Phantom Cellphone Vibration is a Sign You Need a Tech Break

It has happened to me; how about you? You feel your cell phone vibrating—but when you check, it really isn’t. The good news is that you’re not going crazy. This phenomenon, called phantom cellphone vibration syndrome, is becoming more common. The bad news is you might have a tech addiction, according to Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University and author of a book on technology, iDisorder. He says lots of people are patting their pockets all day, feeling phantom vibrations that may be a sign of tech anxiety:

“Our body is always in waiting to anticipate any kind of technological interaction, which usually comes from a smartphone. With that anticipatory anxiety, if we get any neurological stimulation, our pants rubbing against our leg for example, you might interpret that through the veil of anxiety, as ‘Oh, my phone is vibrating.’”

In this increasingly connected world, the syndrome is fairly common. Here’s how to tell if imaginary cell phone vibrations is a cause for concern: Ask yourself if you feel anxious about being connected and whether that anxiety is interfering with anything else in your life. To counter the anxiety, Rosen suggests not carrying your device 24/7 and taking 10- to 15-minute tech breaks every couple of hours to reset your brain.

Good advice, whether you’ve got phantom cellphone vibration syndrome or not. Also, learn to live without push notifications and turn on only the actionable alerts to preserve your sanity and make you more productive.

New Virginia Law Allows Online Legal Notarization

For the first time in U.S. legal history, a notarization has taken place online. A signer located in Los Angeles personally appeared before a notary located in Richmond, Virginia, using audio-video conference technology under the authority of a Virginia law that recently went into effect.

Notaries in Virginia can now perform online notarizations for any signer in any state, anytime. The signer, a practicing attorney in California, executed a durable Power of Attorney. The notary and signer met in a live, two-way audio-video conference and digitally signed and notarized the Power of Attorney pursuant to Virginia law.

The document was rendered tamper evident and an automated electronic journal record was created that includes a digital recording of the signer and notary performing the transaction. The digitally notarized PDF document has the same legal effect as a pen-and-ink paper document, and the notary’s electronic journal data virtually eliminates the possibility of identity theft because it includes an image of the signer.

This new online notary process also allows the notary to identify signers online using knowledge-based authentication, rather than unreliable and easily forged documents like driver’s licenses. Identification of the signer by a trusted third party removes the pressure and liability the notary faces in the paper world where notaries must rely on documents that can be easily faked. Because the notary’s journal includes a digital recording of the transaction, including an image of the signer, fraud will be significantly reduced over the current traditional process.

So… why can’t (won’t) insurance companies accept electronic signatures?

Webmaster Academy: How Search Works

One of the topics I discuss at my Agency Internet Boot Camp is how search engines actually work. It is an important topic if you want your agency website to appear higher in search results.

First, your site needs to be “discovered” and comprehended by search engines, and understanding the fundamentals of how search works can help. Google has lots of computers that continually visit and analyze Web pages. These computers are collectively known as Googlebot. They give Googlebot an initial set of sites, and then send it out to visit those sites. It scans the content, and then follows links to other sites or pages that it finds. It then repeats the process on each page it lands on, and continues to spider out, hence the term “spidering” or “crawling,” which many use to refer to a search engine’s discovery process.

When Googlebot visits a page, it downloads and stores a copy (called a “cached” page) to their index. It analyzes each page, noting the words and any other relevant content. Googlebot understands some types of content, like text, better than others, like images or Flash (you can find some ways to make these better understood in Webmaster Academy). In order to perform well when customers search for you, it’s important that Googlebot can access and understand the content of your website.

Each time someone searches on Google, ranking algorithms draw up a list of relevant pages from the index of information that Googlebot has saved while “crawling” the web. This list is given back as the Google Search results page. To see if your website is included in Google’s index, you can use the site search operator, restricting search results to your site’s domain. For example a search for [site:youtube.com ] would only show results from the website youtube.com.

For a more visual look at Google Search, check out the How Search Works video below. If you’re interested, there’s a lot more to learn that’ll help you build your online presence at the Webmaster Academy.

ID Federation Takes Shape

It is no secret that one of the greatest headaches for independent agencies is the need to deal with creating and maintaining passwords for each insurance company and other business partners. One large bank agency manager recently said that she and her staff have to manage 5,500 different IDs and passwords for the bank’s agency employees.

