Erie Insurance Group Puts a Focus on Google Glass

Few technologies have captured the public’s attention more than Google Glass. The smart glass system was considered, at least by some, a remarkable innovation.

However, last January Google announced that it was pulling the product from the market after only a year—though the company says that it will remain committed to developing the eyewear—most likely for commercial applications.

One company that is focused on the product is Erie Insurance Group, which offers auto, home, commercial and life insurance in 12 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The 90-year-old firm is constantly on the lookout for ways to make things easier for adjustors in the field, says Rita Briody, IT analyst for the firm. Over the last decade, adjustors have used digital cameras, digital audio recorders, laptops and mobile printers.

After receiving an invitation to beta test Google Glass, the company’s IT team launched a pilot project in December 2014.

“Adjustors carry a lot of equipment in the field, and they are constantly juggling it to do their work,” Briody says. “Google Glass seemed to introduce the possibility of simplifying things while maintaining the human touch, which is one of things we focus on as a way to differentiate the company.”

An Experiment That Worked

Erie Insurance equipped eight adjustors from different branches—and with varying levels of tech proficiency—with Google Glass as a replacement for the cameras and other gear. They used the glasses through February 2015.

“The feedback [from adjustors] was overwhelmingly positive, and there were no notable concerns,” says software engineer Jeremy Sloan. The company also asked customers for their reaction to the product. “We expected to hear some negative feedback, but the feedback was extremely positive,” he adds.

The glasses not only made it easier for adjustors to do their job, it also made things safer— particularly for those who have to climb on ladders to inspect roofs or handle other difficult tasks. What’s more, the adjustors found the battery life to be more than adequate, but, as a precaution, the company provided adjustors with high-capacity battery backups they could attach to the glasses and use in the field.

The only significant limitation, Sloan says, was the lack of a zoom feature. That’s something that a third-party software provider is now addressing.

At the end of the pilot period, the IT team recommended that the company move forward with Google Glass. So Erie Insurance is now waiting for an announcement about the next generation of the product from Google.

“We are monitoring the industry and staying tuned to what is going on—including products from other manufacturers,” Briody says. The company also is looking at expanding the use of smart glasses for trainees at its technical learning center, where they could be used as part of self-guided tours that combine physical and virtual elements.

What’s more, Erie Insurance is also tracking other emerging technologies, including the possible use of drones.

“Today’s technology, including Google Glass, has the potential to fundamentally revamp insurance and many other industries,” Briody concludes. Google Glass “streamlines business processes, simplifies and improves tasks, and reduces risks. It introduces a better way to manage and run the business.”