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Considerations in launching Internet of Things solutions in Commercial Property Insurance

Here at the SENSE Consortium, we are passionate about the topic of sensors and real-time data and its many benefits for the insurance and risk management industry.

What is our mission?

Using internet of things sensors and real-time data, to halve the cost of losses through prevention, thereby keeping companies, factories and manufacturing open and adding to the global economy - all while enabling insurance companies to offer better prices and services to their customers and improve ESG corporate responsibility.

We are seeing an increasing number of use cases in commercial properties and yet, the scaling and overall traction of this technology and data is still in its infancy.

The challenge

Imagine you are:

  • Head of Product Development at an insurance company,


  • Your objective is ‘Implement IoT technology into Commercial Property Insurance’.

What are you going to do?


For IoT and real-time data initiatives to be successful, any proof of concept or indeed scaling needs to include numerous (and typically) siloed functions as well as driving in-year and recurring benefits.

Before tacking where these benefits arise throughout the paper, it is worth highlighting the main areas to cover in any insurance focused business case:

  • Reduce the Loss Ratio

  • Grow the Commercial Property book

  • Improved Commercial Property book segmentation

  • Greater per customer and portfolio level real-time analytics allowing better decisions

  • Improved Customer Experience & getting closer to the customer (cross or upsell opportunities)

  • Reduced new acquisition costs (Decreased Loss Ratio and Retention => Lifetime Value)

  • Addressing the climate imperative (ESG)

Beyond the benefits for the insurance industry (Brokers, Carriers), the benefits are even greater for the customer themselves… but that’s a topic for a follow up paper.


Before embarking on your IoT and real-time data journey, it is important to take the time to consider where you will see and add value from IoT and real-time data. Understanding the application of the data you expect to get will significantly impact how you will need to shape your IoT initiative.

One example: where on the value chain should you ‘play’ or explore IoT and real-time data? Generation (own and deploy the sensor), collection (capture all sensor events for one type or set), consolidation (capture of multiple or related events from different sources), consumption (using that data for decision making or insight). Taking it one step further, what would an ecosystem of data, insurance and services look like and how achievable is it?

As an insurer, it is unlikely to be in the generation or collection of data; it is more likely that you will consume data someone else generates, captures or consolidates. It is yet more likely that as an insurer you would orchestrate an ecosystem around data with new products, services and business models.

Depending on where you then see your role, this will dictate your focus, likely budget, partners and outcome hypotheses.


So where to start? Let’s look at the people, the process and how best to proceed.

Arguably, new and innovative projects start and either fail or succeed with people; the internal and external stakeholders that need to be actively involved and managed to stand a chance of success.

Internal Stakeholders: Buy-in is needed from a wide spectrum of (senior) internal stakeholders to have any chance of launching. The more time you spend understanding your client base, your business drivers and those of your internal stakeholders, the more valuable your business case will be. The key is to identify really clearly the outcome and decisions and business models you expect to support by having this technology and the real-time data for those stakeholders (and end clients).

You can then decide what are the most effective ways to achieve that goal - who is your sponsor, what is your governance framework, who are your influencers and so on.

A key success lever for IoT and real-time data is the skill needed to bring several siloed teams together to support a successful launch and scaling: the classic ‘what’s in it for them’ narrative. Fortunately, the use of sensors and real-time data have a lot of favourable and exciting aspects to a variety of stakeholders that have already been proven. Many aspects of such a launch have been de-risked through multiple use cases; it’s more a question of assessing specific organisational cultures and internal strategic imperatives and thereby which direction and options to take.

External Stakeholders: It is equally true for external stakeholders that you need buy-in. This time from both brokers and clients to pilot this (and a lot of clients for scaling!), alongside new ways of working in a partnership model with technology / data providers. Much preparation is needed with your internal stakeholders for these new types of relationship and knock-on impacts IoT creates with external stakeholders. With multiple partners in an ecosystem, the value proposition has to work collectively as well as for each individual external stakeholder. ‘What’s in it for them’ gets bigger with more networked touchpoints.

Building excitement and getting your IoT initiative up the prioritisation list! Prioritising is a tough one, especially during early scaling, in order to make IoT a priority over and above all of the other initiatives within a business - for both internal and external stakeholders. The imperative here is to have a clear strategy. You will have defined the ‘what’s in it for me’, a benefits case and engaged and managed your stakeholders often!

Decisions on which technology and what kind of clients and buildings to go for during the pilot and the early years of the launch, and preparing internal stakeholders for the launch (i.e. being ready for the type of data coming in and what we will do with it.) should all be aligned to your strategy.

Insurance Company - Internal Stakeholders

So, who are the main internal stakeholders or functions that need to be engaged, consulted, involved and managed?

