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The insurance industry is changing. The COVID pandemic has brought employee wellness as well as a host of new types of coverage into sharp focus; and today’s very connected, mobile, and web-based consumer is demanding that the insurance industry offer a level of online tools and services that they expect in all their interactions.

While much of this industry growth and advancement were in progress before 2020, the pandemic with its demands for work-from-home and remote solutions for consumers, employees and organizations alike has greatly accelerated development within the insurance industry.

An impact on structural change

“The insurance world has changed because of the pandemic, and I don’t think it’s temporary; some of these changes we’re seeing are more structurally-oriented,” says Steve Hartman, CEO, Synchrono Group. “The whole idea of remote work is a structural change…. there has been an impact with a change in revenue streams; there’s been an impact with a change relative to business exposures; there’s an impact that is yet to be seen in the claim’s environment, for both worker’s compensation and liability. The marketplace as a whole is in a state of flux.”

For example, while wellness benefits originally started in the U.S. as a way to attract and keep a talented workforce, the lens of the pandemic has helped employers see that it’s not enough just to offer employees sick leave. Companies need to help employees be healthy. With this awareness, the industry is seeing an increased demand for pre-need benefits like mental health.

The nature and intent of employee benefits are changing and growing, and voluntary products are coming out with critical illness, accident, and hospital covers designed to cover employees for the things that their medical policy wouldn’t cover. The industry also sees very specific new offerings such as pet insurance and programs to help save for a child’s college education. The goal is to give employees more reasons to stay with a company and provide more options to take care of their families.

“One of the issues you run into with disability and life is that a COVID exclusion is not realistic at this point, and we’re always watching what the regulators are doing; we work with a lot of large players around absence management, tied into disability, and that’s market that’s going crazy for us,” said Chuck Johnson, CMO, Fineos. “We’re very busy because all the major carriers are trying to figure out how to deal with the regulatory side of this, and it’s very interesting because the regulations are changing faster than they ever have because lawmakers are trying to get ahead of this for lots of temporary and permanent legislation.”

Catching up to the State-of-the-Art

“We’ve seen an acceleration of certain changes that were already happening, and if we compare fintech and insurtech, I think insurtech is at least five years behind in terms of digital tools and connecting insurance companies,” said Lucas Timberlake, Partner, Fintech Ventures Fund. “So a lot of what happened with fintech in terms of banking and every company becoming a fintech company, I think we’re just starting to see with insurtech. “I don’t know if any of these changes weren’t already happening, but last year has definitely accelerated changes.”

In the 1970s, insurers were early adopters of technology, but unfortunately some of that early technology is still in use; and because of the critical nature of the product, there’s often a tendency to go for stability over innovation.

“Companies have suddenly recognized that they are woefully behind when it comes to their digital platforms, and they’re more prepared to partner and embrace others’ ideas because they look at us as an aggregator of best practices,” said James Swayze, Executive, Corelogic. “But the attitude is that they want to see somebody else doing it first. And now that they’re opening their minds up, there’s a trust forming for us as vendors, but there’s also a trust forming for their own policyholders. They’re allowing their policyholders to engage, and collect data, and streamline processes, and the policyholders actually want to do it, and it’s improving the bottom line.”

All this has brought about more and more interest in connectivity. How can companies within an industry that is behind the curve on connectivity interoperate? Insurers are still struggling with this, and there’s a lot of conversation around the ecosystem.

“I think ‘uncertainty’ was the word of 2020. Aflac, at the company level had thousands of people on campus, but our team at [Aflac Global] Ventures, was designed to be on the road, so we are fortunate enough that it’s easy for us to be remote,” said Gerald Gallagher, Investment Associate, Alfac Global Ventures. “But we’ve seen a huge shift, basically by force, to digital… and I think people are finding out that there’s a lot of tools out there that maybe they weren’t comfortable using. It’s been very interesting to see a huge population of insurance move on-line and accept those tools.”

Business-to-business platforms

There’s an expectation today that every organization should be as easy to deal with as Amazon or Apple or any tech-based sales/service organization — the insurance industry should be no different. End customers and industry employees alike are very tech-savvy, and they demand robust, on-line services and tools to make their home and work experiences better. And as organizations, insurtech companies need to be able to connect data points with other organizations, in real-time, for the integrity of many critical processes.

“The biggest differentiator in the U.S. market is truly how litigious it is. I think quite frankly so much innovation has been driven to avoid the lawsuit that it actually placed the U.S. at the front, from an insurtech perspective,” said Jamie Yoder, President, Snapsheet Inc. “So my advice to anybody looking to break into the U.S. is to focus on how your platforms can reduce fraud and validate results to help avoid the lawsuit because it’s of paramount importance.”

As cloud solutions and tools like artificial Intelligence become more available and accepted in the industry, insurtech organizations will become more responsive to industry and customer needs, better connected with critical data within the industry, and more.

“On the enterprise business, the biggest development we see is the realization that the future of insurance distribution, in general, will look different.” Ed Axon, SVP Business Development, Trov Inc. “Insurance customers — like all consumers today — want to buy it easily, quickly and competitively; they want the claims experience to be as good as the onboarding experience. Insurtech companies are beginning to partner with others in the industry to build the ecosystems that make this a reality.”

“The idea of a white-glove experience being the only level of service is no longer the case. We’ve seen huge impacts on our business this year in giving the policyholder the opportunity to submit a claim in their own time and using new technologies to do that,” said Denis Connolly, VP Sales, and Business Development, PLNAR. “We’ve had 85-year-old customers submit estimates through our platform this year. It just shows you how things are changing.”

The preceding information was condensed from a pair of Enterprise Ireland hosted, 60-minute webinar panel discussions titled, The Future of Insurance. 

To learn more about Irish Fintech innovators contact Claire.Verville@enterprise-ireland.com

Enterprise Ireland supported company, FINEOS, is a leading global provider of core systems for life, accident, and health insurers. FINEOS counts seven of the ten largest group life and health carriers in the United States and six of the largest life insurers in Australia as customers. With employees and offices worldwide, FINEOS continues to scale rapidly, working with 60 innovative, progressive insurers in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific.

