October 2019 | Technology

Kevin Paterson: Cause versus effect

Kevin Paterson

As a British Gas customer and keen technology enthusiast, I have been an enthusiastic adopter of the Hive smart home platform created by Centrica, the parent company of British Gas.

Launched, in 2013 the Hive platform surpassed one million users in May 2018 so clearly I am not the only one.

Starting with the boiler thermostat which I can control remotely from my phone, I have extended my use of the platform to include lights and more recently security cameras, this latter addition gave my daughter (don’t worry, she is an adult!) a lot of comfort and reassurance recently whilst my wife and I were abroad on holiday.

The whole family is connected to the app and via our phones we all get notified if there is any movement or activity within the scope of the cameras which record on a 24 hour loop.

The smart tech on the platform allows me to set up specific actions, for example, if one of the cameras detects movement by a person during the hours of darkness then I can programme one or more of the hive connected lights to come on for a certain amount of time, thus creating the illusion of someone being at home or indeed added security to anyone sleeping.

I was really pleased and surprised when I received, free of charge, a leak sensor from Hive recently by post, completely unprompted and sent to me as a gift.

The sensor is a little bit bigger than a 50 pence piece and has a short cable attached with a clip on the end. The clip attaches to the property side of the stopcock and links via battery operated wi-fi to the Hive network in the house.

The sensor will send a notification to all users of the app if it detects excessive usage, identified by a heavier or more constant flow of water into the property than it is expecting, this latter point is something the sensor ‘learns’ over time.

This has already saved me money as we have had at least one notification that came about as a result of a tap left open, the notification enabled me to get someone to locate and stop the tap before I racked up a huge water bill.

That really got me thinking and, in particular, about the implications to homeowners and more importantly to insurers for whom escape of water is, by some margin the biggest and most expensive area of claim for them.

Rather that manage the effect of these escape of water claims by imposing larger excesses and higher premiums why not deal with the cause and put in place smart technology to mitigate the risk?

Can you imagine if British Gas decided to enter the home insurance market and promoted this service to its one million plus Hive customers with an offer of a significant discount on their home insurance if the customer installs the free leak sensor as well as reducing or removing altogether the excess for escape of water claims for the same customers?

Given that more than 50% of claims relate to escape of water, dealing with the cause using technology makes absolute sense and brings premiums down for those policyholders. Today, I am not aware of any provider actively marketing this as a real service.

There are a few ‘disruptors’ trying to get a toehold in the market, like Neos who have teamed up with Aviva to provide cover for their connected home tech but this is marketed more as a peace of mind service rather than driving down premiums. It does include a leak sensor but also has smart door and window sensors as well as cameras and smoke detectors all connected via their app.

It would also make sense for all new build properties to be built with connectivity in mind and, in particular, leak sensors fitted as standard.

There are sensors that will shut off the flow of water, either automatically or on instruction; surely this is the way forward to eradicate escape of water claims and drive down the cost of insurance for all and use the smart home technology in a properly joined up way