Ready for the IoB?
Dec 3, 2020

What's that? Another acronym, the IoB? Allow us to introduce the new animal in the alphabet zoo: the Internet of Behaviors (IoB). The concept of the IoB comes from a recent report by Gartner. The definition is both obvious and subtle:



The internet of behaviors (IoB) is emerging as many technologies capture and use the "digital dust" of peoples' daily lives. The IoB combines existing technologies that focus on the individual directly - facial recognition, location tracking and big data for example - and connects the resulting data to associated behavioral events, such as cash purchases or device usage.

The basic idea is that a complete record of your interactions with the devices in your life combined with other daily activity data points will describe you - as a customer, an employee, a citizen, or a suspect - in a uniquely useful way for people with a stake in your behavior. Gartner estimates that by 2025 over half of the world's population will be subject to some array of IoB applications.

It is well to keep in mind that building an IoB dossier may be based on necessary, innocuous seeming tasks such as contact tracing and monitoring mask usage in these pandemic times. Throw in access to systems commonly used at work, maybe that device in your car that monitors your driving for "good driver discounts", all the times you drive past a tollway detector, the GPS feature on your phone - does a picture begin to emerge?

We cover this topic here because it should be obvious that an IoB application can be a key to better safety and security engineering as well. We expect IoB to become a hot topic among risk managers in the near future as we look for ever better, more granular ways to improve on the job safety and enhance system security at work. But keep this question in mind: what might happen if you know too much, if your organization becomes one more province in the expanding surveillance state? The IoB is a good example of how new technology keeps expanding our ability to know more about everyone. How much of that is helpful? How much could boomerang?

The original IoB


Let's Talk Parametric, Again

Our faithful readers (you know who you are) will have noted that we have been following the ongoing development of various parametric insurance concepts for some time now. The basic idea is simple. The risk insured against is defined by a series of objective metrics which determine when a payout is indicated and, in most cases, also provide a linear (if A, then B) calculation of the indemnity which can be paid promptly without the usual claims wrangling over vague definitions or ambiguous indicators. Correctly implemented, a parametric plan becomes insurance without drama.

An article in a recent issue of the Insurance Innovation Reporter (IIR) describes a new type of business interruption program: "Developed within the Lloyd's Lab innovation accelerator, the Hurricane Non-Damage parametric solution [called Blink] provides open-banking validation, real-time impact assessment and automated payouts while cutting claim process time up to 95 percent." If any of that sounds interesting, we strongly recommend the article.

While parametric programs are all designed to have a minimal LPR (lawyer participation ratio), the plan described here has a number of notable features which can allow a payout in far less than the six months to two years typical of old-fashioned business interruption policies. While this program, Blink, is designed primarily for smaller businesses, the concepts can be adapted to larger, more complex risks.

The important point is this: insurance has been stuck in the mid-Twentieth Century in terms of the basic indemnity mechanisms inside many conventional P&C plans. While many plan services have been updated and made easier to access and use, the policy and the related triggers and payout calculations often still use concepts developed in the fifties, if not earlier. The traditional terminology used often invites legal wrangling. The use of crisp, objective parameters to define an indemnity event can cut through a great deal of the fog. As a risk manager, you owe it to yourself to learn more about these new ideas. Parametric approaches may not work in all cases or they may be too disruptive at this point when you have a finely crafted multi-captive strategy, but check it out. You might be pleasantly surprised.

University College, Cork, home of Blink and a hotbed of insurance innovation


Quick Take 1:
Now Take My Employees... Please

We have noted before in these pages that an important part of enhancing worker safety sometimes involves eliminating those workers. So far as we know here at the GB Journal World Headquarters, no robots have had a compensable injury. At some point, the government was bound to notice and they have. A news flash:



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded $1.5 million over three years to the University of Illinois at Chicago and Worcester Polytechnic Institute to fund projects aimed at reducing workers' exposures to hazards through the development and use of collaborative robots, or co-robots.

The CDC news release uses the somewhat old-fashioned term "co-robots" for what the robotics industry has long been calling "cobots' but the point is clear - even DC has noticed.

But there is a more important point here, beyond the ongoing march of the robots which, by some reckonings, has been going on for the last century or so*. Note that the originator of this new research project is the CDC, the same folks who have been on the frontlines of our battle with COVID. In other words, the supplementation or replacement of certain types of physical work tasks is now being viewed as a health issue. The historic view of deploying cobots/robots** has been that this is an issue of economic efficiency, of ROI.

The involvement of the CDC suggests a very different view of process automation as a prophylactic measure to avoid or minimize potential injuries. This, in turn, suggests that it may be time for a more robust working relationship in certain areas of business between process engineering and risk management where injury reduction or elimination becomes part of the regular ROI calculation (if it is not already).

COVID has certainly made us all more aware that how we use and deploy our human resources is an even more complex matter than we thought and risk has taken on a whole new dimension. Cobots don't get hurt. They also don't get sick. One likely trend for 2021: risk management and HR will have even more to talk about.

How did you say I file a claim for workers' compensation? I definitely have strained an integrated circuit.

*The play Rossum's Universal Robots, which introduced the word "robot" premiered in 1921.

**Cobots are robots specifically designed to interact safely with humans.


Quick Take 2:
The Gift That Goes On Giving

Just when we think we've found the bottom of the bag of tricks COVID has to play on all our carefully designed programs for risk management, we find a new one. This is another one of those gray areas which falls square between HR and risk management. Here's the gist from The Insurance Journal: Parents who've lost their jobs during the pandemic are driving a surge of litigation, alleging their employers discriminated against them for taking care of their kids when schools closed.

Some forty lawsuits of this general description have been filed, according to the Center for WorkLife Law at Hastings College of the Law (University of California). Thus far, the suits filed are generally about employers denying parental leave or creating a hostile environment for those who take it, but as we get into the annual bonuses and promotions season early next year, this legal risk could take a new direction. Some experts see single parents being especially at risk. Are you and HR on the same page concerning parental leave and compliance with the Families First Act?

But wait! There's more! According to recent surveys, surprising numbers of current employees are considering leaving their positions. No idea how many of these departures may - sooner or later- include lawsuits based on perceptions of unfair handling of family leave issues. Have you reviewed the coverages for these exposures recently? Feel good about current definitions and limits? About how these matters are being handled in your organization?

COVID continues to rewrite the risk management playbook. Be sure all of your pages are updated.


Say It Isn't So...

There will always be an OSHA.

OSHA announced on Nov. 6 that the agency has cited 179 worksites for coronavirus-related violations and proposed a total of $2,496,768 in penalties since the pandemic began, through Oct. 29. Read more here.

(Although the agency hasn't implemented any coronavirus-specific workplace safety standards, employers still must comply with existing standards that cover pandemic-related safety risks, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.)


Words to Remember

Our Journal has repeatedly cited cutting edge science on the importance of movement for health and what that means for our workplaces. Before we settle into our comfy chairs in front of glowing fireplaces with plates of holiday goodies, perhaps we should reflect on this Sumerian wisdom, written down in cuneiform on a clay tablet about 1800 BCE:

He who knows how to move around will live longer than the sedentary man.


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