The FINEOS Platform provides core administration capabilities including integrated disability and absence management (IDAM), billing, claims, payments, policy administration, provider management and new business and underwriting; all of which are configurable to operate independently or as FINEOS AdminSuite the leading Employee Benefits end-to-end core administration suite.

FINEOS provides these core systems in a SaaS environment, so they are available on the cloud powered by AWS. Unlike many other vendors that offer software for individual policies, FINEOS is not a generalist; they focus on the insurers, employers, and government entities that are taking care of their employees and citizens.

We recently caught up with Victoria Jamison, Digital Content Strategy Senior Manager at FINEOS, as she interviewed FINEOS CMO Chuck Johnston about the company, the U.S. market, and the current global insurance environment.

FINEOS has been in the industry for many years; how have employee benefit expectations changed over time?

The industry has definitely changed. The older model in the United States for benefits was primarily driven by regulation. But what we see now, which is highlighted with the COVID-19 pandemic, is that there’s also an element of wellness for employees. And while wellness originally started as an offered benefit, employers are noticing that they need a workforce that not only is motivated to work but is healthy and is positioned to do their job. It’s not enough to just offer employees sick leave; companies want to help employees with health and wellness.

Because of this, we’re seeing a significant focus on pre-need benefits. We see more of a focus on mental health care because the world has gone through a COVID-19 driven mental impact. There is a greater focus on employee and citizen care than ever before. I do think that’s global because even the systems that were set up to take care of citizens, where it was more of a citizen care government model, the requirement of care has gone up.

Has insurance carrier engagement with new technology changed over time?

Insurers were early adopters of technology back in the 60s and 70s, starting in some areas in the United States and spreading throughout the world. The bad news is that some of that 70s technology is still running in various parts of the world. Can you believe that? And insurers are heavy users of information technology because of the nature of the product. Because of that, they are very heavily regulated information and service-based products. Insurance carriers and government agencies have a tendency to go for stability over innovation.

That’s changed in the last few decades with the rise of the InsurTech. It used to be that insurers didn’t want to deal with technology companies of less than a billion dollars of revenue annually to minimize risk. But now, there is a desire to leverage new technology for competitive issues within the market and meet the digital bar set by other industries. There’s an expectation for consumers that it should be as easy to deal with their insurance company as it is to deal with Amazon, Google, or LinkedIn. The end customer is now very tech-savvy; they are demanding robust, on-line services.

How has the employee benefits space changed in the last year as a result of COVID-19?

Particularly in the United States, the rate of change has increased dramatically. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been around for a long time, but it’s only in the last few years that people are focusing on formalizing their processes around it much more than they did when it originally came out. In the United States, we’re beginning to create things like paid family leave in order to fill in some of the gaps that you might see in European or Asian countries that U.S. federal programs haven’t historically had.

When COVID hit, we saw a dramatic uptick because we were implementing a system that managed all those rules at the federal and state level, and it was becoming more complex. Then the pandemic pushed the gas pedal to the floor and society said, “We need more of these. We need temporary leaves as well.” So, the velocity of change of those regulations and the depth of which they were going increased dramatically in reaction to COVID. Some of them are temporary, some of them are permanent, but all needed to be expedited and managed properly.

What key trends is FINEOS watching in the insurance industry, and what are you most excited about, and what presents challenges?

On the insurance side, the nature and intent of employee benefits is changing and growing. The different kinds of things that are being labeled as employee benefits are increasing dramatically as well. There was a time where if you had good medical and good dental, you were done, you’re happy. Now, the voluntary products are coming out with critical illness, accident, and hospital coverage designed to cover employees for the things that their medical policy doesn’t. That’s a fast-growing area.

We’re also seeing very specific new offerings. Pet insurance has become a real thing; there are employee benefits programs to help save for a child’s college education. The goal is to try to give employees more reasons to stay with a company and provide more options to take care of their families.

One of the things that’s interesting is machine learning and AI. These technologies are moving from “Here’s a magic box that gives you an answer” to “How do I use this as an accelerator throughout our entire process?” Using AI as part of the new business process, case onboarding, using it to do an analysis of text associated with policies and doctor statements and claims — this is happening now. The industry is now asking, “How do I help all of my processes through machine learning, machine assist, AI assist?” Tech is shaping the industry, and I think that’s pretty exciting.

What are the next big challenges?

What I am seeing is there’s more and more interest in connectivity. How can companies within an industry that is behind the curve on connectivity interoperate? Insurers are still struggling with this, and there’s a lot of conversation around the ecosystem.

From our perspective, this is why we started our OpenCore initiative. There is a FINEOS OpenCore layer within our system designed to connect. “Expect to connect” has been one of our mantras. Open connectivity is an interesting issue in the insurance industry. Sometimes open connectivity can be seen as a negative because some companies want to create walls to protect their business through high switching costs, but that is not the world this industry lives in anymore.

Speaking of connectivity, how is cloud technology impacting the industry?

Cloud isn’t yet a utility like electricity, but it’s getting to that point. The ability for companies to get out of the IT infrastructure business is crucial for insurers. I grew up in the insurance industry, and the data centers — most of which can live in the cloud nowadays — used to take an incredible amount of capital and mind share, and there was risk associated with them. With cloud solutions, you’ve moved from a capital model to a subscription model, but costs are reduced, and they have better security. There are big advantages to a cloud approach.

Another significant advantage is that things in the cloud are more consumable by their users, whether that means other employees, the employees of the companies you’re insuring, or the actual end-users of the insurance product. Accessibility goes up dramatically in the cloud.

FINEOS recently acquired Limelight Health. What does this add to the toolkit?

We saw there was a lot of synergy between Limelight Health components and components that exist within the FINEOS AdminSuite and the FINEOS Platform. So, it made sense to bring Limelight Health into FINEOS New Business & Underwriting. We were able to quickly fill some gaps on our roadmap because the rating engine and some of the other FINEOS New Business & Underwriting components are useful not just for what they provide as part of that solution, but also as a FINEOS Platform capability used in other solutions. We are currently moving FINEOS New Business & Underwriting to our FINEOS AppCore platform because we have excellent case management, workflow, UI, and other foundational capabilities.

