Driverless cars, home automation and the gig economy are the focus of an investment fund launched by Liberty Mutual Global Markets, the personal insurance business division of the fifth largest U.S. property and casualty insurer based on 2015 direct written premiums.
An investment pool of $150 million is available to Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures (LMSV) for early-stage ventures focused on the “intersection of innovative technology and services and the insurance industry,” according to a company announcement.
Digital doorless residential keys and other home automation capabilities are the target of the fund’s first investment in August Home, a supplier of smart locks and home access products that allow remote homeowner-controlled management.
Now homeowners will be able to provide virtual house keys that grant home access to authorized individuals like house cleaners, dog walkers, delivery services, guests, friends, and family members. Smartphone-driven software can also control the length of time a guest has access to the home.
Digital keys and automated home access prompt some questions from the perspective of an insurance defense law firm:
- If a real estate agent can give prospective buyers access to a home based on the owner’s virtual approval, is there any professional liability for the real estate agent if something goes wrong? Could the software provider have any liability?
- From a premises liability perspective, what if a guest is injured following access via home automation?
- How does the software perform in the event of a power outage?
These emerging trends in the insurance industry create opportunities for proactive insurance defense law firms to establish a thought leadership position by evaluating the impact of innovation on the law.
Overall, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures intends to invest in four primary categories:
- Next Generation Vehicles, including driverless car technology, Products that help consumers improve their driving experience and safety as car technology evolves.
- Connected Home: Products that enable real-time connectivity in the areas of security, efficiency, safety and convenience.
- Sharing Economy: The gig economy, ride-sharing apps, and other technologies that transform workplace efficiency and service offerings.
- Insurance Innovation: New products and disruptive opportunities in other insurance-related areas.
The fund plans to make investments of $1 million to $5 million per deal, and prefers to invest with an existing partner in a venture. Tech companies might receive institutional seed money investments or later stage funding.
Trends Toward #InsTech
Insurance technology, assigned #instech as a Twitter hashtag, is a growing field for innovation in the insurance industry.
American International Group, Inc. (AIG) is making similar tech investments. It recently announced its strategic investment in tech startup Human Condition Safety (HCS). The firm, which is a spin-out of Human Condition Labs, develops wearable technology that incorporates artificial intelligence, building information modeling, and cloud computing to try to prevent workplace injuries before they happen. The New York-based company is targeting industries that hold the highest risk for workers, including heavy manufacturing, energy, warehousing and distribution, mining, transportation, and construction. See our recent article on Wearable Tech & Workers’ Comp.
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