This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Ding Dong: Your Home Insurer Is Movin' In





Insurance company technology is already monitoring drivers with devices like Progressive's "Snapshot," which logs your mileage, speed, braking and other data. Now an onslaught of James Bond-like gadgetry will give insurers a similar look into our homes.

Most of this equipment -- forward-looking infrared (FLIR), moisture meters, vibration detectors, acoustical hearing devices and air-born ultrasound -- appeals to homeowners who want to protect their property from electrical fires, leaks, mold and other hazards. There's currently little downside, and a lot of upside, to the technology that property-casualty insurers are now offering, mostly to their high net worth policyholders.

But new insurance patents, such as "spectral images," could give privacy experts and regulators cause for concern.

Filing the patents

A search of recent patents and press releases shows that home insurance companies are engaged in a battle to find and adapt new technology that will out-distance and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Chubb, Fireman's Fund, The Hartford, USAA, CNA and Zurich are among the leaders in this race to reach into the homes of customers.

Insurers that target high-end clients have the advantage; their clientele can afford the higher premiums that pay for these costly services. Homeowners with expensive art and jewelry collections are usually more than willing to pay for special treatment, and insurer Chartis offers a special service for yachts. However, an insurance technician is unlikely to visit the average policyholder.

From Benz to bicycle

But the cost of these devices, such as the FLIR cameras that take "pictures" inside walls, ceilings and floors, have plummeted to the point where they are now stocked on the shelves of Home Depot. It's only a matter of time until these devices will be in your home and affecting your insurance rate -- if you want them.

"When we started using FLIRs in 2006, the camera used to cost as much as a Mercedes-Benz. Now it costs as much as an expensive bicycle," recalls Keith Weinhold, Chubb's appraisal technical specialist, who predicts that prices will come down further.

The camera itself has also shrunk and is now the size of a flashlight. And before long it may morph into an app on your cell phone, say experts.

Hot spot, cold spot

A FLIR records heat images. By going through an ordinary home, which usually takes about an hour, a technician can find "hot" and "cold" spots, particularly in winter when the temperature is warmer inside than outside and when there is moisture in the form of rain or snow.

1 of 3

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Try it NOW
Only $9.95
Try it NOW
14-Days Free
Try it NOW

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG

Markets

DOW 17,684.94 +6.71 0.04%
S&P 500 2,058.81 +2.66 0.13%
NASDAQ 4,875.09 +11.7280 0.24%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs