Imagine you're sitting on a white sandy beach in the Caribbean, not a worry in the world, when your phone pings you a notification: there has been a leak at home and your kitchen is slowly filling with water.
It's a hypothetical situation I hear a lot when it comes to covering innovation in the insurance sector, an industry not famed for its radicalism, and one I heard again a few weeks ago while chatting to Matt Poll, CEO and founder of Insurtech startup Neos.
The solution that companies like Neos aim to create is an app, combined with a whole host of internet of things (IoT) sensors and specialised hardware, which will allow you to turn the mains off remotely, get a repairman called out and make a claim, all from your phone.
Poll has been on the other side of the industry, previously at RSA and its sub-brand More Than, and the problem he saw was that "customers didn't get value from insurance unless they made a claim". So he went about building an insurer that would "help prevent the bad things from happening, or at least mitigate them".
The way Neos does this is by offering customers a package of best-in-class IoT enabled smart home devices, 24/7 support and unlimited building and contents cover underwritten by Hiscox, all managed from a mobile app.
It's ambitious, and Poll recognises that the early customer base will skew towards the more affluent and tech savvy, but he believes "there is a big customer need in the mass market that are interested in our solution".
Smart home technology
Essentially the insurance company is making the idea of the smart home more accessible to everyday customers. "I think with the smart home there has been a lot of hype, and there still is and my personal view is that it is really confusing for customers with different devices and protocols out there."
So for the past two years the team has been working on a home hub which links up the various devices and gives customers a monitoring platform from the Neos mobile app. From there customers can look at dashboards or live camera feeds, respond to issues like an intruder alert or a leak and contact the Neos team to get a professional sent out for response.
Even if your phone is switched off the Neos hub will trigger a response from its loss adjusting partner Cunningham Lindsey to try to contact you or designated key holders and get a tradesperson sent out.
The IoT enabled hardware includes two wireless motion sensors from UK manufacturer Fibaro, a Netatmo indoor wireless camera, two Fibaro leak detectors, two Fibaro wireless smoke sensors and two Fibaro window/door sensors. Neos owns the devices and will collect them upon the cancellation of your contract, like a Sky box.
"Our hardware strategy is not to produce hardware," Poll said, "as it is tough and expensive and changes rapidly, a good device today can be superseded in 18 months."
Neos won't charge customers any upfront fees except for installation (there is a self-installation option) and it aims to keep its packaged solution, which is currently underwritten by Hiscox, in-line with traditional home insurance premiums.
At the time of writing I couldn't make a price comparison to my current home insurance as Hiscox unfortunately wouldn't cover my property (no reason was given). Poll did say that Neos is currently looking to diversify who provides its underwriting and is even looking to do its own as a managing general agent (MGA), but would need to gain regulatory approval first.
Poll describes Neos as a "speedboat as opposed to the large oil tankers" of traditional insurers. He wants to bring home insurance into the digital world, and that starts with a connected approach that allows customers to manage everything from their phone.
Neos launched in London in January 2016 and is planning a big nationwide push this summer. One key channel will be the Zoopla property portal, as Zoopla Property Group (ZPG) invested in Neos back in November and will be pushing the Neos package to its millions of property seekers.