So, FINEOS New Business & Underwriting gets a significant boost to go to market strength from the FINEOS acquisition, which will help a leading application become the killer app in that space. And it also gives FINEOS the ability to tap into some of that West Coast InsurTech innovation thinking. We’re bringing in people who will stir things up positively, it’s great to create a more diversified company culture.

And finally, what’s next for FINEOS in 2021 and beyond?

From a software perspective, we’re adding new functionality, particularly in the areas of the new products that people are developing, and we’re always focusing on the next/best user interface. There will be a lot of focus on the ecosystem and partners, and on cloud solutions.

Sometimes FINEOS is better off partnering with people who have a specific expertise for a very specific need rather than to try to be all things to all people, so our partner ecosystem will be getting a significant boost in 2021. We’ll continually look for other potential organizations that may add value to FINEOS, either as a partner or an acquisition.

Irish companies are carving out a reputation for technical excellence and the development of innovative solutions in the rapidly growing $300 billion global space technology market. At present, more than 70 of these companies are engaged in projects with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a diverse range of areas including structures, materials, microelectronics, photonics, telecommunications, radio systems, and life sciences.

ESA is the primary gateway to this exacting but highly lucrative market for Irish firms, according to Enterprise Ireland Programme Manager Tony McDonald. “ESA is the only agency we have access to in Ireland that can qualify products for use in space,” he points out. “You can go anywhere with that verification. It’s a very specific quality mark that gives a product credibility. It is recognized by NASA for its technology readiness level scale, so it allows Irish companies to sell their products there as well.”

Ireland is a member of ESA, with the government here contributing €20 million to the agency each year. “The 22 member states contribute €6 billion to the ESA budget each year and it uses that to place contracts with industry to develop technologies for the space program,” says McDonald.

But the prize on offer to Irish companies goes far beyond those contracts. “If you can develop something that works in space, it means it is very good and extremely reliable,” McDonald explains.

“It helps position the company in other markets which demand high levels of performance and reliability. When it comes to reliability, the product has to be zero failure. That makes it very expensive to develop and it may be too expensive for other market verticals. But the automotive sector is now looking for the same reliability. The guidance systems for autonomous vehicles have to be zero failure. A key part of the strategy for Irish companies succeeding in space is to have transferability to other markets.”

Ubotica is one of those Irish companies which is blazing a trail in the space market. The firm is bringing artificial intelligence to satellites to make them far more efficient in how they process images and send them back to Earth.

The company has combined AI and edge computing capabilities to the Myriad 2 vision processing chip designed by Irish company Movidius. In short, this allows the chip to interpret images in space and decide which ones are worth sending back to Earth.

The current application, which is running on the recently launched PhiSat Earth observation satellite, is for cloud detection. “It detects when there is cloud in an image,” says Aubrey Dunne, Ubotica co-founder, and Vice President Engineering. “At present, Earth observation satellites gather data and then downlink it to the ground station when they are overhead. About 66pc of the world is covered in cloud at any one time. This means the majority of the images downlinked will have to be thrown away and downlink time is very expensive. By detecting the clouds before the downlink, the time can be optimized, with only usable data sent.”

Connections between the thousands of satellites being put into low Earth orbit by internet and cloud technology companies like SpaceX, Amazon, and Viasat is the business of Galway-based mBryonics. The company has pioneered the development photonic integrated circuits (PICs) which use light to transmit data wirelessly and at the ultra-high speeds required by these new networks.

“We have to deliver terabit capacity at very low power and the cost has to come down by an order of magnitude as well,” says mBryonics CEO John Mackey.

“Data has to be routed from satellite to satellite in the network and between the ground stations. The switching speed has to be incredibly fast. If you are connecting from Ireland to the US through the network in most efficient way, the connection has to be made within one trillionth of a second, with the system deciding on how to do that autonomously. With our PICs, we can put all the systems required to do that onto a chip no bigger than a fingernail. They have many advantages for space, including low weight and low power consumption and they offer viable pathways to producing high volumes at low cost.”

Another innovative Irish company making inroads in space is Lios, formerly known as Restored Hearing, which is using its revolutionary SoundBounce acoustic material to protect the interiors of launch vehicles from the extreme noise and vibrations encountered on the journey into orbit.

“The most exciting part of that is the nose cone,” says Lios CEO Rhona Togher. “We help the contents of the vehicle get into space safely unharmed by the rough journey.”

The SoundBounce material is up to three times thinner and 1,000 times more effective than traditional solutions. “It is a lot lighter and smaller than the one currently being used,” she adds. “That will enable the mass of the vehicle to be reduced and allow the companies to put a lot more stuff up there. Success in the space sector will open up opportunities for us in other industry sectors like the automotive and aerospace sectors. We can now say our product is qualified to a much higher level than they normally look for. That will break down a lot of barriers to entry to those markets.”

The number of new Irish companies engaging with ESA developing technologies for the space market has doubled over the past year.

According to McDonald, “We have seen a flowering of companies in the area. There are a few factors at play. The market is changing and becoming more commercial and we are seeing the concept of new space. The market is moving away from a top-down structure led by states and state-run bodies to a bottom-up one led by commercial organizations. It’s really exciting to see the number of start-ups in Ireland engaging with space. They are springing up with new technologies which are being adopted pretty quickly. The capability of Irish companies in this market is really something to see.”

Irish tech innovator Scrapinghub, a global leader in web data extraction technology and services, has become Zyte. Crawling over 13 billion web pages every month, Zyte continues Scrapinghub’s original mission to give organizations faster, easier access to accurate web data that drives better business decisions.

“Extraction needs are changing, and after ten successful years as Scrapinghub we’ve renamed ourselves to Zyte to reflect the exciting opportunities of an evolving digital landscape,” said Zyte Founder and CEO Shane Evans. “Organizations have never been more reliant on data as the differentiator that fuels innovation and business growth, and our evolution speaks to our commitment to support customers in an increasingly complex data-driven world.”

