By: John J Neal, Attorney, Willenbring, Dahl, Wocken, Zimmerman. PLLC

The internet of things: what is it? And, what role can it play in insurance? As a cowboy from the Sandhills of Nebraska, your author is the last person to provide technology advice. In fact, for this article, I had to ensure I was properly using the term “internet of things” correctly. 

The internet of things-after careful research-refers to any device connected to the internet that collects and shares data. The so called “smart devices.” It’s our phones, watches, exercise bands and for this article- smart home devices. As technology advances, these devices get “smarter.” And, they appear capable of preventing or mitigating insurance losses. 

For example, last year I came across a “smart water monitor” while Christmas shopping. It connects to your home’s water main and internet. It is capable of sending messages to your phone, informing you of leaks and water usage. In the event of an emergency, it can shut water off at the main, mitigating further loss in the event of a leak or burst pipe. Could a $40,000 water claim be prevented or at least mitigated with one of these devices?

 What about a “smart” methane sensor in hog-confinement facilities? Couldn’t that prevent costly hog-barn fires and even save lives? Or what about a heat sensor in the plenum of a grain dryer, capable of shutting down the system and terminating fuel in the event of an elevated temperature rise? Couldn’t that prevent or at least mitigate the $200.000 grain-dryer fire? 

For this article, I had an opportunity to speak with the owner of RJ Energy Solutions, a company that specializes in monitoring systems that help identify or predict issues with residential energy consumption. The company utilizes monitoring systems in tandem with its software program to assist in identifying issues with residential and commercial HVAC, lighting, plumbing and smoke/CO2 alarms, among other things. The company even offers a device to assist in determining whether gas or fuel is out at a residence. How many freeze or water claims would this have prevented if every cabin owner had one of these installed? To learn more about this company, its products, and what it offers, please see its website: rjenergysolutions.com. 

The list of devices continues to evolve in the marketplace: security systems: smoke and CO2 alarms; thermostats; appliances, and even some day self-driving cars. With technology comes opportunity. Could these devices help the insurance industry and consumers prevent costly losses and perhaps even save lives? Some carriers believe so, as they offer incentives to homeowners that carry such devices. 

I am not the “smartest” when it comes to these devices or the “internet of things. But I understand safety and prevention. And, I like the possibilities these devices can offer to the insurance industry and consumer, making us all safer.