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Don’t worry, it’s only water – how faucet makers ended up revolutionising the insurance industry

27.6.2019 - Turvallisuus

There are around one thousand water damage claims in Finland every year. Many of these may end up costing the customer or their insurance company tens of thousands of euros in damages. Grohe Sense Guard measures the flow of water in a pipe, as well as the level of moisture in houses.

- We were discussing investing in potential start-ups when someone in the room said: “By the way, did you know that every second a pipe breaks in Europe?” So, we stopped the debate on start-ups, and started working on solutions to reduce water damages, says Michael Rauterkus, CEO of faucet manufacturer Grohe.

This discussion launched a development cycle, which resulted in the Grohe Sense Guard, an innovative product that measures the flow of water in a pipe, as well as the level of moisture in houses. If the Guard senses irregularities in either of these values, it cuts the water flow. So not only does the product prevent water damage, it can even predict it.
Another added customer benefit is the ability to measure and subsequently reduce water usage.

- Until now, it has been impossible to measure how much water flows in your pipes and at what pressure, Rauterkus says.
- People have always been able to measure the usage of water itself, but what does that tell you really? How would you go about reducing your water usage? By taking shorter showers? Every little helps, of course, but what if the problem isn´t the length of your showers, but rather faulty pressure in the pipes delivering the water, he continues.

Immediate results

Harri Aho, Director of Business Innovations at the insurance company LocalTapiola, has had the Grohe Sense Guard installed in his own home as a means to test the product. The immediate added benefit has been getting an overview of the factors affecting water use, which he has been pondering for some time.

- The Sense Guard comes with a user-friendly app that shows me everything from water pressure and water flow to water usage. If I want I can clock the time each family member uses the shower, but more interestingly I know immediately if there is a problem in my pipes, Aho says.

The invention has completely changed the way Aho and other users measure their water output. During the first month of installations, in what will ultimately be a 2000-customer wide pilot of the Sense Guard for LocalTapiola, there have already been a number of unknown issues with customers’ pipes discovered.

- One of our first instalments resulted in several angry phone calls from the customer, saying that the Sense Guard is sending out warnings of irregular water flow, but he can´t find anything wrong. After asking him to double-check every faucet on the premises, it turned out to be a garden faucet his wife had been using the previous day that was leaking, Aho recounts.

- Another customer was alerted to a faulty connection in her upstairs toilet, which, while not leaking out as such, was causing her to pay for more water than she needed to. Without the Sense Guard this extra water flow might never have been discovered. So the product really works and has already saved our customers money.

Revolutionising the insurance industry

The serious benefit of the Sense Guard, however, is based on the fact that there are around one thousand water damage claims in Finland every year. Many of these may end up costing the customer or their insurance company tens of thousands of euros in damages. Not to mention the trouble a water-damaged house causes for the residents.

- If your car breaks, you take it to the repair shop and get a rental car for the time it takes to fix yours. Changing homes for the duration of a water damage repair isn´t quite as convenient, says Rauterkus.

Partnering up with an insurance company wasn´t an obvious course of action for Grohe. In fact the product was first created with the end consumer in mind. It wasn´t until 3-6 months into the development that the realisation dawned that the mutual benefit lay primarily with insurers.

- The Internet of Things world is an unpredictable world. Industries who have never worked together came together at a point where we realised we both want to prevent water damage. This joint interest means we´re currently co-developing the next generation of the Sense Guard, which will also cover for example apartment buildings and hotels, Rauterkus says.

- As a life-long security company we aim to reduce the damages our customers have to face. This means that in addition to paying for damages like a traditional insurance company would, our strategy is to prevent accidents from happening altogether. An ambitious aim, which nevertheless is applauded by our customers. I mean, no-one wants to have water damage, Aho concludes.

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