An exciting development that will hopefully help is the creation of ID Federation, Inc. This industry organization released the first public version of a Trust Framework that will enable agency employees (and carrier employees) to create federated, digital identities that would be trusted by multiple carriers and other business partners.

Here is how it would work. The typical agency (called a “user authority”) would contract with a vendor (“identity provider”), which would create digital identities for each of the agency’s employees (“users”). These digital identities (SAML tokens) would be passed to carriers (“relying parties”) that have established a trust relationship with the agency’s identity provider, pursuant to the Trust Framework that both the vendor (identity provider) and carrier (the relying party) have agreed to. The agency employee (user) would only have to log on to the identity creation and management tool (identity provider) that the agency has selected and then would be able to conduct business with his or her multiple carriers, whether using Real Time or logging on to the carrier’s website, without entering carrier-specific passwords. The agency and carrier, of course, would continue to be governed by the business agreement that runs between them. Some very large agencies might become trusted identity providers directly (rather than using a vendor), and one large bank agency has already done so.

You will find an excellent overview about the ID Federation in this PowerPoint presented at the Feb. ACT meeting. The next steps are for vendors to build the identity creation and management tools for agencies to use; for these identity providers to establish trust relationships with the carriers; and for carriers to be able to accept digital identities (SAML tokens) to authenticate their agency users in place of passwords.

Federated, digital identities would greatly reduce this enormous pain point for agencies today. They would result in a significant step forward for carriers to provide this for their agents.

Electronic Proof of Insurance—The Time Has Come

How many times have your clients received a traffic ticket because they couldn’t find their insurance card in the glove compartment? Or if they did find the card and give it to the police officer, did the officer hand it back, saying it had expired? In this scenario, the client now has to take time off of work to show up for a court appearance with a little piece of paper in hand to prove that they did, in fact, have insurance in force at the time they were pulled over.

The digital consumer—your client—is not going to stand for this antiquated and paper-based process much longer. If they can use their smart phone to get through TSA airport security and board an airplane, why can’t they use that same phone to prove they have auto insurance in force when asked by a police officer?

In a small but growing number of states they can.

Electronic ID cards

State legislators and regulators are beginning to update laws to recognize the increasing use of paperless technology by allowing insurance companies to provide policyholders with electronic ID cards. Converting from the antiquated paper-based system to an electronic display of proof of insurance will save insurance companies the cost of printing and mailing ID cards to all policyholders. It will also save law enforcement and court personnel time and money because they will no longer need to process tickets written for drivers who have coverage but forgot to put proof of insurance in the car.

This is a dynamic issue with state legislatures. Here is a short list of the states that have already made (or are making) this change:

  • Alabama—Alabama will soon publish a first‐of‐its‐kind regulation allowing motorists to electronically display proof both at registration and during traffic stops starting January 1, 2013.
  • Arizona—Gov. Brewer signed HB 2677, authored by Representative Dial, on March 27.
  • California—Assemblyman Gatto introduced AB 1708, legislation allowing insurers to provide proof of insurance to a mobile e lectronic device.
  • Colorado—An existing Colorado regulation allows motorists to show proof of coverage electronically when they register their vehicles, and will consider legislation to expand it to traffic stops.
  • Idaho—Gov. Otter signed SB 1319 into law on March 27, 2012.
  • Louisiana—In April, HB 1130 by Rep. Greg Cromer was unanimously approved by representatives and was sent to the Senate. The original ID card or photocopies of it are currently the only proof insurance state law permits.
  • Minnesota—Minnesota made the change to e-Card in 2012.
  • Mississippi and Maryland may also consider legislation to allow electronic proof of coverage in 2012.
  • [Update] Seventeen states that approved electronic proof of coverage laws in 2013 are: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. This list is likely to grow even longer in 2013 as legislation is awaiting signature by governors in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.
  • In total as of June 18, 2013: The states that allow electronic proof of insurance coverage are: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

State insurance agent associations across the United States have always prided themselves on their lobbying ability and efforts. I can’t think of a better use of those relationships and resources than to encourage every state to submit legislation to allow electronic proof of coverage.

I encourage every agent to approach their state association and ask them to add this lobbying effort to their legislative agenda. Supporting this change will make the lives of every agency client better.