As the web gets bigger and more complex, it’s a challenge for developers to keep pace with changed pages that break spiders, or legitimate extraction efforts that get banned, blocked, or blacklisted by overzealous bots.

Based on Zyte’s patented Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms, Automatic Extraction lightens the load for developers who do not have time to spend laboriously maintaining spiders. Accessible via an easy-to-use API or self-serve web interface, Automatic Extraction short-circuits much of the manual coding associated with custom web scraping projects, reducing typical project timeframes from weeks to hours or minutes.

“We wanted our brand to reflect who we are and where we’re going. We’re doing more than low-level web scraping; we’re focusing on web data and putting customers at the heart of what we do,” said Evans. “We’re replacing much of the time-consuming and mundane aspects with automation based on our own patented machine learning algorithms; we have a new user-interface that makes it easier than ever to get started with web data extraction with instant access to news and product data, saving time, resources and energy.”

Enterprise Ireland works with the team at Zyte as they continue to innovate and develop solutions to help customers more efficiently extract web data.

“Along with their new name and look, the team at Zyte continues to make their mark in the industry with the continuous development of leading, innovative solutions,” said Jessica Baker, Vice President of Digital Technologies, Enterprise Ireland. “Their new AI-powered Automatic Extraction is a great solution for any organization that is looking for an easier, more efficient way to extract web data.”

Zyte will also showcase its new Automatic Extraction service and rebranding at a booth at this year’s virtual SXSW Conference held March 16 – 20.

Amid the unprecedented disruption of 2020, a number of clear trends have cut through the turmoil.

“There’s been a lot of talk about digital transformation in recent times, but this is the year that companies have been forced into actually doing it,” says Pat Lucey of Aspira (pictured pre-pandemic on the left beside Peter Ryan), the Irish-owned technology consultancy.

“The pandemic has taken organizations out of their comfort zone,” he says. “If you look at big pharma or medical device firms, a year ago their main challenges might have been in chemistry or bio-pharma. Now they are trying to deal with huge logistical and supply chain issues that are completely outside their domain area of knowledge.”

To ensure they get it right, many organizations are turning to the experts. For technology project management specialist Aspira, the pandemic has triggered a three-fold increase in demand for digital transformation services as companies look to quickly improve their e-commerce capabilities and supply chain networks.

For a company that prides itself on forming close, collaborative partnerships to deliver projects and build capability, growing demand has seen Aspira open a new Asia-Pacific regional headquarters in Malaysia while expanding the company’s mainland European operation with a second office in the Netherlands.

“Initially [Covid-19] was about survival, but we’ve managed to thrive over the last six months by helping clients to take advantage of disruption in the marketplace,” says Pat Lucey, Aspira’s Group CEO and co-founder.

“We’re up to date with all the latest trends including agile and entrepreneurial project management, so we can bring some of that new thinking and help our clients find ways of delivering more flexibly,” he says. “That’s been really useful over the past eight months because of the need for companies to be nimble and agile in the face of unexpected circumstances.

“But it’s a balancing act because we have a very strong customer service ethos,” Lucey says. “A big part of our culture is regular face to face contact with clients, which is obviously much harder now that we can’t jump on a flight whenever the need arises. We felt if we were going to really take advantage of the opportunities in Asia and Europe, we’d have to grow our physical presence.”

This, though, is a company well accustomed to growth. Since its foundation in 2007, Aspira has on average doubled in size every three years, working with clients across multiple industry sectors to help them deliver large-scale technology projects. The company has been listed in the Financial Times ‘Top 1000 Growth Companies in Europe’ for the past two consecutive years.

Although Aspira offers a broad range of services, it is best known for its expertise in project management. The company’s Managing Director (Europe), Peter Ryan, is also VP of the Project Management Institute of the Netherlands.

“Fundamentally, we’re a consultancy,” says Ryan. “That means we listen to our clients first and foremost, then we advise and help them to deliver their technology projects successfully end to end. We offer a broad host of services, including advisory, training, hands-on delivery services.

“What we want to do for clients is deliver their projects today and also build capability for them to improve tomorrow,” he says. “A simple engagement would be a project manager going into a client and delivering a project, but we would also expect our consultants to give some added value, not just to deliver the project but to build in best practices that allow the client to continually improve.

“We operate across a number of verticals including energy and utilities, pharmaceutical and medical devices, fintech, healthcare, and e-commerce which has accelerated rapidly during Covid,” says Ryan, who is based in the company’s Amsterdam office. “The majority of our clients are enterprise clients including multinationals and large-scale organizations in the private sector.”

The firm’s client portfolio includes names such as Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, Vattenfall, K3, CRH, BME, Citco, McAfee, as well as a host of blue-chip financial institutions, energy suppliers, plus a range of public sector, semi-state clients, and Government departments.

This year, the company has been helping e-commerce software giant K3 to undergo a major digital transformation involving some of the biggest retailers on the planet.

“A client like [K3] would come to us for our end-to-end service,” says Peter Ryan. “They come to us because we have a reputation for excellence in delivering projects and because we can think through what a digital transformation looks like in an e-commerce world. So, we can co-design digital transformation from a retail perspective with them and help build their capability through creating the right mix of our advisory and training services.”

Aspira’s hectic schedule is unlikely to ease any time soon. The company expects 2020 growth to be slightly up on last year – some feat, considering the context – and is looking at setting up in North and South America in the next 18 to 24 months.

“Because we have that broad range of services, we’ve been able to withstand the challenges [of Covid],” says CEO Pat Lucey. “We’ve worked hard to develop a spread – geographical spread, client industry spread, currency spread – and that makes us relatively resilient. We’ve also been lucky.

“Then again, as they say, hard work puts you in a place where good luck can find you,” he adds with a smile.

Enterprise Ireland client company CodeEast, is a team of dedicated and experienced insurance software system architects who specialize in creating best-of-breed digital insurance platforms for the sales and distribution of Insurance Products. Based in Dublin, Ireland, CodeEast works with insurance companies in Ireland, the U.K., and now in the United States.

