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Insurance and Risk

'Remote Sensing for Disaster Risk Reduction and Insurance' was the theme of a briefing recently held in the Old Library of the Lloyd's Building in the City of London.

The event, jointly hosted by RSPSoc and AGI, and sponsored by MS Amlin and Aon Benfield Impact Forecasting, brought together around 90 insurance, risk and remote sensing professionals to discuss how this exciting technology can help traditional and upcoming insurance markets. 

Phil Godwin (Lloyd’s claims) set the scene by providing an overview of how remote sensing technology was improving efficiency for claims handlers by reducing costs required for field surveys and overcoming constraints to access affected sites. The resolution of satellite imagery is so good nowadays that we can clearly identify if a building has been destroyed, as used in Fort McMurray, thus adding another layer of confidence in claims handling. Remote sensing is becoming essential if insurers want to keep at the forefront of industry.

Sean McCarthy gave an interesting overview of Government involvement in promoting the UK space industry for the benefit of commercial companies and illustrated how insurers can make use of practical applications and products from Remote Sensing and satellite technologies. Catapult is looking to break down existing silos in the Earth Observation industry by understanding better what is stopping data being integrated. There are nine Catapult businesses in total, which link together to help bridge academic and business interests. There is opportunity with the latest technology of cube satellites that can be easily released into space, crowd sourced sensors and even video from space: What kind of data can we obtain from these new satellite developments? How can we use this data? And how accessible can it be made for real time information? For example, ground movement and subsidence can be monitored with granular enough data that could predict loss before it happens.

Grant Day went further and talked about typical start-ups with examples of how remote sensing is helping the marine economy and marine applications. Catapult is supporting funded university projects by helping to turn these into useful products for industry. He pointed out that the space industry is continuing to grow while costs of data are rapidly reducing.

Colm Jordan’s talk focussed on geological risks and the British Geological Survey are using Remote Sensing (RS) data for forecast volcano models, monitoring landslide risks, mapping historical tsunami areas to identify wave behaviour, as well as modelling of future geological risks.

Gavin Lewis, Tina Thomson and Chris Ewing brought examples of how remote sensing and associated products are being used in the insurance industry for exposure management, catastrophe model development, event response and quick assessment of claims. More work is required to develop early warning systems especially as insurers look to take on more high risks through ceding to pools such as the new Flood Re initiative in the UK. Richard Teeuw and Naomi Morris provided examples for the developing world and how free data can help in disaster risk reduction and humanitarian settings.

Overall the event provided some insights into how the London market is using remote sensing, highlighting opportunities as the technology is advancing and set to overcome its existing limitations around data availability, resolution, costs and sensors. The Q and A session brought a 'call to arms' to initiate the sharing of RS data for both disaster risk reduction (DRR) and insurance, with the common aim of being better prepared and forewarned for natural disasters. Sessions for DRR and Insurance theme are now being considered for upcoming events.

Chris Ewing, Tina Thomson and Richard Teeuw

Presentations from the event can be found here on the main Insurance and Risk page.

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