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Big Data Belfast: Allstate's Georgina O'Leary on fintech, big data, and smart technology in the motoring vertical

  • Allstate saving road deaths by combining journey data with traffic accident hotspots

    Georgina O’Leary is the Director of Innovation, Research, and Development at Allstate. She has also been appointed as Fintech Envoy for Northern Ireland on the back of the UK Government’s new fintech strategy, which recognises the need to shift the focus away from the south of England to promote regional development.

    She explained to the delegates attending Big Data Belfast that “fintech is about enabling banking and financial services through technology”. Through her new role as envoy she hopes to improve collaboration between fintech companies, the education sector, and government in order to ensure that Northern Ireland is a centre of excellence.

    Her day job at Allstate is influenced by big changes in the insurance industry. Customers traditionally used to go through agents or brokers to find the best insurance deals and coverage. However, like many industries there has been a huge surge in online buying within the sector and, along with Allstate’s purchase of some online insurance providers, this now requires a seamless, connected customer experience that melds together old and new. 

    Allstate has been innovating its car insurance claim process and introduced an app that allows photographs of damage to be submitted rather than making drivers visit a bodywork repair garage. Behind the scenes, data about historic claims, damage and costs are used to derive a repair value based on the submitted photographs.

    Earlier this year, Uber approached Allstate to provide shared driver insurance. They were able to turn around the request in a few months and are now providing commercial auto coverage, a robust and reliable API for processing claims, and protection specific to individual needs, all driven by data.

    Its Arity spinoff recognises that single ownership is losing ground to vehicle-sharing based on changes in drivers’ needs. This disruption to the car and insurance industry allows shared vehicles to be used more efficiently and offers monetisation opportunities for car owners whose vehicles are parked up unused for long periods.

    O’Leary acknowledges that it has required a paradigm shift for the insurer to work in real time. Driverless technology and connected cars are also upending existing safety models and will continue to change the industry.

    Arity has access to 50 billion miles of driving data, 85 years of claims, and 8 years of data collected directly from sensors in cars or carried by drivers. Nowadays, it’s as likely that journey information will come from an app on a driver’s phone as a device fitted to the vehicle.

    The software challenge is to capture data through apps, SDKs, devices, and third party sensors, normalise billions of miles of driving data, and apply meaningful insights based on this mountain of information.

    In order to cope with the continued pace of change and be business-led yet data-informed, O’Leary says that “Allstate now marries up data scientists with product designers to collaborate to build new products and be at the forefront of the future”.

    Allstate has begun to collaborate with US smart cities in an attempt to eliminate road deaths.

    O’Leary explained that by combining city data about traffic volumes and reported crashes with driver data about hard braking, harsh acceleration and average journey speed, dangerous stretches of road can be identified and the evidence shared to support physical changes in layout and signage.

    This wouldn’t have been possible before the advent of big data and the ability to mine journey information in so many different ways and combine it with other dimensions of data.

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