A mobile app that speeds up the claims process for policyholders affected by natural disasters was among the insurtech inventions protected during a surge in patent filings worldwide last year, according to Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC).
The law firm found that the number of insurtech patents filed worldwide jumped 40% last year, to 917 in 2017 from 657 in 2016.
Insurtech patents filed last year were for inventions as diverse as the mobile app for claims and the use of a system that checks whether a self-driving car is operating autonomously and switches between insurance policies automatically.
Among the most frequent filers of insurtech patents last year included American insurers Allstate Insurance and State Farm, which filed 35 and 34, respectively, and Ping An Insurance of China, which filed 23 patents.
Other active filers of insurtech patents outside of traditional insurers include Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, which filed eight patents last year.
According to RPC, last year’s surge in insurtech patent filings follows a five-year trend that has seen them increase 116% from just 425 in 2013.
Mark Crichard, partner at RPC, commented: “The rising number of insurtech patents shows just how important technology now is to insurers in increasing efficiency, delivering a better user experience and developing brand new products.”
“Insurtech is touching all areas of the market, from peer-to-peer (P2P) retail insurance products to ever more sophisticated risk analysis capabilities.”
Telematics, artificial technology and machine learning, and P2P insurance were among the most frequent subjects of patent protection last year.
Just over 22% (199) of insurance patents filed in 2017 related to pricing, as businesses looked for new ways to make pricing premiums and determining risk more accurate and efficient.
Telematics was also a key area of focus, with 78 related patents filed in 2017, up from 56 the previous year.
The increase in insurtech patents shows that the industry is embracing artificial intelligence, according to RPC. Patents related to machine learning increased to 100 in 2017, up from 73 the previous year.
One patent was filed to protect a means of evaluating risk based on real-time information from sensors in buildings such as fire alarms, intruder detection and surveillance systems. By using machine learning models to analyse the data, a quotation score could be developed that could be used across various insurance lines and carriers.
P2P insurance patents also saw an increase to 62 in 2017 from 52 in 2016.
Crichard added: “Whether insurers are engaging in proprietary R&D or collaborating with smaller players, protecting intellectual property rights by securing patents is clearly essential to secure that first mover advantage and stay ahead of the competition.”