Originally used in the aircraft industry, event data recorders (EDRs), commonly known as “black boxes,” are now incorporated in a variety of consumer products, ranging from household appliances and alarm panel systems to cars and copiers. Recording a final data picture just before a product fails, EDRs are tamper-proof with a read/write memory device that unobtrusively captures a variety and wealth of product information that may be useful to an adjuster evaluating subrogation arising from a loss. For example, in appliances, EDRs can be triggered by a power surge or temperature spike, either of which can support an insured’s claim that he or she saw the product begin to smoke, catch on fire, or fail to operate properly.
It is easy to compare EDRs to a constant surveillance system that monitors its surroundings, similar to the telescreen in George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” which monitored citizens at all times. However, unlike the telescreen and the negative “Big Brother is Watching” connotation, EDRs are positive mechanisms when used appropriately and consistently with state legislative requirements.
Data can be communicated to a remote service center or a hand-held device, and further, the remote service center can interactively control the appliance via the central collector. Some examples include: a stove with a built-in stirrer remotely controlled and an ingredient dispenser controlled by a wireless device and a sensor that monitors the cook top pan remotely.
Additional household appliances subject to remote monitoring are washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, toasters, blenders, mixers, food processors, coffee makers, and so on. The user can be notified by his hand-held device with alerts about the products being monitored. For a fee, the appliances can also be monitored by the manufacturer to include failures diagnoses.
GE also offers a Nucleus Energy Manager, which includes a programmable thermostat, washer, dryer, and dishwasher. The program manager collects real-time information about energy use in the home, providing vital data about the circumstances occurring at or near the time of a loss. These home energy management systems offer different levels of energy monitoring and control over home appliances.
Vehicle EDR Data and Legislative Action
In Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, state laws have been enacted related to EDRs in vehicles. State statutes have been ratified based on consumer complaints about companies obtaining vehicle data without the owner even knowing about it. Warrants have been issued in criminal cases in some states to access vehicle EDR data. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a mandate on vehicle EDRs (47478-47489), providing a minimum standard for the data that EDRs collect. Fifteen types of vehicle crash data are required by the NHTSA. These include: pre-crash speed, engine throttle, brake use, measured changes in forward velocity, driver safety belt use, air bag warning lamp status, and air bag deployment times.