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Tapping into the value of ground-truth data

Advances in geospatial and remote sensing technology offer insurers more ways to learn about properties and risks in greater detail than ever before.

Aerial imagery delivers comprehensive data on all aspects of a building’s exterior

Transforming property inspection methods

High-resolution, aircraft-mounted cameras and image interpretation processes are transforming inspection methods by reducing fieldwork and on-site visits. This, in turn, offers insurers other opportunities to work faster, smarter, and more efficiently, delivering a better customer experience while cutting expenses.

Remote sensing devices mounted on delivery platforms—cars, aircraft, drones, robots, and wearables, to name a few—are collecting an increasing volume of information for property insurers.

The possible uses are limitless when the data is analyzed and processed by advanced machine learning technology that extracts and stores detailed information. Property insurers can use the data to underwrite and rate policies, discover hazards, assess risk, perform valuations, conduct virtual inspections, help determine the scope of damage, and much more.

Comprehensive information, hidden details

Geospatial technology can deliver comprehensive data on all aspects of a building’s exterior, including critical roof information such as materials, slopes, and condition. Other data points include the structure’s outside dimensions, number of levels, and siding material. It also provides information about liability hazards, such as pools and trampolines, and the percentage of tree cover.

In some cases, this technology even provides detail not readily seen on-site. That includes unclearly marked lot lines, dimensions of roofs with coverings that can’t be walked on, areas of the building unsafe to enter, effects of weather conditions or catastrophes, and much more. The level of detail is unprecedented.

Virtual inspections that reduce on-site visits

Traditionally, inspections and public records provided the detailed data needed to validate how a property was underwritten. Now, much shorter cycle times can expedite the determination of whether an inspection is even necessary.

For claims, imagery-interpreted data significantly expands the number and types of estimates that can be made without visiting the site. With complete exterior plans, aerial imagery, and materials identification, a wide range of losses can be estimated quickly and accurately. Claims-handling costs are significantly reduced, and in many cases, customer satisfaction is greater.

How are insurers using this data?

Most insurers are interested in using the technology to optimize inspections on new or renewal business. Other common use cases include truing-up in-force books and replacing obsolete renewal insurance-to-value (ITV) methods with customized batch data delivered before renewal processing.

Other applications include:

  • one-time projects to address underperforming segments where other measures, such as base rate increases or renewal questionnaires, have been unsuccessful
  • updating physical risk information on policies in an acquisition rollover at the time of inception
  • claims handling

Ground-truth data provides a significant return on investment through greater efficiency and increased accuracy while helping to serve customers better.

As the technology evolves, uses for this data have the potential to spread throughout the insurance value chain.

Steph Bednar

Steph Bednar is the underwriting product manager for Imagery Interpretation Solutions at Verisk. You can contact her at

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