The Synchrono Group Inc., an Insuretech Managing Underwriter specializing in Property/Casualty and Workers Compensation for the gig economy and small commercial insurance risks, has partnered with CodeEast and will use their Digital Platform for the administration of Commercial Property/Casualty insurance products across the U.S.

“We are excited to sign a five-year partnership with SynchronoSure,” said Aidan Brogan, CCO of CodeEast. “The selection of our ONEview system is a strong validation of the flexibility and agility of our cloud-native platform. With its inherent capabilities for Producer Management, Environment Control, Data Use, and the ability to support regulatory regimes in all states for commercial insurance, we think ONEview creates sustainable advantages for our customers. The digital transformation of the insurance industry is starting to gain momentum and will accelerate at pace. I look forward to growing our business in the USA.”

This was the first product in this environment for Synchrono, and they went live with the CodeEast ONEview platform in less than three months. The system has the state-of-the-art capabilities required to seamlessly integrate through REST API’s with Sybchrono’s proprietary technology stack, including the user interface, underwriting algorithms, and API data engine predictive tools. These integrations allow Synchrono to offer a market-leading response time that effectively positions them with the capability to underwrite, quote, bind, and issue policies in a matter of minutes rather than the hours and days common to most of their competitors.

“As an Insuretech Managing Underwriter which leverages data and technology to deliver custom insurance products, we need systems that are fast, flexible, and capable of integrating seamlessly around micro-services,” said Steve Hartman, Chairman and CEO of Synchrono Group. “Getting the right tech partner and software platform in place for our products is a key element of this plan. We chose CodeEast’s ONEview Digital Insurance Platform because it provides us with the flexibility, the self-service facilities for Policyholders, Agents and Brokers, the delivery speed and the automation capability we require to deliver our strategy.”

To help secure new partnerships and expansion into the U.S., CodeEast works with Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade and innovation agency. Enterprise Ireland partners with Irish enterprise companies to help them start, grow, and win export sales in global markets.

“CodeEast is helping transform the insurance industry into the digital world,” said Stephen Mulhern, Senior Vice President of FinTech & Financial Services, Enterprise Ireland. “We’re very proud to support them as they bring their solutions to the United States. It was a privilege to work with both CodeEast and the Synchrono Group in helping facilitate this partnership.”

ONEview is a Digital Insurance Platform for the SMART Automation of the sales, distribution, and processing of insurance products and services in insurance companies. ONEview provides a state-of-the-art solution for the automation of an existing business environment or the implementation of new, innovative, digital insurance business models without putting the existing business at risk.

“Time is money for us and our Agents, Brokers, and small business customers. The ability to get the insurance underwritten and issued in a matter of minutes frees up, for all of our stakeholders, additional time to focus on revenue creation for their businesses,” added Hartman. “The Digital Capabilities embedded in the ONEview platform enable this transformation and, increasingly, these Digital Capabilities are becoming the new normal. The ONEview system Digital Capability enables both a fast customer experience and full scalable digital integration for both admitted and non-admitted insurance.”

The Global Dairy Market is worth around 700 billion dollars and growing every year. To meet growing demand, the industry is turning to efficiency technologies that enable faster and better supply. Irish Dairy-Tech company Piper Systems is one of the primary technology companies enabling the digital transformation of the Dairy Industry here in the U.S.

Piper makes Automated Milk Collection systems, offering substantial improvements in the efficiency, accuracy, and traceability of dairy production. Although these systems are standard in other parts of the world, until now, they have not been in the USA. The recent approval of Piper’s DynaStream system is a landmark decision for the industry.

“This has been a huge ambition for us because U.S. standards are so rigorous. But the prize is enormous — to be the first and only company permitted to supply this cutting-edge technology into the world’s largest dairy market,” said Piper CEO Leigh Hamilton. “We are so delighted to have achieved this goal and so grateful for the forward-thinking regulators, industry leaders, and to Enterprise Ireland for supporting this milestone.”

Irish Dairy-Tech company Piper Systems has been working toward U.S. approval of their DynaStream system for several years. The arduous process involves National Weights and Measures testing (NCWM/NTEP), as well as acceptance by the NCIMS (incorporating 50 states and the FDA). Piper’s system is also the only one approved by the NCWM authority as a legal for-payment device across the USA.

Forward-thinking Dairy companies in the U.S. are already aware of the technology and see how useful it could be in their supply chain. Dairy Industry leaders like Danone North America, AgriMark, and DFA have already introduced the systems on their routes on a local basis, and more rollouts are planned for 2021.

“We are delighted to see Piper Systems making such ground-breaking accomplishments here in the U.S. already,” said David Corcoran, Head of New England & Midwest USA, Enterprise Ireland. “Now that the DynaStream system is FDA approved, we are excited to continue to support Piper as they continue to grow, innovate, and work to transform the U.S. Dairy Industry.”

Covid-19 means 100% traceability is needed now more than ever

The U.S. Dairy Industry in 2020, like nearly all industries, has been drastically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the essential benefits of the Piper System is the 100% traceability of milk from farm to manufacturing. This is increasingly important to consumers and has become even more so during 2020 when COVID-19 made it harder to travel to farms to oversee production.

“We have customers who would have had to put a field rep in a car for hours or days to get to a farm and review operations,” added Hamilton. “Using our data, they can do that work in just a few moments and from their desk. This is a huge efficiency saving, yes, but it also prevents a contact point that we want to avoid as much as possible during these times. It is an added benefit of digital transformation that we didn’t see the complete value of before 2020.”

Hamilton explained that another significant change is the increased demand for traceability. People want more and more information about the origin of the food they eat. In troubled times, people want greater assurance that their milk is safe and has been appropriately handled at every step along the way.

Saves hours per trip

It is easy to see why the milk transportation industry is so excited about the change. In the haulage business, Piper technology delivers substantial time savings on multi-stop routes where time is money. Piper also provides safety improvements by removing the need for the driver to climb the tank. And there is an opportunity for drivers to finish work sooner for a better work-life balance.

Jonathan Eriksen, a milk hauler with GTI in New York, says, “The biggest issue Piper solves for us is the downtime of the driver. Coming into the farm, we no longer have to wait for the milk to agitate or to measure. He just backs in, hooks up our hose, and our driver can leave. It pumps faster, and our driver never has to get on top of the trailer.”

