The Internet of Things is driving a societal inflection point. Can today’s insurance industry prepare for commerce on the other side of this inflection point?

Executive Summary

In this article inspired by a section of his recently published book, "From Stone Tablets to Satellites: The Continued Intimate but Awkward Relationship Between the Insurance Industry and Technology," Insurance Analyst Barry Rabkin gives a refresher course on IoT devices and their impact on society. He also presents ideas for insurance product development and services opportunities beyond risk transfer built upon IoT device connections and data streams. Even farm animals don't escape his attention in a list of potential applications. Still, there are implementation challenges to consider. Rabkin discusses some here and provides a checklist in an accompanying sidebar article.


Society is replete with inflection points. The way people live, work, travel, entertain, shop or communicate are usually different after the inflection point occurs than before it occurred. Some of the previous drivers of societal inflection points revolved around the introductions of the telegraph, central heating, the internal combustion engine, the radio, antibiotics, the Internet and handheld mobile communication devices connected to the Web.

Like these earlier innovations, the Internet of Things has significant implications for every person and industry in the world.


Because IoT, when completed to its seamless, integrative conclusion, has the promise of overlaying the planet’s natural ecosystem with a global digital communications data-rich ecosystem of interconnected people, animals and artifacts (both manmade and natural).

What It Is

The simplest description of IoT is an object that has an IP-addressable sensor embedded in or attached to it.

However, a fuller and more meaningful description for the insurance industry of IoT—and the societal ramifications of the inflection point—is that it represents a fusion of digital communication capabilities among and between a growing number of sensor-enabled objects that could be physical artifacts, natural artifacts, animals or people.

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