Do selfies hold the secret to life expectancy? One tech company thinks so.
Photos posted on social media capture moments from our lives, from major events to trivial snaps of our food. Yet one insurtech startup thinks those fun photos reveal more than just what we did over the weekend. Lapetus Solutions, Inc. has developed facial recognition technology that scans a person’s selfie for clues about his or her lifestyle, informing decisions about life insurance policies.
By analyzing the selfie, Lapetus’ product, Chronos, can decipher a person’s body mass index, whether they smoke, and their physiological age (how “old” their body really is as opposed to their chronological age). The North Carolina-based company asserts its technology possesses the ability to completely overturn traditional life insurance underwriting methods based on actuarial models. By combining selfie data with other personal traits provided by an individual, underwriters obtain a clearer picture of a person’s mortality risk, which in turn enables insurers to more accurately price premiums.
Karl Ricanek Jr., Lapetus’ Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist, told NerdWallet several life insurance companies have begun to test this program, although he declined to specify any names. The company, according to the article, is also researching if facial analytics can detect early signs of chronic illness, such as diabetes, dementia, or heart disease.
More Data from Fitbit
Lapetus executives and scientists further believe data extracted from Fitbits contain valuable insights into a person’s health status. Expounding on this concept in an article published last year in IEEE Computer, the Lapetus team posits an individual’s walking speed, stride, and calories burned per step offer an even more in-depth view into that person’s health status and consequently, life expectancy.
Such information becomes even powerful when combined with data from other Internet of Things (IoT) devices that monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, and sleep patterns. “Combining a selfie with wearable sensors provides unprecedented information about a person’s health and wellness,” Ricanek said in a statement.
In addition, Lapetus aims to take its model beyond health data into retirement and financial planning. Early this year, the company planned to launched its Better Life and Income Scoring System (BLISS). By linking basic actuarial data like age, gender, family history, and education with medical and financial information (savings, income, retirement readiness), the BLISS score maps an individual’s overall health and fiscal risk profile.
Faster Life Insurance Purchase
Lapetus executives say its facial analysis technology has the potential to eliminate the need for a comprehensive medical exam prior to purchasing life insurance, thus shaving the purchasing process down to 10 minutes when done online. Speeding up the buying cycle might encourage more people to purchase life insurance. More than 70% of Americans told pollsters for LIMRA and Life Happens they would consider obtaining a life insurance policy if insurers simplified the procedure by excluding a medical exam.
Delivering personal medical and health data to insurers, however, raises concerns over privacy. S. Jay Olshansky, Chief Scientist at Lapetus Solutions and a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stressed to the Wall Street Journal that the decision to hand over health records is up to the individual. “We think that personal health data should be owned by the individual, not by any Big Brother,” he said. “You should decide yourself whether or not you want to release that information to anyone.”
Facial analytics technology like the program developed by Lapetus may streamline insurance purchases and sharpen underwriting models, but whether technological innovations will eventually displace human agents remains to be seen. After Vertafore canvassed nearly 1,300 consumers, 72% expressed reluctance to buy insurance via a chatbot. For now at least, most clients and prospects prefer speaking to a live human.
Also to be seen is how far and fast data analytics gathered by the IoT and artificial intelligence will gain acceptance in the insurance marketplace. Until then, your clients need your in-person advice. If they inquire about whether they should permit an insurer to use facial analytics (if available) prior to buying life insurance, discuss the pros and cons. And emphasize that they may want to take their best selfie before sending it to the insurer.