Plus, for companies for whom sustainability is a priority, Piper tracks the milk assembly mileage to allow for an accurate carbon cost calculation.

The Piper platform will also unlock many efficiencies for the U.S. Dairy Industry, allowing them to make a giant leap forward in a single step. From manually sampling, weighing, and handwriting records to automated milk collection, 100% traceability, and accurate electronic data.

“This is a game-changer for the quality of milk samples being collected at dairy farms,” says Barb Koeltzow, Dairy Program Manager at Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.

U.S. companies using the new technology

This revolutionary technology is already live across some states in the North East and is expected to be deployed in more states in 2021. Industry experts within the U.S. are aligned on the potential for improvement.

“This technology is coming to the U.S., and it will be transformative,” said Scott Werme, VP of Membership for AgriMark.

Support for the principles behind the Piper DynaStream — representative sampling, accurate milk weights, and improved traceability through automation — is unanimous. As a result, Piper is now the only company that has successfully achieved all the approvals required to bring this revolutionary new technology to the U.S. Dairy Market.

Enterprise Ireland recently hosted a webinar with Piper Systems and Danone North America on the future of digital transformation in the US dairy sector. Listen to the full discussion here.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Michael Morgenstern, Enterprise Ireland Senior Vice President. 

In 2020, Site Selection magazine named Texas the top state for infrastructure and investment potential, and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) ranked Texas as the Best State for Business for the eighth consecutive time. Yet interestingly, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual report card has graded Texas as a C- when it comes to the state’s own funding, proper maintenance, and preparedness for environmental change.

As the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas is poised to lead the country in innovative, cost-efficient, long-lasting hard infrastructure. Six of the 15 fastest-growing cities in the US are in Texas, and Texas is the nation’s second-largest importing state behind California, bringing in nearly $294.9 billion in goods in 2019. This emphasis on infrastructure is critical as the state’s population continues to grow. Dams, drinking water, flood controls, airports, roads and highways, and wastewater are all key infrastructure segments within Texas where attention is desperately needed — and this presents a real opportunity for construction and the connected supply chain.

As a critical economic and national security priority, the pandemic has re-oriented the US supply chain away from foreign adversaries. Specifically, as the US Federal Government and the State of Texas re-assess trade relationships with China in a post-COVID world, there are immense opportunities for English-speaking countries to fill a massive void.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot and Texas Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs should be proactively working to build relationships with trade partners with common values, a shared language, and mutually beneficial economic productivity goals. One of those well-positioned trade partners that is ready for the opportunity is Ireland.

The Irish economy is fast emerging and exhibits innovative and cost-effective infrastructure, construction, and industrial technology products and services. Ireland is strategically prepared to continue growing its exports and is well-positioned to take advantage of the American shift away from China.

The nation of Ireland – with a large population of expatriates in Texas – has been rated the sixth freest economy globally according to the Heritage Foundation. Ireland is second only to Switzerland in Europe, and Ireland represents the most-free nation within the European Union. As the EU undergoes disruption with Brexit, Ireland is looking to the Lone Star State as a key trade partner.

Solving next-generation infrastructure challenges entails identifying countries that have done it right and at scale. Ireland has a rich history of collaboration between industry, academia, government, and small businesses sharing knowledge around IoT and its industrial infrastructure applications. Many Irish companies, including TaoglasLineSight, and Asavie already have a foothold in Texas. There are even direct flights between Dublin and DFW airports. Ireland is ready to serve the infrastructure innovation needs of the Lone Star state.

US states, cities, and regions looking globally to source the best innovations need to look no further than Ireland. Specifically, Texas business leaders and government officials focused on infrastructure should look to Irish companies like Davra or Evercam. Davra offers a complete Industrial IoT platform that allows system integrators, product builders, OEMs, and city managers to define, build and rapidly bring to market industrial-grade IoT applications on a single reliable, secure and scalable IoT platform. Evercam offers AI-powered construction cameras focused on site compliance and dispute resolution.

From a technology point of view, to ensure that Texas remains ‘the’ growth state in the US, the state must evaluate and develop next-generation infrastructure, which means incorporating IoT solutions. Innovation sourcing is no longer one dimensional. Technologies emanating from China and other countries are not the only outlet. Ireland has invested substantially in technology companies and startups and has taken a global leadership position in IoT, cloud, data centers, and other critical infrastructure technologies.

For many years, large US companies have been establishing their EU, UK, and European facilities and headquarters in Dublin. As a result, Irish companies are very familiar with American business culture and expectations. While pressures exist in the US to completely domesticate supply chains, in my view, Texas business leaders and trade representatives should look deeply at the innovation in Ireland.

To learn more about Irish IoT innovators contact Michael.Morgenstern@enterprise-ireland.com

The impact of design, craftsmanship, and talent from Irish designers and crafters extends much further than the island’s borders. Irish creators are recognized worldwide for their attention to detail, commitment to sustainability, and exceptional product quality. This year, retail buyers from around the globe will have the opportunity to connect with some of the most innovative Irish designers and crafters through a virtual format to hear their stories and get the first look at their new collections at the Showcase Virtual Showrooms.

Showcase Ireland is one of the Irish retail industry’s largest annual international trade fairs, supported by Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI) and Enterprise Ireland. Showcase Ireland gives Irish designers and crafters the opportunity to display their world-class, high-quality work featuring unique contemporary and heritage designs. Every product in the Showcase Virtual Showrooms is thoughtfully crafted and has a story behind it.

“Now in its 45th year, Showcase Ireland curates an inspirational display of consumer and lifestyle products that reflects Ireland’s distinguished global reputation for excellence in design and creativity. This year’s Showcase Virtual Showrooms will highlight internationally-recognized Irish brands alongside upcoming designers and crafters from Ireland — all exhibiting the latest trends, innovative designs, and quality products using traditional skills,” said Sean Davis, Regional Director, North America at Enterprise Ireland. “Through our network of 40 offices, Enterprise Ireland’s international teams promote Showcase to buyers worldwide. This year, the Showcase Virtual Showroom will enable Enterprise Ireland to host buyers from markets all over the world, who are keen to source unique products and the best of Irish design.”

