How satellite imagery and big data analytics are changing the insurance industry

“By 2020 the reinsurance industry would be widely utilising satellite imagery for loss assessment,” says Dennis Kessler of Lloyd’s – one of the world’s largest insurance markets.

The insurance industry is increasingly embracing the use of satellite imagery to increase efficiency and decrease the time it takes to assess loss, especially in cases of natural disasters. When Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, insurers used satellite technologies to establish real-time damage assessment over a large area without having to send in their field agents. This saves insurers time, allow them to promptly assess their risk exposure and more accurately process claims.

“By 2020 the reinsurance industry would be widely utilising satellite imagery for loss assessment,” says Dennis Kessler of Lloyd’s

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Satellite images help insurers to better understand their risk exposure particularly at a time when claims on severe weather damages have risen by 10 fold in the past decade, says Wayne Ross from Aviva Canada. His company relied on satellite photos to assess claims and spread the risks to reinsurers when damages are beyond the threshold. Swiss Re and RSA Insurance Group PLC are also among a growing number of insurers leveraging satellite technologies to protect make loss assessment.

The recent upsurge in the use of satellite images for insurance assessment is due to the decline in costs of satellite technologies themselves. Technological advances and a rapid expansion of satellite data and value-added services, like analytics, have rendered satellite images cheaper and more versatile for use across a wide range of industries, including insurance. Even incomplete images from space can help build a repository of knowledge to help respond to a number of major flood events around the world where no other technology could provide the speed and scale matched by those from satellite.

And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The technology driving spatial analytics data can potentially help insurance companies monitor developing issues in near real time.  Some processing techniques allow for early detection of subtle surface movement or stability of critical infrastructures such as dams or subsiding ground in close proximity to roads and railways.   Such unstable ground are difficult to identify when a lot of ground has to be covered, but early detection of small rates of movement could ultimately lead to preventing disasters, such as Samarco’s tailings dam failure in Brazil in November 2015.

Having access to that type of data leading up to that particular event might have allowed insurance companies to investigate, model and understand why and how the event happened.

The vast possibilities of how insurance companies can utilise satellite imagery is only continuing to grow. At Otus, spatial data and satellite imagery is made simple through our state-of-the-art analytics technology, pushing the insurance industry into better assessments through better data.