January 18, 2019

Is ICBC set to deploy the ultimate back-seat driver?

Insurance corporation’s pilot project will tap technology to monitor driving habits

ICBC's telematics pilot will use technology to monitor the driving habits of as many as 7,000 new drivers beginning this summer | Photo: Shutterstock

Many people are willing to hand over personal data – say, information about who their friends are on Facebook (Nasdaq:FB) – just for a discount code for online shopping.

But would B.C. drivers part with private data about their personal driving habits if it meant getting a sizable discount on auto insurance?

The Insurance Corp. of BC (ICBC) is putting that to the test this summer with a yearlong telematics pilot aimed at as many as 7,000 new drivers who agree to submit data that’s recorded while they drive.

And with basic rates poised to climb 6.3% amid financial tumult at ICBC, drivers may soon be more inclined to sign off on future data collection from vehicles to save cash.

Telematics is the means of using hardware and software to monitor a vehicle, such as its location, its speed or even how frequently it brakes or turns.

ICBC plans to use a small in-vehicle device to communicate with an app on a driver’s smartphone to record driving habits.

Based on the data collected, the insurance carrier would then produce a score for the driver.

An earlier pilot suggested that more than 40% of participants improved their driving after the implementation of telematics in their vehicles.

A 2018 report on telematics from management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. revealed that the technology had a 20% penetration rate in the U.S. market.

Canadians have been slower to embrace telematics, with only 4% of drivers adopting the technology.

While ICBC has not yet made telematics available to drivers on the West Coast, other jurisdictions in Canada are embracing the concept, according to Aaron Sutherland, the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s vice-president of the Pacific region.

“Now they’re not allowed to use that information to increase prices but they can discount [prices],” Sutherland said. “So you can receive up to 25% off your auto insurance if you’re willing to let your insurer see how you’re driving. Are you speeding? Are you speeding up and slamming on the brakes quite often?”

Sutherland, whose industry association represents the interests of private insurance carriers, said B.C. has been slower to espouse telematics because of the lack of competition.

A 2014 report from Deloitte, meanwhile, concluded that widespread consumer acceptance of the concept does not necessarily guarantee trust in the technology, given privacy concerns and risks posed by hackers.

“To gain widespread adoption, insurers will likely have to engage in proactive communication and education – specifically making clear what’s in it for the consumer when it comes to sharing personal driving habits,” the report stated.

“If the potential gain is significant enough and they believe their data is relatively secure, more consumers will likely be willing to make the trade-off, despite any lingering concerns about personal privacy or cybersecurity.”

Peter Martire, principal at High Risk Insurance Ontario, said he understands why people would have privacy concerns, but said the technology does not pose a significant risk.

 “The information obtained by these devices cannot be used for any purpose other than to assess your driving behaviours,” he said, adding the information gathered by telematic devices cannot be used for claims or evidentiary purposes in his province.

ICBC declined an interview request from Business in Vancouver, but spokeswoman Lindsay Wilkins said in an email that the collection, use, disclosure and retention of information for the pilot would comply with B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The next step for the province’s insurance carrier is to name a vendor to supply the devices, with an announcement expected sometime early this year.

Mojio CEO Kenny Hawk said his Vancouver-based tech firm was among the vendors invited to participate in the request for quotation.

The company has worked with hardware partners to develop a device that plugs into a car’s onboard diagnostic port and sends encrypted data to Mojio’s cloud via a high-speed network.

Hawk said his company has been working with insurance carriers in different countries to fine-tune data collection, while at the same time working within the strict guidelines of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

While he said those privacy measures might be considered “a little bit of overkill,” in general he likes “putting consumers first, privacy first,” he said.

Hawk added that at the same time he’s happy to trade some of that privacy for improvements in safety and to save money.



This limited edition Game of Thrones whisky set will only be in 5 BC Liquor Stores

HBO and Diageo’s Game of Thrones-inspired whiskies (BC Liquor Stores)

Sometimes a riveting TV drama calls for a dram of Scotch. With winter indeed coming, in the form of the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones series, the timing is perfect for the release of eight special Scotch whiskies inspired by the show.

The limited edition bottles are the work of HBO and Diageo, with each of the eight scotches paired with one of the iconic Houses of Westeros, as well as the Night’s Watch.

Five of the eight, however, are subject to limited availability, and only five BC Liquor Store locations across the province will carry the full set. In Metro Vancouver, those stores are 39th and Cambie in Vancouver, Richmond Brighouse, and Park Royal in West Vancouver. Additionally, the complete set will be on hand at Fort Street in Victoria and Kelowna Orchard Park.

The remainder of the collection will be available at 50 select BC Liquor Stores. Individual bottles range in price from $65 to $150 and will hit the shelves on Jan. 19.

Langley BC Liquor Store scheduled an in-store tasting on Jan. 19 from 2 to 5 p.m.

“We are very excited to offer this amazing collection of scotches to our customers,” said Adele Shaw, BC Liquor Stores’ category manager for spirits.

“This whisky series is sure to appeal to both the Game of Thrones fans as well as whisky enthusiasts.

“They’re coming from some of the most iconic scotch distilleries in Scotland with a wide range of flavour profiles, from the sweetly peated Lagavulin to the tropical fruit flavours of Clynelish.”

– With files from Alan Campbell at the Richmond News

Vancouver is Awesome


What are we reading? January 17, 2019


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

We are two years into the Trump administration, and there are at least 50 “unthinkable” events in the presidency. You might have forgotten them, they are so plentiful. - The Atlantic


China is perceived as the ascendant superpower, but does it have the population to assert in this century? Demography suggests perhaps not. - The New York Times


How do we make decisions? It’s not what you think. -The New Yorker


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

In its quest for long-term energy security, China has become one of the main engines driving the global energy transformation. - Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation


And who is going to come up with all the financing required to bankroll that transformation? A U.K. perspective. - The UK Energy Research Centre


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Washington Post writer Greg Sargent on Trump’s “hidden helper,” Mitch McConnell. The U.S. Senate majority leader’s refusal to rein in an out-of-control president isn’t just “passive acquiescence,” Sargent says. “In fact, this is better seen as an active enabling, on one front after another. And we are likely to learn much more about just how damaging this has been soon enough.” - Washington Post


Who’d have thought the cookie business could be so dog-eat-dog? The makers of Hydrox have filed a complaint with the U.S. government that Oreo has unfairly bounced Hydrox cookies from stores to secure shelf supremacy for its own creme-filled chocolate treats. - Wall Street Journal


Hayley Woodin, report:

This story inspires more questions than it answers. (For example: How much business does a "font detective" get? How did someone come up with the idea to investigate the history of Calibri?) Long story short, bankruptcy fraud was foiled because someone used the wrong font. - National Post


Influential Instagram accounts get hacked, hijacked and held ransom. But the social media platform reportedly takes so long to solve these issues that some users rely on “white-hat hackers” to regain access. The story also highlights some of the digital world’s authentication challenges. - Motherboard


Glen Korstrom, reporter:

Was curious to read this piece by Isaac Asimov, published 35 years ago, about what he foresaw to be the state of the world in 2019. - The Star


Fascinating response by Jody Wilson-Raybould to what many saw as her demotion to be minister of veterans affairs, after being Canada’s justice minister. -


Mark Emery’s January 16 Facebook post response to allegations of sexual impropriety was gripping reading and a very enlightening look into the man. - Facebook  


Tyler Orton, reporter:

An ex-FBI hostage negotiator gives his take on what it will take to make a deal amid U.S. government shutdown - CNBC


We heard all the rumblings of foreign talent seeking jobs in Canadian tech in the wake of Trump’s election. Two years later, here’s how the story is playing out. - Washington Post



Insights from Australian at the forefront of the freelance economy

He is not an old fellow, a mere 45, but Matt Barrie has seen our concepts of careers change and change and change.

His grandfather, for instance, would have taken a job and aimed to stay with it until retirement.

His father would have thought of taking a job for 20 years and then starting a business to spend the second half of his career.

Barrie thinks of jobs in terms of five-to-10-year periods.

The generation that follows him looks at jobs in two-year cycles.

Then there are the millennials, for whom there is even less permanence but the familiarity – preferred or not – of job-hopping and freelance work. The changes are partly practical, partly attitudinal, partly economical, but they remind us of the grand challenge as a society to shift policy to accommodate emerging values about work and its role in shaping identity.

Barrie, an Australian tech entrepreneur, is CEO of the giant job board, a rich trove of global opportunities that has about 30 million users worldwide. He is at ground zero on the gig economy, and while it’s not always a pretty vista, he is effusive about its qualities.

I spent time with him last week for our daily podcast at Business in Vancouver (it’s online at His perspective offered a vector into the world that ranges from side hustles to full-time project-based toil.

Barrie believes the corporate world has undertaken a seismic shift in only the last two years in the tension between embracing and repelling the concept of freelance labour. Until recently he would take meetings with firms that would look to validate their fears of freelancing – security clearances, cultural differences, legal worries, education standards and the like – but now he notices a vastly more positive, proactive climate.

He argues that this is the world we want more of, a flexible context for work that is enabled by digital technology to permit almost anything to be done from almost anywhere. It’s a context of far less exclusion and far more opportunity.

There are healthy questions to consider, among them concerns of exploitation and what if anything can be done when offshore expertise usurps the local worker.

Barrie’s service isn’t entirely agnostic. It won’t undercut labour laws in matching employers and workers. It encourages freelancers to be wise about their value and charge sufficiently to take care of any medical or other benefits. While there are easily found online critiques of the model he touts, these feel more attached to a nostalgic wish of greater security than missives about the burgeoning norm.

We know our market has a talent challenge (our issue this week explores this at length), and we are not alone. But the old-style approach of fashioning a job description, commissioning a recruitment firm, reviewing resumés to create a short list of applicants, spending time and perhaps money interviewing the finalists, incentivizing them to move, expending effort to train them, providing golden handcuffs to retain, then praying for a lengthy and productive contribution … well, that’s not the deal as much anymore.

If you Google “gig economy,” “policy” and “Canada,” you will get little else but a batch of very dire think pieces by economists and labour specialists on how we have not got ready for what has already hit us. About one-quarter of our labour force is in this “non-traditional” category, mainly because of lack of choice, but our social-insurance programs are caught in a time warp. Little is happening to help with the hand-wringing.

In watching the world the way he does, Barrie has concluded we are headed in the next decade for half of all work freelanced. Older workers will keep a hand in their fields, stay-at-home parents will find more ways to juggle family with enterprise, younger people will want to blend their expertise with the experiences of travel – any number of circumstances, now that technology avails it, are possible.

His advice to the worker: don’t sell yourself short, charge enough to weather the rainy day and be the “master of your destiny.” 

Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.