MetLife has entered a new multi-year agreement with MIT Media Lab, joining the university program as a consortium member, in efforts to accelerate the use of emerging technologies throughout its core business.

The insurer will leverage MIT Media Lab’s research in the areas of the Internet of Things, data science and machine learning to improve the life insurance underwriting process, it says. MIT Media Lab runs 26 different research labs, including a human dynamics group focused on social media's impact on consumer behavior, which carriers can leverage for insights.

Greg Baxter, MetLife
Greg Baxter, MetLife

“Life underwriting at the moment is very time consuming,” says Greg Baxter, MetLife’s chief digital officer. “There’s a lot of digital data in the world we can use as a surrogate for invasive testing, while also providing advice to customers based on digital profiles.”

In the past, MIT Media Lab’s research has led to innovations, such as the touch screen, GPS and wearables, the companies said. An early project MetLife is working on with the consortium is finding ways to factor stress level readings from wearable devices into underwriting.

“That would all be built with permissioned data and partnerships with individual consumers,” Baxter says, adding the carrier is also looking to implement IoT devices in the home to prevent water claims. MetLife is already familiar with the technology in the auto space, by way of its usage-based insurance program My Journey.

Also see: How MetLife will ramp up digital innovation in 2018

The carrier’s partnership with MIT Media Lab is viewed as a strategic addition to its newly-launched $100 million venture capital arm—MetLife Digital Ventures—and global accelerator opened earlier this year in Cary, N.C. in collaboration with startup incubator Techstars. MetLife also owns an innovation center based in Singapore, Lumen Lab, which it established in 2015.

Concepts derived from MetLife’s work with MIT Media Labs will be scaled in the insurer’s U.S. accelerator, Baxter says. MetLife spends upwards of $300 million a year on modernizing its core business through its reinvestment fund aimed at integrating ideas learned from outside its organization.

“We alone are not going to come up with the best ideas,” Baxter concluded. “They can come from academia, venture capital firms or incubated startups.”