Concepts

Satellite Imagery for Insurance Companies

November 2021
By 
Lucas Nasif
November 2021

Welcome to Theorem Concepts, a series devoted to exploring the possibilities of custom enterprise software. In this article, we’ll explore a concept that would enable insurance companies to leverage the most advanced satellite imagery technology available to optimize their claims verification process.

The Dangers of Following from the Front

There is an apocryphal quote sometimes attributed to one of the leaders of the French Revolution. The story goes that one day he witnessed an angry mob storming down the street and cried out “There go my people! I must find out where, in order to lead them!” While the story is almost certainly false, it gets at a larger truth: skittish leadership, leadership that lacks a clear overarching vision for the future, can often be hard to distinguish from the act of following from the front. 

In a shifting landscape, with technology rapidly changing underfoot, standing still can often be significantly more dangerous for a business than moving forward would. Flood monitoring in the insurance sector is just such a case in point. It would be difficult to argue that the incidence and severity of floods is not increasing alongside climate change. It would also be difficult to ignore that our ability to monitor and assess floods and flood damage has improved enormously in recent years with the advent of a handful of reliable, low-cost technologies. Chief among these technologies are high-resolution satellites. With the technology readily available at insurers fingertips, the question is not so much “Will satellites change the insurance industry?” as it is, “Which insurers will invest in new technologies early, and which will get caught following from in front?”

Remote Sensing For Flood Monitoring

Theorem’s partner, Satellogic, has one of the most rapidly expanding fleets of specialized satellites in the world. Satellogic satellites are equipped with a suite of sensors, ranging from hyperspectral and  multispectral high resolution cameras, to dedicated bays for any custom sensors clients may need.

In order to accurately identify and map floods, you need exactly this kind of suite of different sensors all working together alongside high quality historical data. Our job doesn’t end once a flood is identified, though. We use high frequency, high quality satellite images to monitor and map the flood’s course in real time, in order to make the claims process more accurate and efficient. 

In some cases the claims process may be as simple as insurers taking a series of high-quality images over time to assess damage. But in others, insurers may need  both wide-area coverage and high-resolution data concerning key areas or assets in order to validate damages. Clients could also account for weather conditions, or a host of other variables, by incorporating radar or other custom sensor data into their analysis.

Capturing the raw data from these sensors is the first step, but then that data has to be stored, categorized, curated, combined, and interpreted automatically to determine the severity of the damage in a specified region.

Insurers have two options when it comes to sorting this sort of data. They can do so on-demand (i.e. when a new claim is filed) or conversely insurers can employ the low cost and high-frequency tasking capabilities of Satellogic. In the latter example data analysis can happen proactively, so insurers are notified as soon as the remote sensing solution detects flooding, before a claim is even filed. This new technology has the potential not only to dramatically speed up the claims process, but in some cases, it may even completely automate it.

Companies like FloodFlash are already using IoT sensors to fully automate the flood insurance claim process, but the same principle hasn’t yet been applied to flood insurance for farms or fields, for example. In reality any flood claim that exceeds the limitations of IoT sensors is still subject to the same old analog review process. Insurance companies will inevitably come around to investing in this satellite technology. Convenience cost dictate that sooner or later the technology will become ascendant in the insurance industry. The only question at stake right now is which companies will end up leading the charge and which ones will end up following.


Ideas that break the status quo, right in your inbox.


Integrating This Technology

While Satellogic provides an API to directly manage their satellites, Insurance companies don’t need an isolated tool, they need a fully integrated management solution; a platform that gels seamlessly with their existing software and legacy systems and complements their existing workflows for managing claims.

At Theorem, we specialize in custom software development. By partnering with Satellogic, we’ve been able to build just these sorts of solutions, tailored specifically to clients’ needs, minimally disruptive to workflow while still maximizing client value . Below we’ll explore an example concept of what this type of solution may look like through mockups — high-fidelity visual models that show how an application could look when built. These do not represent finalized requirements. Think of them rather as a preliminary exploration of what is possible for insurers who choose to embrace change. 

FloodSAT Concept

Executives, managers, and specialists (such as claim verification experts) would each see different versions of this dashboard, optimized for their own workflows and needs. In this example, we can see an overview of insured properties against flood damage across the United States as well as high level analytics. Let’s discuss each element in more detail.

