Planet Labs, a tiny Silicon Valley company, that started out of a garage has successfully launched 28 tiny satellites, a thousand times smaller and cheaper than traditional satellites and will have have a full constellation by the middle of 2015. They will be able to take a high resolution picture of the entire planet Earth once a day and will allow open access to their images to everyone. Check out the TED Talk about this exciting technology!
When we watched this talk, we were extremely excited about all the potential applications that could be developed for the satellite images. We believe this incredible new technology will revolutionize insurance and risk management in ways we can’t even imagine yet (we literally had trouble writing the article because it’s so crazy this is not science-fiction), here’s the first few ways we can think of:
1. Property underwriting and automated followup on recommendations:
Gone will be the days that your risk control inspector or agent will need to be sent out multiple times to see if the client has cleaned up debris on the premises or had the roof repaired. Just call up the most up to date satellite image and have a peak yourself from the Home Office.
2. Exact dating of claims even if not immediately reported:
Currently we have the ability to check weather data to see if a storm went through on a particular day, but with a satellite photo of the roof each day in that week we can make sure which date exactly the damage happened and whether it was covered by the policy. Your client may have other items that are top of mind, like making sure their children are safe, but you can still easily verify what caused the loss and when they are ready to call the claims department. You might even be able to find out ahead of time which properties had losses and call them to let them know you’re already on it even before they file the claim!
3. Prevention of claim inflation:
Speaking of claims, you can see from the satellite image what the roof looked like prior the storm that hit the area and if the damage was there before the storm. No more “hail” damage magically appearing a few days after the actual storm passed through.
4. Confirm the date repairs are completed on business income losses:
Perhaps your CAT adjustor has been re-assigned to another part of the state, and finding someone to confirm that the business is back up and running is a bit of a hassle. The satellite images may allow you to see that customers were back in the store exactly by which date.
5. Much better monitoring of multi-day catastrophes like hurricanes and wildfires:
You’ll have actual satellite photos rather than the current Doppler radar images.
6. Improved predicting modelling abilities:
Using the satellite images, you may be able to see climate changes coming or even changes to the upkeep of a neighborhood and attempt to build strong models to predict future losses.
These rudimentary ideas were the first that we could come up with quickly. But we think they’re an exciting start to talking about how insurance companies could use this up and coming technology. As we advance, our industry can prepare for and educate our clients about potential claims of the future. Comment below: how do you see technology playing a role in the industry’s tradition of educating consumers? What are some ways that this technology could serve that purpose that we missed?