The Pricing Team:

The most obvious objective of the pricing team in your IoT initiative will be to create risk models that include IoT rating factors. Counterintuitively, whilst real-time data is prolific and constant, your pricing team will still be of the mindset of having enough (historic!) data to create their models as they know how to do and which will be many years down the road (the initial IoT portfolio will be small, risk modelling uses several years’ data, time is needed beyond that for claims to develop).

Fortunately, there are some quick/mid-term wins in the pricing domain…

  1. Commercial lines pricing has a relatively strong experience rating element (deviating the risk estimate away from the cross-client risk models, towards the client’s own experience). Therefore, once a client has a history of reduced losses as a result of their sensor data and ameliorated risk management behaviour, their premium reduces even in the absence of IoT specific discounts.

  2. Having a straight discount for the take-up of an IoT policy is an option. This may be from a development budget, or may be justified from short-term, life-time, and/or cross-IoT-portfolio insurance risk savings.

  3. Underwriters’ pricing override adjustments can be put into the pricing algorithm from launch. These will allow an underwriter to adjust the modelled estimate of risk for an improved best estimate of risk, based on say: a) underwriters’ knowledge that a sensor reduces risk, or b) feedback from a risk engineer that a data stream is likely to reduce risk, or c) an ad hoc pricing investigation (which can be performed faster and earlier than a full risk modelling exercise) that shows a reduction in risk for one client or one type of IoT data feed.

  4. Take a lead from telematics in motor insurance where some products have their perils priced using ‘miles’ as the exposure measure as opposed to the traditional ‘vehicle year’. Apply this approach to commercial property and we could see fire split into electrical fire and non-electrical fire, with electrical fire using ‘Megawatt Hour’ as the exposure measure. Something similar may be possible with water consumption and the escape of water peril. Thereby increasing pricing accuracy, and also increasing the client and insurers’ ESG metrics.

Making clients and the wider internal and external organisation aware of these points will be of great benefit to the success of your IoT project. One for the marketing and PR teams!

The Underwriting Team:

  1. Underwriters want to add value in the estimation of risk and new pricing options and models are likely to be a big IoT selling point to underwriters. Whilst top line may reduce, the impact will be felt on an improved bottom line and improved loss ratios. A reduced price (where it is justified) could also help get a deal over the line.

  2. A real-time data feed means there is opportunity for underwriters to make decisions more frequently than once a year. However, to do so will require new thinking on how to accommodate this into the day-to-day for an underwriter and the tools and data feeds and insights necessary to make those decisions.

  3. This real-time data feed with appropriate risk insights is invaluable for an underwriter at a single risk as well as a portfolio level. Analysis of this type of data at a portfolio level should provide interesting insights and trends for further investigation and risk improvement behaviours.

  4. To take full advantage of real-time data with mid-term underwriting decisions, underwriting may want to consider adding new clauses into the policy to incentivise prompt action to mitigate or reduce risk. The client may otherwise be slow to implement a risk mitigating change much earlier than the renewal and if they are only incentivised by the promise of a more favourable renewal premium and/or where they carry only a small percentage of the risk in the form of a deductible.

  5. Improving risk management behaviour in clients is a challenge with few clients implementing risk recommendations promptly based on annual surveys (if indeed a survey has taken place) [see our other white papers for the statistics!]. This new technology is one way to monitor improved risk management behaviours.

  6. A learning from the use of telematics in motor insurance showed that the greatest benefit came from underwriting. Being able to quickly identify those drivers most likely to have large losses (there was a pattern of large losses being caused by drivers who exceeded the speed limit by >30% just days after passing their test!) and remove them from the book. While it is unlikely that you would want to cancel a policy of a pilot client when launching IoT in commercial property insurance, it may be worth considering whether the policy wording could include the mid-term removal of elements of risk that IoT highlighted and where the insured client could/would not put in place mitigative actions.

  7. Making efficient use of IoT data will involve underwriters in a partnership approach: working more closely with clients, brokers, risk managers and other internal teams. How these interactions will work optimally in the real-time world needs to be considered.

  8. We have noted above that through a reduction in loss ratio, there may be a reduction in premium for commercial property policies. Whilst this makes the book more profitable, consideration should also be given to:

  9. New risk management / service / ecosystem offerings if this does not already exist. Complementing the technology with human risk management expertise, new services or an ecosystem of solutions at a single site or portfolio level.

  10. Cross-sell opportunities, particularly in the area of Cyber if IoT devices are not effectively installed and securely. A future white paper will cover this topic.

The Claims Team:

  1. Arguably the biggest impact of using IoT is the potential to reduce the frequency and severity of claims. Reasons include:

  2. Better risk management (insured’s own data): For example, the insured receives real-time and rule-based alerts to changes in data (such as temperature fluctuations). Issues can be identified quickly and action taken to mitigate if required. Appropriate controls and response time service level agreements (SLAs) can be factored into determining an insurer's liability.

