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As technology and IoT continue to evolve, connected devices, in turn, continue to proliferate in personal and professional lives. IoT devices such as wearable sensors, connected equipment and industrial monitoring products that track and share data are helping construction companies, developers and project managers lower their losses and cost of risk, especially on construction sites.

The Hartford’s IoT Innovation Lab and Construction underwriters are using the adoption of connected devices as an opportunity to reduce the potential for loss by using the data from these devices to raise awareness of potential risks and improve safety conditions for commercial construction businesses.

Perhaps the biggest impact of this type of technology is that data from these connected devices is provided in real time, 24/7. This allows insurance companies to identify and remediate risks, such as detecting a leaky pipe and being able to shut off the water before damage to a property occurs, or even identify if a worker is not wearing protective equipment in order to address workplace safety concerns on a construction site. 

Water-Sensing Technology

Water damage within construction sites and commercial properties, such as office buildings, can be costly for developers and property owners. Water-sensing technology devices can be used to get a better understanding of the presence of water, water flow and overall water risks to a jobsite or property. This technology can be strategically placed to detect the presence of water, as well as flow monitoring sensors that are located near the main water meter(s) and can detect unexpected or unusual flow indicative of a leak and send alerts.

Temperature and humidity monitoring sensors can also be used to identify potential freeze conditions and send an alert before pipes burst or detect potential mold conditions prior to mildew growth. In this instance too, automatic shut-off valves can be beneficial because they can be triggered by water sensors or flow monitors to shut off water and prevent a small leak from becoming a larger problem that creates costly damages. The success of these devices has been instrumental in preventing and mitigation losses on sites for construction and real estate businesses, saving millions in averted claims while minimizing operational disruptions. The Hartford is exploring the use of onsite imagery to see water intrusion/rain, flapping tarps and the presence of water on floors or walls. Someday water sensors may be staged in buildings to be in place during construction, paired with imagery and then integrated into the building after completion. 

Worker Safety

As connected devices gather extensive amounts of data from commercial projects, they assist in the mitigation of risk and subsequent claims in several ways, especially in relation to worker safety. Wearables such as belts, clips and vests can detect lifting and bending behaviors of workers that may lead to injuries over time, reminding workers to practice safe handling. They can also track who comes on the jobsite, how long they are there, what areas they are in and when they leave. This can be helpful in a crisis because the data can determine where employees are on the site and how to quickly get them to safety. 

Cameras can also be used to improve compliance with safety protocols by spotting workers wearing protective equipment, abiding by forklift zones and speed limits, and maintaining good housekeeping to prevent slip and fall hazards. The future construction worksite will likely include some combination of fixed-point cameras outside and inside the site, with triggers and real time alerts, along with wearables being strategically used on high hazard trades, first year workers (who tend to have more injuries) or workers in confined/high hazard spaces or heights. 

Security Considerations

When businesses add connected devices to their premises, it is important to assess and manage the incremental potential risks that vary depending on the nature of the device, network setup, type of data being collected, how that data is being transferred, where it is being stored and what it is being used for. While most connected devices used for risk management purposes are generally safe, they need to be assessed individually on a case-by-case basis.

A device that is monitoring the flow of water through pipes is generally benign from a data privacy standpoint, but still needs to be vetted relative to the risk of creating a new entry point into the network for malicious actors if it is going to connect to the network. Biometric wearables and imagery introduce privacy considerations as well, but the data can be anonymized to protect workers’ identities. Therefore, it is important that businesses conduct their due diligence on the connected devices implementing a rigorous process with routine checkpoints around security and data privacy.

At its core, IoT relies on a reciprocal exchange of value between parties (just as do internet search engines and social media). When someone allows another party to capture data about them, it should be justified by some value that they get in return and that exchange should be transparent and equitable. 

The value is the potential to reduce the cost of risk and help have safer, more productive business. To date, that value has been sufficiently compelling for businesses to opt in and avoid preventable insurance losses letting insurance be the backstop for those things that are unpreventable and unpredictable.

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