32 (127) 2017
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Tech for the home

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What's the link between virtual-reality visualisations of home interiors and household insurance?

Smart software. Since Krystian Zając launched his first business in London 15 years ago, writing software so that interior designers could show their projects to clients in 3D, his firm has expanded into smart security solutions, allowing wealthy home-owners to monitor and control their properties remotely. He began in London by washing dishes – and then started up an IT consultancy business in 2002, which evolved into a smart-home company in December 2007; a separate Virtual Reality (VR) division was launched in 2016.

Mr Zając's first start-up, North London-based Andrew Lucas Ltd, has moved on from high-end Smart Home solutions, including smart security, dedicated cinema rooms or motorised swimming pool floors to virtual reality (VR) solution that allows you to see your property in VR before it’s actually build. You are able to change the furniture, finishes as well as interact with the space as if you were physically there. The solutions aren’t limited to single properties, VR can help you walk through the streets, see public spaces and more. Andrew Lucas has just completed a VR model of a 1,500-house development in Thatcham, Berkshire. It allows views to look close-up at textures of materials in use, and then pull back to get the big picture of the entire estate.

Mr Zając's second start-up, Neos, is an FCA-approved home and contents insurer, working with Aviva, Munich Re and property website Zoopla. By linking a lower-cost, higher-volume version of the Andrew Lucas home-monitoring system to a smart pricing engine and policy admin, Neos is setting out the future direction for household insurance.  Even with major investors quickly seeing the potential of Neos, Mr Zając remains one of the main shareholders and is actively engaged in its development and growth.

Next, Mr Zając made a sideways step, launching a start-up that links home-monitoring solutions to household insurance. Install smart sensors and cameras controlled by mobile apps to policy holders, and offer them cheaper premiums based on analysis of statistics from 261 databases, from subsidence to flooding and leaks. We aim to use technology to prevent bad things from happening in the first place. The tech packages include a selection of sensors: door/window contacts, motion sensors, smoke and leak sensors as well as a FullHD camera. This allows us to help our customers to detect major incidents such as fire, theft and leaks.  Applying machine learning to millions of data events that occur within the home – doors opening and closing, lights being switched on or off, insurers can have access to insights that assess risk. The technology is given to policy holders for free! In addition to the tech, they also get access to 24/7 monitoring and Home Emergency assistance – so that we can mitigate the damage and help them get back on their feet fast in case something bad does happen.  All of it is backed by a modern insurance policy that will pay out in case we can’t prevent the incident,” says Mr Zając. Using smart valves that can sense when there's a leak and shut off the water, household insurance claims can be greatly reduced. Claims from floods and leaks are greater than from fire and burglary combined, says Mr Zając, so using technology in a smart way can make a big difference to premiums, when premises have been equipped with such devices.

Much of the software development for both firms is carried out in Warsaw and Łódź, although Mr Zając says that his businesses are London-centred, and happen to have back offices in Poland, rather than being Polish businesses that have moved to London. “It's no longer about cost, it's about availability of skilled IT people,” he says.

Andrew Lucas Ltd offers a comprehensive smart home solution that allows home owners to remotely monitor and control access and security; heating, lighting and shade, and coordinate entertainment systems from touch-pads or smart-phone apps. Clients are typically high net-worth individuals with properties in different countries; the Andrew Lucas solution keeps them in direct contact with their homes wherever they may be. Neos, however, will soon be offering a mass-market insurance product based on the same principle – using tech to monitor what's going on inside an empty home – a fantastic example of scale-up in practice!

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