Insurers Not So Sure Smart Gadgets Make Your Home Any Safer

The insurance industry seems to have a love-hate relationship with smart gadgets: auto insurers want drivers to use tracking technology so they can offer more personalized rates (something many drivers don’t want), but home insurance companies aren’t likely to give homeowners with internet-connected safety systems a break on their bills.

From app-connected doorbells to smart smoke detectors, consumers are hooking up their homes to WiFi. That doesn’t necessarily translate to a safer house in the eyes of insurers, The Wall Street Journal reports, as the average cost of insuring a home is expected to rise this year despite the popularity of gadgets that promise to prevent billions of dollars in damage.

The industry says it’s hesitant to lower prices amid this gadgetry boom because there isn’t enough data to show that the devices actually improve security, or encourage homeowners to be more active in securing their homes.

Of course, if these devices actually do significantly boost home safety over time, the insurance industry might find itself with fewer customers.

Connected-home technology “changes the underlying need to have insurance,” a partner at consultant Bain & Co. told the WSJ. “If you take down severity and frequency of losses, that’s basically what premium dollars support. So the question is, at some point do premium dollars fall significantly?”

Some homeowners like these connected devices because they say they feel more safe, and want insurers to embrace them as well.

“The insurance companies should provide an incentive,” one homeowner who has internet-connected security cameras, thermostats, and lights in his home told the WSJ. He gets a bill reduction for the security-alarm system, but that’s it.

It wouldn’t be totally out of character for insurers to offer lower home premiums to folks who use security devices, as many have done for years for regular, “dumb” devices that keep homes safer.

Some insurers are already offering small discounts for connected devices while they test their efficacy, but not in amounts that reduce average premiums across the board, the WSJ notes: this year, the average premium in the U.S. for homes is predicted to increase 5.5% this year to $1,293.

But unlike the auto-insurance industry, where drivers can get discounts of as much as 30% for agreeing to use technology that monitors their driving habits, experts say it could be several years before there’s enough data about smart-home devices to offer similar discounts in the home insurance market.

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