By T/F/D Founder and CEO Stephanie Forrest

With a population of over 8.7 million and a forecasted growth of up to 9.5 by mid-2026, London is both one of the fastest growing cities in the UK as well as one of the most visited cities in the world, welcoming over 8.9 million visitors in the first half of 2018. Aware of the capital’s global status and need to accommodate its expanding population, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced last summer an initiative to make London the world’s smartest city and help tackle pressing issues such as ageing population, climate change and inequality.

The plan’s roadmap includes over a dozen initiatives, among them the Civic Innovation Challenge which intends to leverage the capital’s technological power and capacity for innovation to effect change.

Technology is increasingly being deployed across cities worldwide to benefit its citizens as well as improve a wide range of industries, and London is part of this trend. Our latest panel discussion focused on the topic of insurance and disruptive technologies and highlighted a number of exciting initiatives that are currently happening in London. Panellists included Dan Hubert, CEO of AppyParking, Sandeep Chandur, Co-Founder and CTO of Adapt Ready, and Stuart Woods, VP of Geospatial Content Solutions at Hexagon Geosystems.

The booming insurance scene

According to the latest report by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the UK is the fourth largest insurance and long-term savings provider in the world and the largest in Europe, managing investments of £1.8 trillion and paying nearly £12 billion in taxes to the UK Government. In 2017 alone, £43.3 million was paid out each day in motor and property claims and an additional £1.3 billion was recorded linked to fraudulent claims. This data provides a powerful snapshot of the current situation the industry finds itself in and also serves as insight into how data itself can help insurers optimise their business models and provide customers with a better service.

Technology offers the perfect solution to both collect and generate data that can help insurers reach this goal. Using tech such as blockchain, IoT, big data, drones, LiDAR, and mobile mapping insurers can monitor where risks are moving in near real-time and helps generate accurate city maps, resulting in the creation of assets such as 3D city digital twins.

London’s digital twin

UK smart city kerbside management platform AppyParking is one of those in possession of a digital twin, a 3cm-accurate digital replica of London captured with LiDAR technology that enables access to 14,000 km of restricted road network data. This information is used to manage the city’s kerb and unlock intelligent mobility for commuters. CEO Dan Hubert believes that if insurance companies had access to this data they would be able to assess more accurately, based on their ability to view details in real-time such as the outdoor specifics of a property if contacted with a request for home insurance. Evaluating risk more effectively would lead to a cut-down in the lengthy onboarding process and add value to the end customer. AppyParking, which has deployed 14,000 real-time sensors across 5 UK cities, is backed by insurance multi-national Aviva.

London’s digital twin is not only a powerful data asset for insurers, but also local authorities in order to monitor kerbs and streets for maintenance purposes. The latest ground-penetrating laser scanning technology by companies such as Hexagon Geosystems allows users to map areas never mapped before, uncovering underground pipes for assessment but also claim predictions. London’s police and emergency services would also greatly benefit from accessing this real-time data to determine, for instance, the quickest and most effective route across the city.

Hexagon is a global reality-capture solutions provider that plays an important role in the growth and development of smart cities, providing technology that generates the 3D base for digital twins. In the first instance, data is collected from multiple sources such as laser imaging scanners and later cross-referenced with other devices to create a unique data-set. According to Stuart Woods, VP of Geospatial Content Solutions at Hexagon, one of the key concepts in this process is “homogeneity” and to regionalise the information to a point where it can be quickly accessed and used, whatever the purpose. Stuart highlights that a great amount of risk can be reduced with accuracy and that digital twins can even allow for new insurance business models to be created. Digital twins ultimately provide a stronger understanding of the environment, which is composed not only of a cities buildings, but also its clearances, people and even the width of the road and how many vehicles are capable of driving through it at a time.

In 2017 the Environment Agency began a project to survey all of England with 1m resolution LiDAR data by mid-2020 (Image source: Twitter)

Tackling the capital’s mobility

Transport is one of London’s major challenges and requires constant renewal to service its growing population. According to the latest performance figures by Transport for London (TfL) over 112.7 million passenger journeys were made during a single month in 2018 and a total of 2.7 million customer hours lost. This, paired with the over 38.4 million licensed vehicles reported in all of the UK in September 2018, highlights the pressing issue London faces when it comes to mobility, an issue that technology can help tackle.

According to AppyParking’s Dan Hubert, London spends £100 million a year in parking enforcement, a service that can be digitised and carried out with the use of sensors for one tenth of the amount. An investment of £10 million in technology sensors would guarantee a better customer experience and savings of up to £90 million in the first year of activity alone. Even though parking enforcement provides a hefty income for the local authority, technology has recently played a pivotal role in a decline in profits due to the popularity of services like Uber and Amazon’s ‘Click and Collect’ service.

In this context, subscription-based services are increasingly leading the way with Uber recently deploying a new model in the United States that offers residents in cities such as Los Angeles and Miami monthly subscriptions. Back in London, Uber made headlines as it requested TfL access to real-time bus and underground data to integrate within its app. The objective was to provide a more comprehensive transport hub that would compete with the likes of Citymapper, the leading platform and reference point for Londoners that integrates data from all urban modes of transport to suggest the best transit routes.

The global scene

According to the IESE Cities in Motion Index, New York is the smartest city in the world followed by London and Paris. As these metropolis continue to thrive and reemerge at the top of the list year after year, there are also other cities that present great opportunities due to their equally important mobility and population challenges. According to Sandeep Chandur, Co-Founder and CTO of Adapt Ready, the London insurance market is perhaps one of the most receptive to change and disruption. However, opportunities also lie in other nations such as Vietnam, considered to be one of the least insured in the world, and in rural areas in which technology such as autonomous vehicles could greatly benefit the population. Adapt Ready is the US insurtech start-up behind a risk intelligence platform that provides a 360-degree view of complex risk by harnessing external data, allowing insurers to proactively mitigate risk and gain competitive advantage by transforming big data and predictive analytics into actionable intelligence.

Disruptive technology deployed to catapult smart cities is also having an effect on their legislation, affecting each metropolis in different ways depending on their level of maturity and touching subjects such as data collection and storage. For instance, in Germany Google now allows residents to request their home to be blurred out from the Google Maps’ Street View feature and removed from their data-set. In line with this trend Belgium recently announced a plan to sue the tech giant for not blurring images of their defence sites. However, as much as companies and institutions request and publicly collect data, a lot of it has previously been consented to by users themselves when accepting specific features like geolocation on mobile devices and apps such as Instagram.

The future

While London aims to thrive and lead the way globally as a smart city, it’s insurance industry depends on the data and insights collected by institutions as well as that willingly provided by its residents. The more data shared, the better more disruptive services provided by insurers and the more flexible and personalised services available to Londoners.

Going forward, the importance of real-time and regionalised data will be key in offering the best services, with sensors allowing to refresh information at an extremely fast pace. Insurance companies, as well as London itself, don’t need to generate more data but rather access to the existing and most relevant information generated every single day on a real-time basis. This is what’s currently missing and it’s something that we’ll evolve towards in the coming years.

In order to become the world’s leading smart city and continue to grow, London must address its inevitable expansion and embrace disruptive and emerging technologies. This would not only guarantee the position at the top of the innovation list, but also the top choice for people to live and work.

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