For years, Ireland has been a hub for innovation and a destination of high-quality design and crafting. During this event, retail buyers can peruse the online Marketplace and book one-on-one appointments with exhibitors to see how Irish traditions have become a part of the latest global fashion, giftware and lifestyle trends and the detailed craftsmanship behind each brand’s products.

“Ireland celebrates a wealth of talent and creativity, and while the pandemic prevents the physical event from taking place, we are delighted to continue to provide a platform for Ireland’s designers and creators to showcase their products to Irish and international buyers,” said Eddie Shanahan, Chair of Showcase Ireland & DCCI Board member. “Though this year’s event will look different, we are confident that we will demonstrate the vitality of the Irish craft and design sector for both new and returning buyers.”

Irish creators have achieved a global reputation across several categories, including fashion, jewelry, and home and gift, thanks to their detailed craftsmanship, innovation, quality, and sustainability efforts. A few of the companies featured in this year’s Showcase Ireland include:

Dubarry draws its inspiration from Ireland’s ancient landscape and is dedicated to quality design, technical excellence, and contemporary style.

The Handmade Soap Company handcrafts 99.7% all-natural, cruelty-free products and uses 100% recycled plastic material to manufacture its plastic bottles.

Molloys takes inspiration from the dramatic beauty of the Atlantic North-west coast in Ardara, Co. Donegal, a region famed for its tweed production.

Magee was founded on handwoven tweed over 150 years ago. It’s the perfect fabric for dissipating the damp and cold weather so often found in North-West Ireland.

Foxford Woollen Mills offers a treasure trove of home furnishings, clothing, bed linens, and unique gifts — a mix of old and new, quirky and quality that creates a memorable shopping experience.

As part of the Showcase Ireland Virtual Showrooms event, globally renowned research firm Frost & Sullivan will present a specially-commissioned white paper – Generating Global Growth Through e-Commerce. The presentation, in webinar format, will provide insightful information for manufacturers and buyers alike, inspiring them to explore more innovative ways to source and more effective, sustainable ways to sell while opening new channels of engagement with their potential customers.

Showcase Ireland Virtual Showrooms take place January 25 through 29, 2021. To learn more about the Showcase Virtual Showrooms, please click here.

Irish banking technology company LEVERIS has released a comprehensive white paper on the shift towards the next generation of digital banking.

In its latest quarterly report, LEVERIS unpacks the major partnerships between big tech and banking exploring how some household names are making serious inroads into financial services. LEVERIS asks what this means for the future of banking and predicts where Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) will fit in.

The report offers a fascinating insight into how Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others are making serious moves in the space. As Conor McAleavey, Head of Innovation at LEVERIS, says: “It’s those banks that form BaaS partnerships with big tech companies in order to utilize the awesome distribution power of their digital ecosystems that will succeed in the future.”

And there’s good reason to take LEVERIS’ predictions on board. The Enterprise Ireland-supported company is itself reimagining the future of banking with its fully-integrated digital banking platform. With the goal of simplifying banking through modern technology, LEVERIS believes in technology’s power to reduce the complexity of financial services to make banking work better for everyone.

“It’s not so much a case of banks failing their customers, but more a case of technology failing banks,” says Conor Fennelly, founder, and CEO of LEVERIS. “We believe that the systemic problems facing banks can be addressed almost entirely via technology — and we’re on a mission to do just that.”

Founded in 2016, LEVERIS is headquartered in Dublin with offices and development centers in Prague, Brno, and Minsk. The company’s team of more than 150 technologists has extensive experience in banking and financial services. LEVERIS has built the first truly modern, end-to-end core banking platform, which can be deployed as SaaS or BaaS for traditional banks, challenger banks, and any large consumer brand that wants to enter the banking and lending space. 

Fennelly explains that the impact of tech inflexibility is already being felt by financial institutions worldwide. He believes the industry needs a technology solution to a technology problem. By removing the constraints imposed by legacy technology a better way to build a bank can be found.

“The pandemic has forced the sector to think and act digitally. The five-year plans that most banks had in place are now being truncated into one- and two-year plans as financial institutions that still need to up their digital game begin to feel the pressure,” he says. “We can help them with that.”

The LEVERIS platform is real-time adaptable, providing a revolutionary approach to banking where each stage of building, deploying, operating, and changing the platform is defined in code. Built on microservices architecture, each module of the platform is a separate service offered via API, allowing users to add and remove functionality with ease.

The system operates with a better than 99.9 percent uptime and is highly scalable, redundant, and secure. From the core banking system in the back to a slick white-label app for iOS and Android at the front, the LEVERIS platform delivers a complete end-to-end banking solution.

“As financial companies look to new technology, LEVERIS is perfectly positioned to grasp this opportunity and we are already expanding our customer segments and regional footprint,” adds Fennelly. “Our approach is unique, and the next 12 months offer us a great opportunity for further growth and partnerships.”

LEVERIS is not only reporting on banking partnerships, it is also forming one of its own. In December 2020, the company announced that it had been chosen by Česká spořitelna, the Czech Republic’s largest bank, as a partner for the transformation of its IT infrastructure. The cooperation involves generating a blueprint for developing new software, a new database, and general infrastructure, as well as training Česká spořitelna employees on how to deploy and operate a modular banking system.

To read LEVERIS’ report, The ultimate guide to how big tech and banking are partnering to shape the future of financial services, click here.

To learn more about Irish fintech innovators contact Claire.Verville@enterprise-ireland.com (New York) or Stephen.Mulhern@enterprise-ireland.com (San Francisco). 

These studies, which are funded by the American Heart Association, will use wearable sensors to increase knowledge of the links between brain and heart health

Shimmer Research, an Enterprise Ireland-supported global leader in wearable technology for research applications, has announced that Boston University (BU) School of Medicine has selected Shimmer’s Verisense® wearable sensing platform to monitor participants’ motion, activity, and sleep in two brain health studies funded by the American Heart Association in collaboration with global philanthropist Bill Gates. 

