter with talent and judgement,” says Pasricha, “all you should be doing is reviewing risk, making decisions, fine-tuning coverage and setting prices. That’s it.”

Read more: US health insurer Aetna considers Apple Watch partnership

All change

If underwriting today is plagued by too much admin and too much searching for information, technology looks set to change all that.

Digitization means that more information is held on machines, and less on paper. Artificial intelligence and machine learning mean that computers can trawl through that information, picking out relevant records and data and identifying trends and patterns in them. And data coming from IoT devices will increasingly add to the picture, giving underwriters valuable clues and insights into aspects of risk that they might not previously have considered.

This last point is extremely important, because when insured assets (buildings, machinery or trucks, for example) are rigged with sensors, this ‘smartness’ can tell underwriters a great deal about the risks they face and, if misfortune strikes, more about the circumstances leading up to that incident.

In effect, IoT data is all part of the ‘digital footprint’ of an insured person or asset. When Intellect SEEC rebuilt its software stack some four years ago, it was around the principle of this digital footprint, says Pasricha. In essence, the software makes it possible for underwriters to get a more holistic view of risk, by giving them access to online customer reviews, the past histories of company directors, the claims histories of neighbouring businesses. These are all part of the picture that helps them make more informed commercial insurance decisions, he says – and IoT data is a growing subset of that digital footprint.

In other words, the digital footprint of an insured logistics company, for example, might in future contain data from heat and light sensors in its office buildings, telematics in its trucks or video feed from a drone patrolling its warehouse. That would be a big step forward in tackling a shortage of information that can sometimes make underwriting, in Pasricha’s words, “like trying to inspect a room through a keyhole.”

Read more: Survey: Life insurance firms face hurdles in digital transformation race

Looking ahead

So where does the underwriter stand, in this new world of automation and IoT data? Pasricha says it opens up new possibilities to spend more time on more interesting work.

“The role of the underwriter, as I see it, becomes a more fulfilling one. They’ve got all of this rich information that they don’t need to sort through, because machines will do that for them. Through machine learning, those machines will flag up to them issues that need their attention: exceptions or anomalies or alerts that make a specific case more complex than others. That’s the role of the human underwriter of the future – applying their talents and skills to sophisticated decision-making. And it’s a major role.”

Another key role for underwriters, he adds, will lie in helping machines to learn. This machine learning stuff, after all, doesn’t happen on its own, but through ‘feeding’ computers with the vast datasets needed to train them.

It’s time, Pasricha says, for the insurance industry as a whole to change. It should be less about deciding whether to pay out when bad stuff happens, and more about good risk management. And that means quantifying risk more accurately, helping customers to avoid risks and warning them when they face risks – all tasks that fit exactly the skills of the underwriter, keeping them front and centre at the heart of the insurance industry.

Two weeks to go: On 26 & 27 September 2017, Internet of Business will be holding its Internet of Insurance USA event in Austin, Texas. This event will focus on how insurance carriers can capitalize on IoT.

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