JAMES: Yeah. First video episode of InsureTech Geek podcast. That is right. So, for those of you who have been listening just on audio, we now have a video channel. You will see it on Vimeo. Of course, you can just go to insuretechgeek.com and you will have links to all of those show notes and all kinds of other fun things. But this is the first video episode and with us, this beautiful face. Oh, my goodness. The most interesting man in insurance, Rob Galbraith, Rob, good to see you.
ROB: It is good to see you, James. Yeah. And I am glad that the listeners, now the viewers, kind of get to see what life is like behind the microphone all this time. You have not seen us, but we have been on video this whole time to talk with our guests. And so now you get to see what we see. So, I am really excited.
JAMES: Yeah. So, we are going to still do the audio podcast. We are going to have a video feed. It is going to be on Facebook on Twitter; and it will be on LinkedIn post from Vimeo. Until LinkedIn finally approves my ability to live stream. I cannot believe they still have not rolled this out into production for everybody. It is insane. They always wait like three years until after other social networks do something. And they are like, okay, fine. We will do live video. I mean, it is insane. I am so tired of it. So here you are in cassa Benham. Got my guitar collection. That is a Lego city behind me. I am a hardcore Lego addict and I do have a whole city. So just for those of you who are watching on video, if you are not, I can of course describe the room in detail. I am not going to do that to you though. With us from beautiful Iowa. Land of corn and rolling fields. I have been to Iowa a few times. Mr. Tom West from MākuSafe. Tom, it is good to see you as well.
TOM: You too. Thanks very much for having me on. Glad we are not having a derecho today.
JAMES: Nice. So, we will come back to you in just a second. I want to remind you out there before we get started with the interview, do not forget, you can subscribe to the InsureTech Geek podcast just by texting GeekOut to 66866. Make sure you never miss an episode. We will email you every week with just the show notes, the details, and the link to watch it or listen to it. Of course, it will be video and audio. Just text GeekOut to 66866. Now back to our guest, Tom West. MākuSafe.
Tom, how are you going to make me safe? No, we are not going to talk about that just yet. We are not going to talk about that just yet. We are going to talk about what MākuSafe does later. Now I want to talk about you. You have got an interesting background going back through hotels and media and teaching, and Des Moines Community College, you were a marketing professor for quite some time. Almost 20 years. You have had a diverse career. So, what is it that you envisioned yourself doing when you were a young buck going to University of Miami? What led you to… now, are we talking about Miami or Miami of Ohio? First, I got to ask that.
TOM: Oh, Coral Gables, Florida.
JAMES: The EU. The EU. Okay. So, when you were looking at going into the EU, what is it that you thought you were going to do with your career, and then what led you to this point?
TOM: That is a good question. I think I have always been entrepreneurial–minded. I started my career in the hospitality industry, put myself through school. Swiftly moved into training capacity, and found that I enjoyed being a teacher. I have a lot of teachers in my family. So, I have spent most of my career in HR, or learning and development or training space and I ended up moving to Des Moines, Iowa, where there was a world-leading, producer of learning and development content called American Media Incorporated. So, I got to be part of that organization for quite some time. We grew to be the largest in the world and it was right in my wheelhouse, being able to teach managers and supervisors about communication with the front lines and best practices and how to be better leaders. And that’s kind of what I spent my life doing.
From there I have been an executive member of the leadership team with many companies that produce, organizational development or leadership development tools and training tools and even technology platforms and marketed those. And yeah, you are right. It was for almost 30 years. I was an adjunct professor at a local college teaching management marketing and entrepreneurial class there. So, I feel pretty fortunate that this part of my life, I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. And I appreciate small startup ventures and what it takes to help grow them.
JAMES: Yeah. And teaching is fun. I just finished my fifth year as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M and I had a five-year deal and that completed it. I am taking a break from it now. I love teaching. I love it. It can be exhausting though. So, to do it in addition to a regular job. So, I decided to take a little break, but I think it is cool how much you learn from your students and how much they teach you through the process. Yes. And of course, having to teach something, forces you to learn it well. It should, by the way, but it does not always. There are bad teachers out there. But good teachers who teach for almost 30 years, are not kept around because they are slackers at teaching. You had to learn your subject matter to be able to relate to other people.
TOM: Yeah. Practicing what you preach, I believe is important and I think that is something I brought into the classroom. I was a business leader. I was an employer. So, teaching management to students was enjoyable. I got a lot out of it. So, James, imagine, over the age of 50, deciding to become an employee of one of your students.
JAMES: Well, I have had some amazing students that I have stayed in touch with. And there’s a couple where I could probably envision that.
TOM: For me, in 28 years there was one. And about 15 years ago, a guy who was showing up in my night class, who was obviously tired, cause he’s working a couple of jobs and had a young family, came up to me at the end of class one day and said, I like where you are coming from. I have a business plan. Would you mind taking a look at it? And that is how I met Gabriel Glenn. And that was many years ago. I helped him with his first venture, and we have been very close friends ever since. And when it comes to MākuSafe, when he had the idea on a back of a cocktail napkin, I may have been one of the first people he told. I was an early advisor and investor in the company. And then interestingly, he called me one day and said, I know it is Saturday, but can you start on Monday? I need another me. So, I put aside my own businesses and things I was doing and came on board, which I would not have done for anybody else, to help Gabe with MākuSafe. And I have been on the team for a little more than three years now.
JAMES: And that is a wonderful segue. Tell me what MākuSafe does. Walk me through the solution, the technology behind it, and what problem it solves.
TOM: Yeah, thanks for asking. If you do not mind, I will take this tack as a sailor. The origin of our company is founded in the idea that we do not have to, or should not have to wait for people to experience injuries or have incidents or claims to occur, to have intelligence that ought to help us prevent those incidents in the first place. So proactively, preventatively, we ought to be able to identify things that are hazards and risks so that we can manage those things before people are impacted. Sometimes for life. So, MākuSafe has created innovative wearable technology that uses numerous sensors on board. And I do not know if you can see here clearly, but I am wearing our armband. Numerous sensors on board, this very small device that is about the size of my thumb, to collect data that can be useful, and have predictive value and understanding the risks and hazards that industrial workers face. And we provide that data via our software platform to safety leaders and also to loss control departments and safety experts employed by insurance companies so that they can help mitigate risk before people get hurt.
JAMES: And you are actively monitoring them, improving your algorithms, analyzing movement and behavior, and then identifying risk factors so you can give them real–time feedback? Is that a fair assessment?
TOM: Yeah. I kind of like to talk about the day data that is collected on the wearable. Not in terms of the numerous sensors, but in four types of data that we are collecting. So first would be data about environmental conditions. Things like temperature, humidity, low light levels. They may sound kind of simple. On the other hand, they have a dramatic impact on people’s productivity. When they are experiencing fatigue, when heat exhaustion conditions are mounting. We have got things like air quality sensors on board. We have got a microphone on the device that detects sound exposure for workers. If you have ever been in an industrial environment, you know that those environmental conditions may actually change, depending on which side of a machine you are standing on. So, you can be 10’ away from another worker who is experiencing dramatically different conditions than you are. So that would be the first environmental condition.
Secondly, we are also detecting potentially harmful human motion. That was a natural place for us to start with slips and trips and falls accounting for so many workplace accidents, but we use accelerometers on the device, and we can also detect things like pushing and pulling that may be an exertion injury waiting to happen. Third would be the location of where these things are being experienced within a facility. So, we overlay that in our software platform onto a facility floor plan, and you almost get kind of a Doppler radar effect where a heat map view of the frequency of indicators that are being experienced by workers in those areas.
And then last would be, we have got a button on the front of the device that allows a worker to push it and hold it and they can record up to a 15–second voice memo. And that is intended to increase the communication of near–miss occurrences, or just enable smooth and easy reporting of observations from the front lines. So, every safety manager and every loss control guy or gal, says that this is the kind of have data that everybody wants more of. This is leading indicators of risk, and near misses that we all want to see. Yet everybody else agrees that a huge percentage of those things never get reported. So, we have created an automated way to collect that data and provide it to leaders for better decision making.
JAMES: And let us talk about connectivity. Is this a wireless solution or do you have to wait until it is docked in the storage bay for it to transfer all the information of the device?
TOM: Yeah, no, that is a great question. And I will also add because you asked earlier, that is in real–time. Our tech gurus like me to say near real–time. It takes about 30 to 45 seconds for that data to be gathered from a wearable on an individual worker and show up in our software dashboards. The data is sent from the wearable device, back to a wall–mounted kiosk that we call our base station and that sent via Wi-Fi. And then that base station, which kind of looks like a time clock by design, it hangs on a wall, it is where workers check–in and check–out a device at the beginning of their shift. That is connected to the internet and then again, 30 to 45 seconds before that shows up in our cloud–based software platform.
JAMES: Can you use this as a time clock?
TOM: Yeah, we can integrate with all kinds of things. That certainly is one of the capabilities that we have if somebody is using a cloud–based, time clock system. Yep. And we have had lots of inquiries to help us understand how big a problem it is that for some organizations, need to know what job role or what location, what area of facility workers are working in currently because pay rates might fluctuate from an insurance point of view. The risk profile might fluctuate. So that is something we are excited about the possibility of doing those things in the future.
JAMES: Yeah. So, let us talk about… we are going to jump in, and I know Rob has some great questions here, but I just want to understand how this works. I am a gear head. So, I have been writing software for the last 30 years. And I like to understand how this all works. You are making a point to say no biometrics or personal information, no haptic feedback. I am guessing to soothe privacy concerns; I am guessing that is why you are saying that. Is that correct?
TOM: Yeah, sure. We, of course, respect worker privacy. So that’s part of our tenants. I think there is a lot of resistance in the mind of the worker about being tracked. I mean, we are not at all endeavoring to do that or collecting anything that is biometric or looking inward at the worker. Instead, we are looking out into the environment. We are collecting data about risks and hazards from the worker, and that data that is collected from Rob today might indicate a hazard that can be remediated so that James is not hurt on the assembly line tomorrow.
JAMES: Awesome. And I have interviewed some other solutions like Spot-R from Triax and others that get into slip trips, fall detection, and SOS button. I have not seen the recording voice. That is a unique feature. I have been doing this a while and out of all the solutions I looked at, I have not seen voice reporting. So, I like the voice reporting features. Slip, trip, fall is fairly common at this point, but combo-ing sound exposure and air qualify heat and light, that combination I have not seen in a simple worker wearable. I have seen it in standalone units. There is another system out there called Pillar, that does the standalone units that are not on workers. But you are right. You can have vastly different environmental conditions. 10’ or 5’ away. So, it makes a ton of sense. It is almost like we are just arriving at the point where all of this can be miniaturized enough to be on a worker because until now it had to be on a base station right?
TOM: Yeah. Very true. Thanks for pointing that out. We think that that voice reporting feature is one of the things that sets us apart. Keep in mind that there is a robust array of sensors. We are collecting an awful lot of data. We are doing that actually, costing tens of dollars per employee. It is not hundreds or thousands, so very economical. But we hear things on voice memos all the time. Like I am back here in a dark corner of the warehouse and there is a stack of pallets, the material looks like it is going to fall over. Or somebody coming into the facility first thing in the morning, saying, I think maintenance must have painted the floors in our area, and I am guessing they may have used the wrong paint because it is slippery as an ice rink back here.
We have had added voice memos that indicate to safety leaders, opportunity or operations leaders, opportunities for quality improvements, for process reengineering. So, we are sticking to our guns. We are not trying to infringe on the privacy or the perception by the worker. It has been interesting. Even in organized labor union environments, when we are brought to the table with heads of the union and executive management team, I have had some rocky starts to those meetings. They are not fans of each other typically. And five minutes in, it is great to look at another MākuSafe team member and realize that they are now convincing each other about why the use of MākuSafe is a good idea, and we have not had to speak for a while.
JAMES: Well; because they… And I have done a lot of work with labor unions. We are going to talk about labor unions in a second. So, I am going to bookmark that. Rob had a good comment/question about MākuSafe and wearables and PPE. Rob?
ROB: Yeah, thanks, James. So, Tom, great background. And thanks. It is just amazing. As James pointed out, the miniaturization and being able to put all those sensors on something that is, what did would you say, the size of your thumb. I mean, it is pretty incredible. So, you have talked about the MākuSafe wearables in industrial or manufacturing facilities. One of the things I have heard you say before is that the wearable should be viewed as a piece of PPE. No different than a hard hat, safety goggles, earplugs, things like that. So, I would love to have you kind of expand on that idea. Cause I think it is not you know, it is just a different mindset of what we typically think of as PPE, and then also would like you to talk about construction exposure and kind of, what does that look like? You talked about Wi-Fi and transmission of data, but how do you accomplish that on a job site?
TOM: Yeah. Thanks for that. Great question. So, we say that a lot. We want MākuSafe armbands to be viewed like PPE because it is that simple to put them on at the beginning of your shift. Just like hearing protection, just like safety glasses. And we are extremely low cost. Like buying a pretty good pair of work gloves. On the other hand, it is so much more than that. Safety professionals certainly know and are trained in their discipline and loss control teams certainly know about the hierarchy of controls. And at the bottom of that hierarchy, the least desirable method to protect people from hazards is actually PPE. The most desirable, the top of that pyramid, would include things like removing the hazard entirely. Or replacing or substituting how people are doing things. Isolating the worker from the hazard. To be able to do that though, you need some kind of leading indicator data that tells you that there is a hazard that exists before people get hurt. So that is what we are doing.
We are providing that leading indicator data in a very easy to deploy and easy to get access to kind of way. Often when people hear that term, leading indicators as opposed to lagging indicators, which means something’s happened, people got hurt. Leading indicators imply that you have got to either build your own systems or mine data from existing systems or change your workflows to get access to that kind of data. We were able to do that after a half–day of setup in an industrial facility, and immediately out of the gate, we start to see data come in that may show correlations between things like, for example, we see an increased percentage of slips and trips in the loading dock area when humidity is on the rise. Why? Well, there may be condensation that starting to accumulate at a certain time of day on the concrete. So that is a leading indicator before things happen. We can take in data from other so sources and show that alongside our people data, that may provide further context, but that’s what we’re endeavoring to do, is provide an easy way to get access to indicators so that safety leaders can employ the most desirable, most effective methods of controlling, hazards and risks and eliminating the potential for people to get hurt.
And then your second question was in the construction industry. Yeah, when we started MākuSafe, we used to frequently say that we were most appropriate to fixed workplaces. In other words, a facility, or a factory where people go to work, and they are working in one place. Until the construction industry started to talk to us and point out that the first things that happened these days, on a construction job site, are the job trailer goes in and then they run power. And then they run an internet connection because so many things have to connect to it. So, that is all we need for our system to work. And we have started working with construction companies on their job sites. Really exciting to us to see very, very recently that a very large construction company working on an important data center project here, has increased their usage of MākuSafe, by covering five times as many employees after only 60 days of experience with our tool. And now we are talking to their work comp carrier because they are interested; and looking at other job sites around the country that they have projects going.
JAMES: Sure, looks like you are working with White’s, which is a fantastic place to start. I mean, talk about a top–notch, Midwest contractor.
TOM: Yeah. Very committed safety leaders. It is encouraging to walk into a meeting and at the back of the room, they have a bulletin board that says frontline observation reports, and they are posting all of them there because they value them. And then another, that says, you told us on one side of a column and in the next column, here is what we did. So, they are trying to get that engagement from employees, understand indicators, and then show that they are acting upon them. And that is what our tool does in a much more automated way.
JAMES: So, let us jump in and go back to a topic that I’ve kind of bookmarked earlier with labor unions. Cause this applies to more than just construction, obviously manufacturing... There is a lot of sectors, industrial, where you have labor unions and I have done a lot of work with labor unions. The role of labor unions has drastically changed in the last 30 years. I mean, big time. Their attitude, their approach. I worked with some very, very progressive labor unions and I am always quite pleased to see how aggressive they are being about technology adoption. This has been a sticky topic though. Anything that involves putting something on a worker in general, whether it is a hat or gloves or whatever it is, they get really particular, and there is a lot of, and I am not going to go into all the reasons why they are particular. Some are justified. So just tell me about, you have mentioned you have had meetings with management and labor. I want to hear what labor unions when they first walked in, they were probably ready for war. I imagine they were bristled and bound up and ready for war. What, tell me what they heard, what they saw that changed their minds, and then tell me what they said when they did change their mind.
TOM: Yeah, that is a good question. Thanks for asking. I think when we start to talk about what the MākuSafe wearable collects, and also, I kind of like to say what we are not doing, that has an impact. So, we are collecting data about the environment and we are looking outward, trying to act as an advocate for the worker and give optics in the actual working conditions that workers are facing when doing their jobs. What we are not doing, is anything personal. As we mentioned, we are not giving any haptic feedback to the worker. There are no buzzers or bells or whistles that go off that could interrupt people’s work. And as an HR guy, as a leadership development guy, I do not think it has a positive lasting effect anytime. You are constantly telling somebody they are doing something wrong. So, for that reason, we are not setting off buzzers. This is a one-way communication tool. And really, the intent here, if you think about it, is to provide data to safety leadership, to make sure that they are acting upon it.
So, we are holding them accountable. And when you start to paint that picture, this is not anything that is going to be used for punitive purposes about the worker. And in fact, in some union environments we have even been asked to not identify which worker is wearing a wearable, but just show a number. So, worker 1 through, worker 100 or whatever. But instead, providing that data to safety leadership, allows them to start to engage in conversations to understand what is being faced on the front lines. And then, to track hazards that are identified to make sure that they get resolved. To create tasks, and those are the kinds of things that we do in our software platform. So, the worker has a wearable on, but the data that is being collected as data that can be used to ensure a safe workplace for them and their coworkers.
JAMES: Awesome. I know Rob, you have got to, let us bring it back to insurance. Rob, I know you have got a great question about how this pulls back to insurance.
ROB: Yeah, Tom. So, we have talked about some of the industries that you guys work with, and I know you have worked in all sorts of environments. Some very volatile environments. I remember it was a smelting facility or something like that. So, you have definitely worked in some environments that maybe people might not think that these types of devices could work. But yeah, I definitely want to take it to the insurance side of course. That is my background and passion. And so, you kind of mentioned work comp carriers as well as working with employers. I am just kind of curious from an agent broker perspective, as well as a carrier perspective. What do those relationships look like? What conversations do you have, or what relationships do you have, and what is their perspective? And is that a value prop? Could they save money on their premiums by reducing workplace injuries?
TOM: Yeah, that is certainly the vision. And we would like to be ubiquitous. Use MākuSafe, like using a smoke detector, or get a green or a house alarm, get a credit on your policy. So, one day, hopefully soon we will get there. We are working with numerous carriers, I think, almost on double digits. We just officially launched our product into the marketplace. At the beginning of this year, we got our first shipment of saleable inventory the week that COVID lockdown started in our country, which was kind of interesting. But we have solid commitments from all kinds of insurers. Carriers, agents, brokers, and you are right. From the carrier side, there is an appetite, certainly in loss control for this kind of data. And we are even starting to explore ideas like enabling virtual loss control. When reps cannot get out into the field to do field visits. We have got a dashboard that shows indicators and trends and enables them to communicate and engage with safety leadership on the front lines and kind of is a lever for them to pull to influence, risk mitigation within policyholder organizations.
From an agent or broker perspective, we have learned that this can be a significant differentiator. There are high mod score specialist companies that will work with, companies in a very hands–on way. This is a terrific tool for them. We have had all kinds of arrangements with insurers, really those that want to buy our hardware and give it away to their policyholders. Often that is a way for them to get started. Find a few good fit policyholders, introduce use us and we can take it from there, with installation and setup and deployment. And then the insurer has access to that data. We have got insurer examples now of policyholders requesting before they will renew, that want access to MākuSafe, so they want that to be included. Sometimes even as a premium, as I understand. Add a premium, I understand. We have got examples where insurers will write business when MākuSafe as being utilized, and building discounts and credits, around the use of MākuSafe, so we’ve we have come quite far pretty fast. Things are very swift–moving for us.
We are interested in, of course talking with insurers about ways that we can work with them and collaborate with them and coming up with beneficial arrangements. We have got a lot of traction in innovation departments and I think it is interesting these days after what we are all experiencing with COVID, I believe we are now being viewed as pretty practical. Low cost, and therefore, why cannot we get started with this right away. This does not need to be in a long, drawn–out innovation project. Instead, it is cheap and easily put to MākuSafe guys to work. We got a fleet of cool vans. We call them MākuVans, and we are looking to get out into people’s facilities and set up and teach them how to use our tool and work with insurers as well.
JAMES: So, well, I have to pause you there then. If you are doing installation and setup, then you are going to be limited by your distribution capacity. So how are you distributing the product then?
TOM: Yeah, that is a good question. We are doing that all ourselves. Right now, we are producing a limited quantity of our hardware solution for 2020. And that is manageable. We have grown our team substantially. In fact, this week, I think we hired our 21st person and I have not met them yet. That is a far cry from 18 months ago when there were two co–founders and me within MākuSafe. So, we have grown. We have got about 40% or so of that capacity for 2020 filled, nothing canceled, which is nice. We have just been waiting for facilities to open up and we have been a little bit delayed in getting out into the field and deploying. And you are James, we might have to consider when we could schedule a visit to Europe or Alaska. On the other hand, I think we are doing our first international deployment, within a matter of weeks this month. So, it is not very hard to set up and deploy. We do a lot of intake of details remotely, and we pre-configure the hardware. So, in essence, when we walk into a facility, we plug in that base station. We determine work areas or workstations or zones on that facility floor plan, and then we are off to the races.
JAMES: Is there a thought to partner with like United Rentals, so that you can leverage their distribution network and their installed network, et cetera? I mean, cause just at scale there are 28,000 major contractors just in the United States. I mean, this is not… That is just construction. It is not manufacturing, it is industrial, it is not oil and gas. I mean, it is not distribution where you obviously could use this in logistics and distribution as well. I mean, it just a challenge.
TOM: Really good follow-up. I get your point. Our goal is to provide a white glove kind of experience for users. And therefore, we are not trying to cover everywhere we possibly can. We are looking for partners within the insurers, as well as industrial end–users. And Rob and I have talked about this before. I think the ideal user for us, whether it be an insurer or an industrial end–user, has to kind of have a certain maturity level to them. There needs to be an appetite and desire for data. And then an ability to act on it as well, do something about it. So further, we need to work with our customers to train them on how to derive value out of the use of our tool. And it is new technology. So, we think that if we do that well, scaling and growth will certainly be something we are poised for in years to come. And that has been our experience so far.
JAMES: Awesome, Rob?
ROB: I got another two-parter for you, Tom. I am curious a little bit more, maybe you can talk about the type of data that safety leaders, insurers, et cetera, like are getting access too. I know your dashboard is called the MākuSmart. So, I love you talked about MākuSafe of course, and then MākuVans. So, you have got the MākuSmart dashboard. Maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the data and insights that you can deliver. And then my second part of my question is, maybe you could talk about, your ability to introduce new functionality on the wearable. So, you have a hardware and a software piece to this, and I know that during COVID, you were able to relatively quickly deploy contact tracing, worker density, mapping, et cetera. We would love to have you kind of talk about some of those recent enhancements you have been able to make.
TOM: Yeah, sure. So, you are right. Our software platform is called MākuSmart. I would be remiss by the way, if I did not point out that MAKU, is Hawaiian for risk, apparently. Which we did not know when we named the company, but it is kind of fun. So, in our MākuSmart platform, we are fully responsive. So, on any device, safety leaders and loss control insurers have access to data. And what they are seeing there are things like environmental indicators that are occurring now. Motion indicators, slips, trips that are occurring now. Who those things have occurred to, where they have occurred. And in addition, to those indicators, which I would describe as kind of the granular detail, the building blocks of our platform, we are taking things to another level. I say that’s safety or risk intelligence, by using machine learning and AI to identify trends and look for correlations between data points.
So, I was giving an example earlier, but we may see that there is a trend of low light being experienced by a couple of workers working in a particular area. Might investigate that and see, that there are light bulbs out. We have seen companies with surprisingly sophisticated hearing conservation programs be blown away when our technology was telling them that there were a couple of workers that were achieving their daily sound dosage within the first couple of hours of their shift. They were not aware of that. So, it caused them to reevaluate their hearing protection, things like that. In addition, we can now, after the release of what we call make you MākuSafe 2.0, we have built–in some workflow tools into our platform. So, you can create a hazard, you can track that, you can take action against it and you can show… Sometimes for a safety leader, this is not a very easy thing to do, but you can show results of your work over time and the impact that it is making, the decrease on indicators or trends.
We have got tasks lists that are included now. I recommend all the time that the frontline workers should not just be the only ones wearing our device, but so should the leadership team. And if they are walking around, leaving themselves voice memos, that is the visual inspection that everybody knows they do when they walked down a hallway and think about, well, that signs missing, and this is an obstruction on the floor. So those things go directly into our platform and it helps make management more effective and efficient.
JAMES: But it is also lead by example. I mean look, if the leadership’s willing to wear it, everybody is like alright, all I guess I am too. I mean, my business partner, Sebastian Costa. He is just amazing. Like one of the best people in the world, man. And he holds me accountable all the time on this. In fact, we had our quarterly conversation today. We do 90-day reviews at JBK. We do not do annual reviews. And we were doing our quarterly today and I was thanking him for holding me accountable. There was one time we were walking to the parking spot and I had not parked where everybody else parks that day. I had parked up closer to the building. I was in a hurry and I just, I was like, ah, to heck with it. I am going to park by the building.
Man, he jumped on me. He goes, you got to park with everybody else. And I said, alright. You got it. I did not fight him on it. And it is just lead by example, right? I mean, some people do not like wearing things. Some people do not like wearing masks. A lot of them. We found out like half the world, does not like wearing a mask and some people do not like wearing things on their arms. What I do like is how low form factor, what you have is, I mean, that is small and lightweight. So, you probably forget that you are wearing them. I would imagine.
TOM: That is the, we call that a compliment when that happens. Somebody forgets they had it on and wears it home. In fact, Rob, you alluded to this earlier, we have been at work in some pretty demanding environments, like right out of the movies. Smoke and air quality and things like that. And the only time we have ever had a device fail is when somebody took it home, took their coveralls off, and put it in the washer and dryer. It is still powered up, but it was in rough shape.
JAMES: Probably got fried at that point, but yeah man.
TOM: Rob asked another question also though that I think kind of goes to what you are talking about walking the talk. We want to do that too. Our mission is to make sure that everybody goes home safely at the end of the day and there is not an empty seat at the dinner table. That a family is impacted. And we listened to our customers. I think that’s part of our recipe for success and what has helped us move along so quickly too. That point when COVID hit, we stayed in touch with all of those prospective customers that had signed up early to use MākuSafe, and we are waiting like we were for our first inventory of saleable product. And we asked them daily sometimes about the challenges that they were facing and how things were going for themselves and their workers and what they were dealing with. And, quite honestly, we learned some things that were not even in our vernacular.
Last year, like contact tracing. And we started to think about how data we were already collecting, which is not an infringement on worker privacy. We are not continuously tracking people, but we certainly can show things like when workers have come in contact with other workers and the number of times their wearables have been in the same area over time, so that allowed us to announce that capability. So, we can generate an on–demand, contact tracing report, in the event, which has just happened, by the way, the day we announced it and released it. We got a call from a customer that said, I just had an employee come in my office. You guys were just telling me this, and they said that a family member has been exposed or diagnosed, and I was able to turn to your system and look at that contact tracing report and begin to focus my efforts on who I needed to communicate with and interview with.
We have also released something that we call worker density mapping, so we can show them the density of workers throughout a facility over time. And some areas are obvious that management has been paying attention to like plexiglass dividers between workstations, cause we know these people are close to one another. On the other hand, they may not be aware of the density of the population in other areas of the facility over time. So, we give them that graphic view of their location and where people are traveling. And I cannot talk about an awful lot, but we are excited about the things that we have in research and development that also may go to, managing COVID and other infectious disease spread. And some things that do not involve the use of a personal mobile device, that is all the rage for some large companies to talk about these days and, are not big brother-ISH or creepy.
JAMES: That is so awesome. Well, we are out of time for the interview. We just have a few minutes of news to talk about what is new and going on in the insurance world and particularly in InsureTech. So just hang with us there for a second, Tom. Rob, I will give you my, I have two stories this week that I thought were worth talking about with us. The first one was from Insurance Business America. This is by Bethan Moorcraft. Incumbents must innovate before innovators find distribution. And this is, I love this. It is like they are coming! They are coming over the hill! I love it cause you have not heard anybody phrase it that way. Before they find distribution, cause once they find distribution, game over, right? And I loved this article. Cause they are talking about just the number the sheer number of agents, agencies, how many retail agents there are. The direct model obviously. There is just a lot of threats to traditional business models. But what I wanted to talk about with you Rob was really that main comment. Is, there is a timer, there is a clock running now about the new InsureTech, the digital MGAs, the digital carriers. There is a clock running to once they find full distribution, it is going to be a radically different insurance market.
ROB: Yeah, absolutely. And we might have touched on this in an earlier podcast, James, where one of the fascinating things, is some of the startups that are acting as MGAs that may be thinking about going… Carries that originally started going direct, Like Progressive, Geico USA, et cetera, that then it is kind of pivoted. And realized, oh, those independent agents, maybe those are not dinosaurs, I just do to go past, they actually hold the keys to the castle, cause they are the link to the distribution side of things. So, everyone has got different philosophies, whatever. But exactly their point. We have even talked to folks like Darcy Shapiro of Cover Genius about kind of, hey, those nontraditional distribution channels of being on the travel website, for example. And offering coverage there and whatnot. So yeah, I think that is very, very timely for sure. Absolutely.
JAMES: Yeah. And look, everybody out there and listener-land, go read the article. Distribution is everything, in pretty much every industry and it is everything in insurance as well. It is just like; I was just talking with Tom. I was talking about distribution challenges. And that is the issue. There are some brilliant ideas out there on insurance. And the second article I have Rob is directly tied to distribution. I feel like. It is almost like… I am from South Louisiana. And so, you have so many natural disasters that happen in South Louisiana. I mean, you got floods, you got hurricanes, you have tornadoes that spin–off from hurricanes, you have pretty much every kind of poisonous reptile on the planet lives in Louisiana. There is a lot of things that can kill you down there. Maybe you get a little immune to it, and you always think that everything, that something bad is going to happen to everybody else.
I am sure there is a fancy academic phrase for this. Like the not me paradox or something, or people just do not think it is good going to happen to them. And I feel like every industry assumes they are not going to be disrupted by the likes of Amazon. I feel like they do. Amazon disrupted retail and books. Oh, and shipping, and oh yeah, and the cloud. Oh, yeah, I get it. They are hitting the world, but they are not going to hit my industry. It helps to watch world news. Good old Amazon has a hundred million registered users in India now. Registered Customers. A hundred million. And they are doing something interesting. In July, that is just about a month ago, Amazon partnered with Acko General Insurance. A digital insurance startup in India that offer auto insurance in India, through Amazon. So, you can use Amazon Pay to buy, you can use the Amazon app, you can use the website, and now Amazon is an insurance distribution channel for their partner in insurance.
Now you can bet they probably… With more money than pretty much, most small sovereign nations. Amazon can probably buy this startup. They are probably just testing it out. But what I think many I have heard said will not happen. Amazon is not going to get insurance. Amazon has insurance. With a hundred million people as their testbed. Rob, I got to hear it. These are two stories about distribution. Talk to me.
ROB: Yeah. So obviously long–rumored Amazon folks have talked about Google and others and yeah. We have said like, whenever they think there is enough value there, insurance tends to be kind of low–profit margin. It ties up your capital for mid, single–digit returns. And so, it has not made sense for a lot of these big tech companies to get in, but you are absolutely right. They have done a ton in India and it is funny. It is kind of off our radar here in the US, but like you said, a hundred million. I mean, it is crazy. Clearly, Amazon is not a small co company. Yeah, there is a ton of stuff they can do. Health, P&C, and all that. So, definitely a space to watch. And I think it is more important than ever to kind of be aware of what is going on internationally. There are so many companies trying different things in other countries. So, if you are US–focused or Western Europe focused, you are going to miss a lot of stuff that is going on.
JAMES: Yeah. Pull your head out. It is car and motorcycle insurance first. And it is on the Amazon app and mobile website. They are not going to stop there. You know WhatsApp, which of course is a most popular messaging application in the world, rolls out a WhatsApp pay. They debuted in India in 2018. And it will be available for 400 million users once the reserve bank of India gives it a green light. I mean, you are talking about user pilots that are larger than the entire population of the United States. Just wrap your brain around it. It is a very mobile world out there. In particular outside the United States. I mean, I have offices in Africa. I have got employees over there. We have done a lot of work with folks in India. I mean, it is a very mobile–friendly world out there. And some people are looking to make it very simple to live your entire life through your mobile device. And if it is not here, it is coming soon. And, if it is being piloted in India, it will be replicated here at some point in time. Rob, do you have anything this week?
ROB: Yeah, just to add to that one point, James, I mean your mobile phone is the ultimate distribution device and so, if it can be done on the phone, eventually it will be done on the phone. So, you are spot on there. And I got one quick one for you. So, you might have seen this headline. It was in several publications. I am looking at the Insurance Journal now. Pay-Per-Mile Car Insurer Metromile Signs Deal with Ford. They are going to be integrated into Ford cars. And if you have that connected car with Ford, you are going to be able to basically opt–in your car, to sign up, and to insure with Metromile. So obviously particularly during the pandemic, a lot of people are driving a whole lot less than they have done before. Some of us have to take our cars out like once a week because we are not commuting to work or anything like that. So actually, I guess this is another distribution play that builds on that theme. So, yeah, I just kind of wanted to get your thoughts on an insurance startup integrating directly with an OEM. James, what do you guys think again?
JAMES: Well, again, it is all about distribution. Tesla. If you just go to tesla.com/insurance, you can get a quote there through Tesla on the Tesla website. That is step one. They became a licensed agent. They even give their agency license number. They have Tesla insurance services and so they start with the easy play. Of course, Tesla collects more data from the car than any other manufacturer that I have seen. So, Musk has made it clear with Tesla that he intends to it to be a massive rideshare network as well so that owners can lease their cars to the rideshare network. And then of course provide, I am sure pay–per–mile insurance because right now they are doing pretty traditional quoting. But pay-per-mile tied in with the vehicle, so, they are not pulling that dongle out of the OBD two–port. They cannot do that. They cannot cheat on that. That is that is pretty powerful. Tom, this is similar to what y’all are doing. It is wearable for a car at some level, right?
TOM: I have said that before. And now we are telematics for people. Now there’s data that shows that behavior has changed even when the data is not being used punitively. People have changed their driving habits. And yeah, that is the same kind of mission we have. You now collecting this data can then help safety leaders send everybody home safely at the end of the day. So nice to be with you guys. Thanks for including me in the conversation.
JAMES: Oh yeah, sure. And I little side note, not insurance–related. Elon Musk has another company and I am a Musk fan, okay. I was a huge fan of Steve Jobs. And for me like Edison, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. I almost feel like they are these absolute titans of innovation. So Neuralink, if you guys watch the demo video for Neuralink, I mean, we talk about telematics for humans, but Neuralink takes it to a next level. An implant in the brain. So, he put a 1,024 channel implant into a pig brain of an actual live pig. And, then started reading all the data off of it. Did a demo this past week, and it is worth watching. Every time they would touch pigs, love having their nose touched. So, they have a lot of, they have a huge sensor array in their noses, and they would just very gently touch the pig’s nose and they would measure all the responses that came off of it.
TOM: You got to come to Iowa. We have got an awful lot of swine wearable companies and startups and innovation that is happening here.
JAMES: Yeah, this is like totally next level. They very safely implanted the chip inside the pig’s brain. There was nothing the pig was wearing. It was pretty fascinating, and I would encourage you to check it out. It takes wearable to a completely new level. Anyway, that is on that note. It has been our show. Tom, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
TOM: Thank you both for having me. I enjoyed the conversation.
JAMES: And as always Rob Galbraith, you are a man of entry. I appreciate you being here. I am sorry your wings are still clipped. I can feel the anxiety. You cannot go to these conferences, but I know you are speaking at a bunch of them and having all kinds of fun. So, it is good to see you.
ROB: Great to see you too, James. Absolutely.
JAMES: And thank you out there for joining us for the InsureTech Geek podcast powered by JBKnowledge. That is JBKnowledge.com. It is all about technology that is transforming and disrupting the insurance world. I am your host, James Benham, that is JamesBenham.com with cohost, Rob Galbraith, endofinsurance.com. Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton-Arro, our Creative Producer, and Adéle Waldeck, our Transcriptionist. And thank you for joining us today. We are taking you on a journey through insurance tech. So, enjoy the ride and geek out.
See you next week!