This new initiative is part of the American Heart Association’s Strategically Focused Research Network on Health Technologies and Innovation. Boston University Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology Rhoda Au, Ph.D., is leading the Network’s fifth research site, a brain health, and dementia technology research center, which will conduct the two new studies.

Dr. Au’s multidisciplinary team is studying the connections between heart and brain health, specifically relating to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They plan to use new technologies, such as the Verisense platform, to identify and track early behaviors that can affect brain health and lead to chronic diseases. They will also use advanced computational analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to determine who is at risk for those diseases and ultimately find ways to prevent the behaviors or triggers that lead to them.

The first study will rotate the use of the Verisense Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensor devices across 350 participants. It is designed to be worn on the participants’ wrist, monitoring their motion, activity, and sleep, for two weeks every quarter for two years. Each participant will be sent a sensor and asked to return it in the envelope provided at the end of the two-week study period. Each Verisense sensor has sufficient memory on board to store up to 44 days’ worth of data, ensuring that no information will be lost. The second study will be of 15 participants and look at the usability of different technologies.

“This passive data collection approach requires minimal action by the participant, making it potentially more sustainable in the long term. It should also encourage a more diverse participant population by enabling people to enroll who have historically been excluded from this type of study because they could not afford to purchase the requisite wearable health technology,” said Dr. Au.

“We have chosen Shimmer sensors because they can provide the raw sensor data that we need to develop our advanced AI algorithms; this is in addition to the derived measures that are typically provided. The Verisense system was specifically designed to support remote clinical studies and offers unparalleled ease of use for participants,” she added.

“Although many of our clients like to use Verisense in a mode where it monitors compliance and participant data collection remotely in real-time, the BU approach highlights another Verisense platform capability,” said Geoffrey Gill, President of Shimmer Americas. “By using the Verisense IMU onboard data storage capacity we can simplify the system and reduce cost. Shimmer is committed to meeting the individual needs of each study team we work with.”

Covid-19 hit the travel sector like a severe bout of turbulence on an otherwise smooth flight. The industry has been severely damaged but innovation, leadership, and technology – especially Irish technology – will accelerate a global recovery in 2021. Here are six key trends to watch out for.

You will need another passport

Airlines, hotels, and tour operators were forced to play the waiting game throughout 2020, but the introduction of testing and immunity ‘passports’ could be the jump-starter that travel needs.

Irish firm LetsGetChecked has been the pioneer in this space, partnering with American Airlines to trial end-to-end testing that has been extended to multiple destinations to reopen travel. With a vaccine on the way, we also know that many countries and airlines will insist on proof of vaccination to travel, probably sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Daon has already teamed up with American Airlines and Denver International Airport to deploy VeriFLY, an app that provides real-time digital credentials to allow users seamless, touch-free transactions; in essence, an immunity passport so people can travel.

Hygiene will be make-or-break

From now on, anyone getting on a plane or checking into a hotel is going to insist on the highest possible standards when it comes to hygiene. Accordingly, travel operators will have to be seen to be doing everything possible to protect their customers.

EI client CW Applied Technology provides hospital-grade sterilization for hotels through UV light technology, while others like P3 Hotels and Avvio allow for seamless self-check-in and check-out. Again, the focus is on building confidence and reassurance among potentially gun-shy travelers.

Altada uses the power of AI and machine learning with canines to track people with Covid, including early detection and people that are asymptomatic in locations with large numbers of people such as airports. These abilities will help drive safety, reassurance, and trust and will be key until everyone is vaccinated.

Business trips will have to wait

It’s going to take time for corporate life to return to normal, and even longer for corporate travel to follow suit. There are big questions about duty of care and companies will have to think carefully before allowing employees to travel.

In tandem with that, people have taken to remote working and virtual meetings like ducks to water. Some work trips and events are now simply unnecessary while others will become hybrid affairs, mixing virtual with in-person attendance.

Where flexibility is required, the likes of MeetingsBooker provides automated bookings to help corporate clients source local workspaces for teams that are working from home but who need to meet, either regularly or occasionally. This is in addition to their existing very robust solution for booking events and stays at hotels all while providing automation for hotels and office buildings who provide the supply.

Cogs and Marvel an award-winning live and digital brand experience agency work with leading companies on events and more importantly the experience people have before, during, and after these events. Now very much core to their offering is heavily curated virtual events.

Local will lead the way

We saw a surge in staycationing last year, and the focus will remain on domestic leisure travel while corporate and international wait for the dust to settle. Looking at the data, it’s clear that people are opting for much closer destinations (within a 2-3 hour drive), where home rental providers like Airbnb can give people more control of their environment.

Wherever you are traveling, you are going to see an abundance of care and caution at every turn, with innovation providing that all-important reassurance factor.

Booking will be better

There will be huge innovation behind the scenes as well. For example, travel sellers will continue to enhance their systems and be more competitive in the race for direct bookings.

Irish firm Arvoia does this brilliantly, using an independent AI cloud with over 2.3 billion data points and trillions of behavioral insights (travel, hospitality, mobility) to deliver the most sophisticated prediction and personalization products to drive sales and delight customers.

Airlines will also look to make up a revenue shortfall from food and baggage through additional ancillary offerings in the booking experience. A great example here is Sim Local, which helps travelers switch SIM to avoid excessive phone charges or Coras which provides tickets to major events across the globe. The ability to drive new revenues while offering more choice at the right time in the right place will ensure the industry offers a complete retail experience.

Irish solutions for a changing world

Around the world, Ireland is synonymous with travel. Our people and technology have played a significant part in building the industry, and now they have focused even more on the product and are offering solutions to rebuild and restore confidence.

We are also seeing Irish companies pivot to focus on solutions to accelerate the travel industry recovery. Daon, LetsGetChecked, Altada had no track record in travel but have stepped up to really help the industry in a meaningful way.

We will get there

If 2020 was travel’s annus horribilis, the good news is that green shoots are emerging fast. People want to travel, and Irish innovation will help them do that. Here’s to safe and happy travels in 2021.

Máire P. Walsh is SVP Digital Technologies with Enterprise Ireland