Neos Insurance, which claims to be the UK’s first-ever insurance service to incorporate connected home technology, has formally launched its early access programme for homeowners. We sat down with CEO Matt Poll and CPO Daniel Knight to discuss how the product is evolving and what their early access customers can expect.
Beyond the technology supplied, how does Neos differ from your average insurance product?
Matt Poll (MP): Certainly there are no other home insurance providers that are currently using connected technology alongside 24/7 monitoring and assistance services – there might be one or two that can be managed using an app, but I haven’t heard of any specific examples where this is the case.
Another advantage is our insurance package, which offers top-end, unlimited cover that goes further than a standard policy. That is the principle reason why we chose to partner with Hiscox; they offer an exceptional level of customer service allied with home insurance cover that is one of the best in the market.
Is Neos for everyone?
MP: Our early access trial is aimed at those in London and the South-East, mainly for logistical purposes. The plan is to make it available across the UK when we embark on a full roll-out in early 2017. At this point, Neos will be available for everyone, but our services will provide the best cost-benefit to those currently paying £500 or more for their home insurance.
Why would someone choose to buy their smart home technology through an insurer, rather than a connected home specialist?
MP: Granted, the technology can prevent and mitigate many incidents in their own right, but nothing can eliminate all possibilities. To give customers peace of mind, we combine this with monitoring, assistance and a premium insurance policy so that, should the worst ever happen, our customers are fully protected.
Our management team combines market leading expertise in the connected home sector with several years of experience in the home insurance market. This means that we can confidently reassure customers that they can expect the best possible level of service across the board.
How do you reconcile the digital app side of the service with the physical customer care scheme? How are alerts and incidents handled by Neos?
Daniel Knight (DK): When it comes to supporting customers for any technical issues or questions or general, then that’s always an entirely human response. We have people so they can call in and talk to us; hopefully we’ll soon be deploying an in-app chat in the next few days where they can press a button and get straight through to somebody from within the app.
When it comes to actual incidents (say that there is smoke, a leak or an intruder), then we have what we call an ‘escalation pipeline’. This starts off with a device alert being triggered – say, a smoke detector goes off. That creates an incident; the user gets notified about a possible incident in the home. They then have fifteen minutes to deal with that themselves.
Most of the time we think it’ll be a false alarm: they’ve burnt some toast, they’ve walked in and forgotten to disarm the alarm. They get a push notification that says ‘possible intruder’ and they respond ‘false alarm’. Nothing else needs to happen, we don’t need to be involved in that or know it has happened.
There’s then the second option, which is ‘I’m not sure, but I need more time to check this’. What customers have said to us is that they don’t want a false alarm to go to DEFCON 5; they don’t want to burn the toast and find people calling them to tell them that the house might be on fire. We put the customer in the front lines so they can triage the false alerts, but then also have a mechanism to say ‘I’m going to deal with this’. That then puts off the alert going to our monitoring centre for a period of time.
If the user never responds or doesn’t click anything during the initial fifteen-minute period, then the monitoring system steps in automatically. They will initially try get in touch with the user; if they cannot, then the ‘circle of trust’ comes into play. This is where the user adds extra contacts – neighbours, key holders, friends and family – that can check on the property while you’re at work or elsewhere.
The next step beyond that is that there is a real incident. We are hoping to see very few of these, but we have to assume that at some point that there will be a real fire, flood or theft.
Our response to this depends entirely on which one of those categories it falls into. If we’re talking about incidents that require a response from the emergency services, then the monitoring services are not allowed to call them, but we can facilitate this process within the app by providing a shortcut to call 999.
Where the monitoring centre can really help is with the aftercare of such an incident. Let’s say there is a flood and you need a plumber to come and resolve it: the monitoring centre can then come in and handle all of that. The monitoring centre is there to see the process through until everything is solved and everything is back to the way it should be.
What smart technology is included within the Neos package? Are there different levels depending on the insurance package chosen?
DK: For the time being it is one-size-fits-all, mainly because we’re still in our early access trial. We would like to offer customised packages based on property type and what people need, as we know a single package isn’t necessarily going to be okay for everyone. At the moment, however, it helps us provide a good baseline of cover, even if it’s not 100%.
We provide two door/window contacts, one motion sensors, two flood sensors, two smoke sensors and an indoor camera, plus a hub that pulls that all together. The person who comes and installs it will be able to advise on the best place to put these things are, as the user might not necessarily know.
During the beta, customers cannot order additional kit, but this is a feature we will hopefully add in the future. We’re looking for our early access users to tell us whether customisation of the baseline kit is a priority for them.
Can Neos be implemented if a customer already owns a smart home?
DK: Neos is able to work alongside any existing smart home solutions. One recent installation was for a customer that already has a Canary smart security system. He didn’t want to get rid of Canary and, although we don’t yet integrate with them just yet, he was happy to have both as the two systems are serve different purposes.
We do think third party support is important, because a lot of people are saying that they already have a certain amount of smart home kit in their homes. They might only have one product, but they want to be able to continue to use it, ideally with the Neos system.
At the moment, during the early access phase, we insist on the fixed package going in. In the future there’s nothing to say that customers won’t be able to take Neos’ insurance and monitoring and tie this in to their existing infrastructure. Doing this presents a whole new set of challenges so, for now, we’re just focusing on new kit and new installations for new customers.
With companies such as yourselves and O2 taking a service-based smart home products as a service, do you think this approach will start gaining traction among homeowners?
MP: My honest feeling is that the smart home hasn’t taken off for two reasons. Firstly, it can be quite confusing for the customer as there are so many options and protocols to choose between. Secondly, I think that the cost can be seen as prohibitive for many prospective customers.
By offering this technology along with a service like ours, we can bring down the initial outlay significantly. We choose the best kit for the job so they don’t have to worry about deliberating over which technology is suitable for protecting their home.