Actively shaping the connected home

Interview with Stephan Weiss, Project Manager Online – Media and Digitization Generali Germany

When it comes to the notion of “smart home”, opinion is very much divided. While some people feel that it is a digital masterstroke that makes life safer and easier, others dismiss it as mere gimmickry for technology freaks. What is smart home all about?

Digitalisation is progressing in leaps and bounds and has reached our homes as well. However, the initial solutions tended to be the reserve of technology enthusiasts and people who enjoyed tinkering and trial and error. Today, things have developed beyond that. There are smart home modular systems, integrative hubs and user-friendly operational apps or even voice-driven input devices such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Today, there are many ways in which the smart home can provide a helping hand. For instance, it allows you to turn on the heating when you are on your way home or to turn off the coffee machine if you have left the house without doing so. When on holiday, users can check automatically if the teenagers at home have closed all the windows and doors when going out, etc., etc. There are a wealth of features that make life easier.


That sounds like innovative, customer-friendly solutions, but the smart home has yet to reach the mainstream. Why is that?

All of this is still just the beginning of the digitalised home. In many cases, there are no universal standards in place – each manufacturer pushes its own technology and defined use cases. Very few consumers have the expertise and the resources needed to shape a truly networked home – once the initial euphoria of the first use cases has quickly given way to disillusionment. What is essentially missing is cross-industry approaches – in other words, more smart living than smart home. Whether at discussions in institutes or at start-up meet-ups, I notice that a lot of explanations are still needed in order for potential to be harnessed at cross-sector level in the interests of customer orientation.


What exactly does Generali do to harness this potential?

The critical observations and initial experience with our Generali Domocity product have inspired us to take a different approach within our Group. As Generali Deutschland Informatik Services and Generali Deutschland Digital, we issued an open invitation on the international Generali wiki for all colleagues who are interested in setting up a smart home community with us. Our goal here is to share experience and solutions, to provide mutual support with private installations of smart home solutions and to promote the sharing of use case ideas. The short-term response was great – we had over 200 community members within the space of just a few days. The interesting thing was that, although everyone had their own special skills, we were still able to document solutions on a joint page. At the same time, we jointly initiated a four-month project with the University of Hamburg with a view to structuring the experiences, wants and problems of users from the Group. Here, too, the community played a central role, providing extensive ideas and feedback. In the next step, we will be getting our colleagues to try out a large number of smart home packages. All of these activities and ideas help us – as Generali OneCompany – in our further development and in the change over to smart products and services.


In what direction is smart home now being developed?

Smart home will continue to develop in the same disruptive way as all previous internet trends. This is how the trend from smart home to genuine smart living will develop. It will become easier to integrate other manufacturers and the number of necessary manufacturer-specific hubs or platforms will be reduced substantially. Far more exciting from an insurance perspective, however, are the digital ecosystems that come into play in the context of smart home and smart living. It is only with these that users will finally have end-to-end added value.


What exactly do you mean by “digital ecosystems”? And what role do insurance companies have to play here?

Digital ecosystems combine all players that have to do with this area and that are connected in some way or another. With smart home or smart living, the list extends from local services and medical assistance to food delivery services and mobility, energy and security services. There is great potential for insurance groups to play an active role in shaping this ecosystem. They offer customers the possibility of making their homes more secure and more comfortable with the Internet of Everything and intelligent algorithms and with a wide range of assistance and prevention services. In combination with innovative start-ups or technology companies, we develop services that respond early on to risks – such as smoke detectors, motion detectors or even water level detectors – and trigger an alarm via an app in the event of an emergency. Insurance companies can play an active role in this way. We actively protect homes and help to ensure that damage is avoided in the first place. I am very much looking forward to helping to shape this.