December 2, 2013
December 2, 2013
If we want to send someone to Mars, how do you pack enough food to supply years-long space missions? One company, Systems and Materials Research Corporation (SMRC), believes the answer may be in 3-D food printing, and it has been selected to receive a $125,000 grant from NASA to construct a prototype.
3-D printing is a process that usually involves layering materials like plastics, metals, or rubbers as directed by a computer blueprint to construct items from the ground up—seemingly out of thin air. SMRC’s vision for printing food is similar but instead of using materials like plastics, the printer would construct the food with nutrient-rich materials—ones that are edible, of course.
Food printing could be useful outside of spaceships, too. Food printers could easily “program” our foods to meet regular diets, and address allergies or taste preferences. Because most of the materials used for food printing would come in a powdered form with a long shelf life, methods of food storage would become simple and food waste could be mitigated.
I wonder what the product’s liability issues will be…
Police accident reports offer an official narrative of events that can prove crucial for making insurance claims and learning who has been arrested and for what in car accidents or for victims of a crime.
But an increasing number of police departments (Wisconsin among the first) are redacting—or blacking-out—personal information on the report before they will provide a copy. Police say a federal appeals court ruling in an Illinois case last year concluded law enforcement agencies cannot release information gleaned through motor vehicle records, including names, addresses, gender, and other personal details.
In the Illinois case, Jason Senne sued the village of Palatine, Ill., for leaving a parking ticket on his car that listed his name, address, driver’s license number, birthdate, gender, height, and weight. He claimed the disclosure violated the 1994 Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which requires states to obtain consent before they release a driver’s personal information. The federal law was passed after an actress was killed in 1989 by a stalker who found her address through Department of Motor Vehicle records.
A district court tossed the case and a 7th Circuit Court panel agreed. The full 7th Circuit Court heard the case and reversed the decision last year. Palatine has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.
City attorneys around Wisconsin have been advising police to get out their redacting pens to make sure they’re not sued. And they’ve been following that advice. Milwaukee police have stopped posting traffic accident reports on their website. In northwestern Wisconsin, the New Richmond News has sued the city of New Richmond alleging police were redacting too much information, a violation of the state’s open records law.
It’s still possible to obtain complete crash reports directly from the state Department of Transportation. It generally takes 10 days for police to submit the paperwork to DOT, however, creating delays for those who request it.
Earlier this year ISO filed its first vehicle telematics-based rating rule in 33 states and received approvals in 19 states. The optional GeoMetric rating rule for personal and commercial automobiles uses information collected via telematics to award discounts for vehicles operated in areas safer than where they are garaged.
Using patent-pending systems and methods developed by ISO, the rule assesses the risk of an insured vehicle based on actual driving locations while respecting the privacy of the insured. This new rule uses a set of advanced predictive modeling tools called ISO Risk Analyzer. The tool considers hundreds of variables related to where people live, work, and drive to measure the risks posed at each geographic location.
The GeoMetric product builds on those insights by applying the geographic risk measurements to each vehicle’s driving locations. The end result is a simple report showing the number of miles and time traveled by the insured within each risk tier, or band. Vehicles that are garaged in higher bands but frequently travel into lower bands may be eligible for discounts of up to 25% under the program.
This type of rating enhancement is a small step leading to big innovations in how insurance premiums will be calculated and applied to individual policies.
The words “insurance” and “innovation” are seldom used in the same sentence. Our industry has a well-deserved reputation for being behind the times. This is a problem because the world—and the people in it—are changing faster than the industry’s ability to keep up.
That is why your organization needs a Chief Innovation Officer.
In a recent list of the top 10 most innovative companies, the insurance and financial services industries were not represented at all. The insurance industry continues to be perceived as an “old-line” industry that is staid and set in its ways. Because of this, the industry doesn’t always attract the best and the brightest.
An underlying reason for this lack of innovation is the unwillingness of organizations to embrace—and even encourage—experimentation and the inevitable failures that will sometimes happen.
