Giant insurer American International Group Inc. is betting on new technology, artificial intelligence and connectivity to give companies more control over workers in risky jobs and make workplaces safer and more efficient.
AIG, which is one of the world’s largest workers’ compensation insurers, announced it has made a strategic investment in Human Condition Safety (HCS), an early-stage technology startup company developing wearable devices, analytics and systems for use at worksites.
The amount and terms of AIG’s investment were not disclosed.
New York-based HCS, part of a larger technology invention research organization and lab called Human Condition Global, is creating tools it says will help workers, their managers, and worksite owners prevent injuries before they happen. HCS has not revealed details but says its tools will incorporate wearable devices, artificial intelligence, building information modeling, and cloud computing, and be designed for industries that hold the highest risk for workers, including manufacturing, energy, warehousing and distribution and construction.
On its website AIG suggests that, for example, the technology can detect when a worker carries too much weight, makes a bad bend, enters an environmentally risky area or gets too close to dangerous equipment.
Wearables are typically miniature electronic devices that are worn under or on top of clothing or are somehow attached to the body; they can even be part of clothing. They capture data and provide feedback about the wearer.
AIG said Commercial Insurance CEO Rob Schimek will discuss the HCS investment at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 8, 2016, as part of a broader conversation about the Internet of Things and the potential for disruptive innovations to make the world a safer place.
“AIG’s embrace of innovative, disruptive technologies is opening new ways for us to strategically partner with our clients,” said Schimek. “In this case, the technology from HCS will help enable us to work with clients to make their worksites safer places for their employees and help reduce our clients’ overall cost of risk. We will continue to look for more opportunities with firms like HCS that set the pace for mitigating and managing risks in ways unthinkable just a few years ago.”
“It’s not acceptable that we can push a button and have anything in the world delivered to our doorstep, but that people can still get hurt and even die needlessly when they go to work. With HCS’ tools, we leverage technology to keep people healthy and safe,” said Peter E. Raymond, the entrepreneur who is CEO of HCS and the man behind Human Condition Global.
On Dec. 17, 2015, HCS filed a Form D with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating it had raised close to $13 million from three investors in a still-open $30 million offering in which the minimum investment is $1 million. On his LinkedIn page, Raymond indicates that HCS is also backed by Microsoft, AutoDesk and Sterling Venture Partners.
HCS says it is currently in its second pilot project at Citi Field ballpark in New York. The pilots are real-world trials to identify leading indicators of potential injuries, and to demonstrate how HCS’s technology helps reduce the frequency and severity of work-related injuries.
In a video on its website with principals from HCS and AIG discussing the potential for the technology, an AIG executive calls wearables a potential “game changer” for the industry in reducing costs and improving workers’ experience.
HCS is not the only tech company developing workplace wearables and AIG is not the only insurer interested. A survey reported by Accenture last May said that that nearly two-thirds of insurers expect wearable technologies to have a significant impact on the industry within two years. John Hancock Insurance made news last year by offering its life insurance policyholders a free fitness band to track their health and be rewarded with lower premiums. Some insurers have experimented with Google glasses.
Researchers at Virginia Tech are combining tiny radio sensors that construction workers can wear on or inside vests with connected vehicle technology that allows cars to “talk” to one another, roadside infrastructure, and personal electronics such as mobile phones. IBM is also working on wearables and analytics for multiple uses including workplace safety.
Wearables have been gaining traction outside the traditional workplace as well. For several years, athletes have been wearing sensors that measure and help them analyze and improve their performance. Some employers and military leaders use wearables to track employees’ and soldiers’ whereabouts, movements and fitness with an eye on improving productivity.
While wearables offer the promise of improving efficiency and reducing the risk of injury, some worry they also pose a data privacy and security risk in their collection and sharing of information on wearers. Others have raised concerns about potential health risks such as headaches, double vision and dizziness from wearing devices.
Potential physical and privacy risks relating to wearable devices have prompted Underwriters Laboratories, which has historically been involved in electrical safety issues, to get involved in the wearable technology space.