  3. Better risk management (sharing of intelligence): In the longer term an insurer will accumulate data from similar sensors from a number of clients. Risk patterns may be detected that are not obvious from a single client’s data and can be fed-back for the benefit of multiple clients (as well as monetised).

  4. Reduction in claims frequency as well as severity due to actions when a claim is imminent: e.g. Identifying power surge levels and durations that are certain or almost certain to cause a fire and instructing or automating a shut-down of the power when this occurs.

  5. Reduction in claims severity due to actions during a claim event: e.g. Water flow devices on pipes can detect water flow patterns that are typical of a leak or overflow and automatically turn off the flow, thereby limiting the damage.

  6. Faster claims notification: Having real-time data that includes patterns showing a claim event is (almost certainly) in progress means that many claims will be notified instantly and automatically.

  7. Faster claims estimation: Similarly, real-time data will give an idea of the severity of a loss before the arrival of a loss-assessor and even before the initial communication with the client regarding the assessment. For smaller value claims, there is a potential cost saving for paying the claim based on the data alone rather than needing an in-person loss adjuster.

  8. Because IoT makes it easy to quantify a loss, there may be a reduction in lengthy/costly negotiations between a loss adjuster and loss assessor (where appointed). Ultimately, that means the Insured is indemnified faster where a claim is valid.

Reserving and Capital Requirements:

  1. Lower capital requirement on historic business

  2. Faster development of reserving triangles: with faster claims notification and estimation, reserving actuaries can more accurately estimate a portfolio’s ultimate claims sooner.

  3. ...This means there will be lower volatility between predicted and ultimate claims on all ages of historic policies.

  4. ...And less uncertainty that the reserves are inadequate.

  5. ...Which gives the insurer a lower capital requirement (to cover this uncertainty).

  6. Lower capital requirement on new business

  7. The main benefit of IoT technology in insurance is to bring down claims

  8. At the same time, and to a lesser extent, insurance expenses are likely to increase. e.g. cost of collecting/storing/analysing/acting-upon the real-time data. [Cost of supply and fit for the sensors is still up for debate as to who pays for this insured or insurer].

  9. ...So a lower proportion of the premium is for claims.

  10. ...So less uncertainty, as claims are more volatile than other expenses.

  11. ...Which gives the insurer a lower capital requirement.

IT, Information Security & Data Management Teams

As a general point on data capabilities; be honest in your data maturity as an organisation. For example, there is little point using IoT data for real time decision making if the bulk of your decision support capability uses excel. IoT has the potential to accumulate large amounts of data incredibly quickly, the more you store the more it costs you to store and to leverage so having awareness of what you have and on what basis is important for cost control (especially as most platforms are scalable in the cloud). When thinking about IoT initiative, like all data projects, what do I need, at what level and for how long are all valid questions

Buildings are inherently complex where often the same underlying technology is applied in different ways from building to building. The data is prevalent from both existing internal systems and new sensors installed to surface key metrics. It is the interpretation of that data that is key: identifying the key trends or drivers in the data as it relates to risk (as opposed to operational data). For example, increased humidity in the Air Handling Unit (potential escape of water risk) or an energy draw from the Fan Coil Unit in a HVAC system is a potential fire risk.

Building experts from broker or insurer risk engineering teams, or clients’ own facilities management teams can help to explain what the data is telling you. It really is a collaboration to understand the data - data scientists alone will not be able to correctly interpret this data without the building expertise input. In the short term, this insight can help identify the generic loss events that help deliver on the wider benefits of sensor technology and real-time data in commercial property. In the medium to long term, it is likely that machine learning and artificial intelligence will help automate some of that data interpretation.

So yes, new real-time data and technologies hold multiple benefits, and it is far from ‘an easy sell’. Mapping the journey of the value of the data; how it can be identified, captured and aligned to the risk management, underwriting, pricing and claims processing functions is key. Our experience at SENSE has started to break this down into the key areas of value for each function and where the value is and how it can be applied.

Other considerations… At this point, there are no mature standards for devices, data nor interoperability of devices. Therefore the ability to quickly on-board every type of data-feed from every sensor is unlikely to be a reality for some time. There are emerging data standards around commercial property e.g. BRICK.

IT/MI system builds usually require a very exact specification. The conflict between the wide world of IoT and the narrow specification of IT/MI will need careful consideration, management, and compromise. It will however be possible to consider the data feeds from all preferred sensors and consider the ease/difficulty of expanding systems from one to the other whilst deciding which clients and sensors are suitable for the IoT product.

Environment, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG)—Senior Management: