Artificial intelligence and cutting-edge data analysis software mean that underwriters can now make predictions about the weather, natural disasters and senile dementia that previously “only god knew about”, the president of one of Japan’s biggest insurance companies has claimed. The bold assertion by Mikio Okumura, head of Sompo Holdings, comes as the company prepares to roll out Japan’s first dementia prevention insurance package — a product designed for the world’s oldest society and based on analysis of the heartbeats, appetite and sleeping patterns of thousands of nursing home residents. The move by Sompo marks the latest insurance industry escalation of a battle to secure an advantage through tech. Okumura said this was an area of competition that would decide the survivability of individual companies as they moved away from their conventional business areas. The “god” claim follows Sompo’s $500mn investment two years ago in Palantir, the US specialist in big data analysis, and its taking of a 22 per cent stake in a Japanese AI start-up, Abeja. “We can now reveal things that, in the past, only god knew about, thanks to technology including AI,” Okumura said, outlining a plan for an insurance scheme that not only pays out when symptoms of dementia occur, but also attempts to delay the onset of the disease by incentivising customers to change their daily behaviour. That could include improving sleep, diet and exercise. Sompo and other Japanese insurers have pinned their hopes on AI as they attempt to navigate the increasingly difficult domestic market in which they operate: the world’s fastest-ageing society, with one of the highest life expectancies, largest cohorts of over-65s and a commensurately growing national dementia problem.
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