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to speak to the Agency Automation Forum of a well known national insurance company about trends I see in agency technology. This group is made up of senior level people from various departments within the company. A couple weeks after that presentation, I talked to the individual who brought me in about the experience. That person told me that there is no tolerance within the corporate culture of that insurance company for taking risks because a project might fail.
I suspect many insurance agencies have the same attitude.
Here are some thoughts on steps you can take to begin encouraging innovation and creative thought within your organization.
See curiosity as a good thing. Identify people within your organization who are naturally curious and like learning new information. Give them time to research and follow trends outside the insurance industry. Ask them to provide a synopsis monthly or quarterly on innovations they think might be helpful to your organization.
Embrace failure. Be willing to let people experiment and try new things. The reality is that nobody knows for sure what’s going to work for your organization and what isn’t. Encourage small experiments and steps so that if they don’t work you haven’t risked a lot of time or money.
Ask why. Encourage your staff to ask why they do a process or procedure the way they do it. There may have been very good reasons when the procedure was created that no longer apply. Valid answers do not include “because we’ve always done it that way” or “that’s what everyone else does.”
Talk to your partners. Insurance agencies generally are not able to create new insurance products. But the insurance companies you represent can. Talk to them about what you’re seeing in the marketplace. The insurance needs of consumers today are different than they were 10 years ago. And if your insurance companies are unwilling to embrace innovation, look for other partners that will.
Creating a Chief Innovation Officer mindset for your organization will help you prepare and position yourself for the changes that are yet to come. Consumers’ needs and desires are changing. We need to be changing along with them.
EZLynx has announced the release of EZLynx eSignature by AssureSign to the EZLynx Marketplace. With help from AssureSign, one of the leading providers of electronic signature software, EZLynx has developed a safe and secure way to send electronic documents for signature directly from the EZLynx Rating System.
This Marketplace application was designed to provide a user-friendly interface, which is demonstrated with an “easy to use” four-step eSignature Envelope Wizard. Once an eSignature Envelope is created and sent to the consumer, they receive an email with a link to the document. The consumer can easily read the document and sign, right from their computer or mobile device. After the consumer signs the document, the agent can view the signed document in EZLynx.
This is one of a growing number of esignature options available to insurance organizations that help streamline the document signature process. What is your organization doing to embrace the esignature process?
When you step up to the register to pay at the coffee shop, do you reach for cash, a card, or your smartphone? In U.S. Starbucks stores, phones are now being used for 10% of purchases.
I make almost all of my purchases at Starbucks using their app on my phone. I get irritated, however, when I’m at a franchised store that does not have a scanner. The barista has to read the number off my phone.
This trend suggests that the long-awaited “digital wallet” is still on the way, even if it’s taking a lot longer to arrive than many people in the tech industry once thought. The news comes despite earlier reports of glitches in Starbucks’ rollout of its high-profile mobile payments partnership with Square. The company didn’t say how many of the transactions are being made via Square vs. Starbucks’ smartphone apps.
According to a Starbucks spokesperson, “mobile devices have become an increasingly important part of the customer experience at Starbucks as the fastest and easiest way to pay in our stores.” The company plans to continue to bring more innovation to make the Starbucks experience even better.
Oh, and Starbucks also announced plans to roll out wireless smartphone charging mats to stores in Silicon Valley, expanding on an earlier pilot in Boston.
Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District this fall are receiving the first 31,000 iPads this school year as part of the district’s massive push to equip all 640,000 of its students with the devices. The goal is to prepare students for the workforce with technology they may not be getting at home.
As part of the project, which is scheduled to be completed by late 2014, digital textbooks will be available on the iPads. To buy the first 31,000 devices, the school district is using $30 million in tax money, but is looking for other means to fund much of the rest of the effort. They are “hoping to get a lot of private donors.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s board voted unanimously to approve a $30 million contract with Apple as the sole (and, presumably, very happy) vendor.
Ultimately, the devices will cost the district $678 per unit—more than they would run for a typical consumer at an Apple store. The additional cost will cover pre-loaded educational software, as well as three-year warranties.
What is your organization doing to prepare for the expectations of this coming workforce?