How Allstate Uses Mobile Data To Enhance Customer Experience - InformationWeek

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8/31/2015
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How Allstate Uses Mobile Data To Enhance Customer Experience

Allstate had to stretch its organizational muscles to bring Drivewise Mobile to market. In the process, the company brought together a cross-functional team that included assorted IT disciplines and business professionals with competencies in consumer relationships, insurance products, and user experience.

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InformationWeek is spotlighting the companies whose innovative solutions to technology and business challenges earned them a place on our 2015 Elite 100. For more on the program, and to see profiles of the Top 10 Elite 100 finalists, click here.

Insurance is all about information. When you're one of the nation's leading automobile insurers, the closer your information source is to the cars in motion, the better. That's why Allstate's Drivewise Mobile application is important to the insurer -- and why the program was recognized as one of InformationWeek's Elite 100 for 2015.

Drivewise Mobile is an enhancement of Allstate's Drivewise product, in which customers install a small device that connects to a vehicle's OBD-II port (a port that's been part of virtually every new vehicle sold in the US since 1997). In a phone interview with InformationWeek, Allstate's Chetan Phadnis, vice president for connected car engineering, talked about Drivewise Mobile, its development, and what it has meant for Allstate information technology.

Chetan Phadnis, vice president, Connected Car Engineering

(Image: Allstate)

Chetan Phadnis, vice president, Connected Car Engineering

(Image: Allstate)

From Car to Smartphone

"Drivewise ... is a telematics based insurance program," explained Phadnis. "It basically revolves around information our customers share about their driving behavior. We look at that driving behavior and provide coaching and counseling to them about how to be a better driver. Based on their driving behavior they can either get discounts or awards off their insurance premium."

Drivewise has been in the market for about five years and has been joined by similar products available from other insurers. Phadnis said one thing unique to Allstate is that it was the first insurance company to provide what it calls a "mobile usage-based insurance product." He explained: "We are the first to use the sensor information that comes off a mobile device, a smartphone, and we use that to run our program, provide information to our customers and clients about their driving behavior, and facilitate that through a mobile device."

[ See how companies are turning social media data into dollars and cents. Read 7 Smart Ways to Leverage Social Data. ]

Smartphones and the diagnostic system accessed through a vehicle's onboard device can provide dramatically different information. Phadnis said that each can provide the basic information Allstate needs for its purposes. "With the OBD device, we get data around miles driven, hard braking, et cetera, taken from the car itself. We gather similar data from the mobile device, but it's based on GPS information. And algorithms based around the GPS information can provide insight on driving more than 80 miles an hour, hard braking, and so on."

The Allstate Drivewise device. This device connects to the vehicle's OBD-II port.

(Image: Allstate)

The Allstate Drivewise device. This device connects to the vehicle's OBD-II port.

(Image: Allstate)

Building an App

Insurance companies are known for their sophisticated enterprise data systems, but the skills needed to develop applications for those platforms and keep them running can be very different from the skills required to build an app, especially one that draws heavily from geospatial data. Phadnis acknowledged that Drivewise Mobile took the IT team in a new direction. "If you think about what we sell at Allstate, automobile and homeowner insurance, it's technology intensive. When we moved into the world of the mobile product, it required us to build out skill sets you might see at a progressive technology-based company like an Uber or Google. The product we're making is an insurance product and a digital software product, and it requires competencies and functionalities across the spectrum."

Allstate had a deep bench of talent in computing areas ranging from actuarial science to risk assignment, according to Phadnis. "The things we brought in were more knowledge and experience around consumer-driven mobile product management." As an example,

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio
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