RiskGenius Blog

Insights into our world of Insurance & Technology.

What can IBM's Watson do for insurance?

by Clara Stahl | Apr 01, 2016 | Technology



You probably remember Watson from when this cognitive computing system defeated two human champions during a three-day match on Jeopardy. This happened about five years ago, and generated a positive PR storm for IBM and the future of AI and analytics. Even more important than the $1 million prize, was the fact that in order to beat its human adversaries, Watson could not simply just recall facts, but had to use reasoning, interpret statements contextually, and strategize. 


For those unfamiliar, Watson is a “technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data”. Watson performs two key functions in its commercial application; those being answer customers’ questions, rapidly interpret insights, relationships, and patterns from important information that it extracts from provided documents. IBM claims that 80% of data today is unstructured, meaning that it comes from news articles, social media posts, and other sources.


Watson is able to sort through this massive amount of information like a human.  It does this by gathering as much information as possible and interprets the language for things like grammar and context. Additionally, this platform will then use reasoning and logic to evaluate the information for possible meanings and decides on what the core of the problem or question is. It then uses supporting evidence and quality of data to make a rational decision. To learn more about how Watson works please check out this video.


Here are some quick facts about why we need programs like Watson that will blow your mind.

  • Medical data is expected to double every 73 days by 2020
  • Watson can read 40 million documents in 15 seconds
  • It is predicted that by 2020 the market for machine-learning applications will be around $40 billion, and 60% of these applications will run on platform software from Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft.

This means that in order to keep up with this kind of volume, some big changes are coming to insurance.


What can Watson do for your policyholders?

Policyholders are increasing their demands for real-time access to a variety of insurance provides, which is an unavoidable trend. This puts the focus for provider-customer relationships on maintaining positive interactions, experiences, and satisfaction. IBM’s Watson allows users to analyze insights, track their policyholders to anticipate future needs, and provide them services that they want. You can also analyze weather conditions and social data to provide further tailored policies. With the use of real-time data, you can respond faster to catastrophes, and Watson will even help you select the best course of action.


Watson can help with need analysis. When discussing client needs and services, it is necessary to match products to their individual needs. Automated solutions allow agents to ask a series of questions conversationally that Watson would translate into product advice. This will make things more efficient and smoother when discussing complex products with clients. The next big move in the mobile world will be voice-interfacing with the web, and your insurance clients. More sophisticated technology will be needed to interpret and respond to customer requests. In order to accurately respond to customer questions, such as “what is the renewal date of my policy?”, will require platforms that can understand language, relationships, and concepts.  


The insurance industry is often critiqued because of its negligence to adopting technological advancements comparatively to other industries. However, there is a clear need from agents and brokers for this type of technology to keep volume up and costs down. It appears Watson is positioning itself as a robo agents solution, whereas, Riskgenius classifies and organizes clauses in policies and contracts, then allows you to comment and share the results. Important changes are coming to insurance, ones that can impact the way insurance is renewed, client acquisition, and research. Implementing these technologies will be the key to being able to keep up with future demand.