Exclusive commentary from Novarica
iPad as an Insurance
With its benefits in control and access management, the iPad may be
a step back toward network computing. By Matthew Josefowicz
With millions sold in the first couple of months, the Apple iPad has to be considered one
of the most successful consumer electronics launches of all time. So far, its impact on business has mostly been discussed in terms of supporting iPad-using
consumers, but recent conversations at
industry conferences and with insurer
CIOs have led me to believe there may be
an impact on insurer’s internal business
capabilities in the near future.
At first glance, the iPad is neither fish
nor fowl. Too big to be a phone, too
small to be a “real computer,” it doesn’t
fulfill an existing need. On a panel at the
recent IASA conference, the CIO of Aflac
discussed a conversation with his teenage daughter in which she was under-whelmed by the iPad as a replacement
for any of the devices (phone, iPod, laptop) that she currently relied upon, and
dismissed it as one more thing to carry.
But the iPad (by which I mean to include both the Apple machine and the
inevitable comparable alternatives from
other providers) represents a new kind
of communications device, which has
two major advantages over current platforms. The first is as a platform for field
data capture, and the second is as what
I’ve been calling the “shareable small
screen.” Both of these have specific value to the insurance industry.
Unlike a laptop or a phone, an iPad
is a good platform for entering short
pieces of data or selecting from menus
in an interactive form from the field.
The screen real estate and text-input
option is superior to both a smartphone and a stylus-based tablet, and it
doesn’t require resting on a surface
like a laptop. Once the camera-en-abled versions emerge, both still and
video image capture will enable field
personnel to incorporate rich data
into these forms, including audio signatures from customers or claimants
In addition, as the first example of a
true “shareable small screen,” the iPad is
uniquely suited to social engagement
with displayed information. It is designed
so small groups of people can easily view
the screen together either sitting next to
each other or passing the device back and
forth as easily as a piece of paper.
This communal experience may hold
the key to “kitchen table problem” that
has bedeviled insurers’ field technology
strategies for the last decade and a half.
While it has been possible to put interactive applications on agents’ laptops,
many agents have resisted these because
the laptop is not natural to the intimate
selling environment of most insurance
sales. Putting up a screen that only the
agent can see is less conducive to building a relationship than working together on a paper application.
But the iPad could change this. Not
only does it enable the agent and client
to work together, it offers the potential
to create truly engaging interactive applications that make the insurance-buy-ing process less intimidating than a paper form does, with its bureaucratic
language and tiny type.
Some tech pundits, notably Seth Godin, also have proposed the iPad as a
tool for internal business meetings.
Rather than sitting in front of projected
powerpoint slides, each attendee might
have them displayed on his iPad with an
option to annotate and push annotations to the group or private comments
to the presenter without leaving his seat.
down device. With the iPad’s closed nature,
many security and desktop maintenance
issues related to supporting laptops may
go away. One CIO envisioned a future in
which his company gets out of the hardware support business entirely, and just
provides a secure virtual desktop employees can access from any device they already
And one CIO at the ACORD/LOMA
conference in May raised an issue I hadn’t
thought of in relation to what’s considered (in the consumer world) a premi-um-priced item: cost. “If I can replace a
$1,500 laptop with a $500 iPad, I’m interested.” While the same argument
would apply to commodity netbooks,
For more about iPad’s role in insurance, search “Insurance
E-Signatures Primed” at
I can also attest to the value of a single
iPad to display slides in a small meeting.
And unlike a laptop, the single window
of an iPad discourages multitasking
While some of the insurer CIOs I’ve
spoken to about this recently are interested
in these capabilities, others are interested
in the iPad as a step back toward network
computing with its benefits in control and
access management. Providing a virtual
desktop on a powerful laptop machine
seems, in some ways, less logical than dis-
playing a virtual desktop on a locked-
such machines feel to the users like a step
down from their laptops. The iPad, with
its unique features, feels like a step up.