  1. On the bottom left widget, we see a list of properties that is sortable and provides filters to dynamically update the entries in the list. This list would be pre-filtered depending on the user type and permissions (for example showing only properties assigned to a claim verification officer.)
  2. Right above that list, we have a month-by-month aggregation of the level of flood risk and claims. By clicking on any particular month we can access a more detailed monthly report with a summary of processed claims.
  3. On the top right, we display high-level analytics. What’s shown here is both customizable and expandable so that clients can attain a more detailed view. In this example, we summarize properties per assessed criticality as well as the aggregated dollar amount of estimated claim damages.
  4. On the bottom right, you can see an interactive map of the United States which immediately displays flooded as well as at-risk areas and provides additional information by hovering over it. The map itself can also be expanded and zoomed into to the point of displaying individual properties. Below the map, we have an interactive timeline that allows users to replay the evolution of flooding over time and by hovering over specific properties in past events we would also see the satellite images taken at that time.
  5. The smart search bar at the top allows not only searching for specific properties, but also contacts status reports, and more. This would also be a strong integration point with existing systems within the insurance company.
  6. This dashboard is not meant to be a view-only page. Think of it more as a control center. A good example of this is the smart notifications system which routes employees to any and all outstanding work items, newly completed satellite reports, and more complex workflows, which would be seamlessly integrated into existing systems.
  7. Finally, users can also set up new satellite-monitored areas and properties directly from this view.

Clicking on any entry on the list of properties or on the map itself would take you to a dedicated view for that property.

This view integrates with existing systems and is able to pull in all required data for the property, including the relevant contacts, property information, history of claims, billing details, etc.

This is also where the data and reports provided by Satellogic are most visible in detail. During an active claim, we can see at a glance a visual report of the property that includes before and after images. Claim verification officers can hand-pick a point in time for the “before” image, potentially combining different images for subdivisions.

This sort of solution also supports switching between different satellite images and sensors, and in some cases overlaying them to get a fuller picture of the flood damage claim. This is crucial, for example, when the weather doesn’t permit a clear satellite image and radar is able to capture more information than high resolution photos could.

By pulling data from external sources, we also include complementary analysis tools such as weather reports and other relevant information, which would automatically be stored as accompanying documentation for the claim process.

Finally, this view lists a dollar amount for estimated damages. This amount is based on configured company rules and policies as well as historical data regarding similar claims in that region.

Moving from Concept to Production

Concept sketches are designed to provoke and inspire reactions, to anchor discussions of an important idea, and give it, and them, a tangible shape. Concept sketches are not all-encompassing of course; they focus on perceived core functionality. They’re precise enough to elicit feedback but not full of secondary features that distract from the core concept.

If this was a real Theorem + Insurance Company X engagement, the next step would be a detailed Discovery process. Theorem product, design, and engineering experts work with you to rapidly fill in and validate the concept details. Discovery provides tight definition and prioritization of desired functionality, determination of technical approach, and the creation of an implementation plan. With this foundation in place, development and deployment can proceed faster, with lower risks and more certainty that exactly the right solution is being built. 

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Welcome to Theorem Concepts, a series devoted to exploring the possibilities of custom enterprise software. In this article, we’ll explore a concept that would enable insurance companies to leverage the most advanced satellite imagery technology available to optimize their claims verification process.

The Dangers of Following from the Front

There is an apocryphal quote sometimes attributed to one of the leaders of the French Revolution. The story goes that one day he witnessed an angry mob storming down the street and cried out “There go my people! I must find out where, in order to lead them!” While the story is almost certainly false, it gets at a larger truth: skittish leadership, leadership that lacks a clear overarching vision for the future, can often be hard to distinguish from the act of following from the front. 

In a shifting landscape, with technology rapidly changing underfoot, standing still can often be significantly more dangerous for a business than moving forward would. Flood monitoring in the insurance sector is just such a case in point. It would be difficult to argue that the incidence and severity of floods is not increasing alongside climate change. It would also be difficult to ignore that our ability to monitor and assess floods and flood damage has improved enormously in recent years with the advent of a handful of reliable, low-cost technologies. Chief among these technologies are high-resolution satellites. With the technology readily available at insurers fingertips, the question is not so much “Will satellites change the insurance industry?” as it is, “Which insurers will invest in new technologies early, and which will get caught following from in front?”

Remote Sensing For Flood Monitoring

Theorem’s partner, Satellogic, has one of the most rapidly expanding fleets of specialized satellites in the world. Satellogic satellites are equipped with a suite of sensors, ranging from hyperspectral and  multispectral high resolution cameras, to dedicated bays for any custom sensors clients may need.

In order to accurately identify and map floods, you need exactly this kind of suite of different sensors all working together alongside high quality historical data. Our job doesn’t end once a flood is identified, though. We use high frequency, high quality satellite images to monitor and map the flood’s course in real time, in order to make the claims process more accurate and efficient. 

In some cases the claims process may be as simple as insurers taking a series of high-quality images over time to assess damage. But in others, insurers may need  both wide-area coverage and high-resolution data concerning key areas or assets in order to validate damages. Clients could also account for weather conditions, or a host of other variables, by incorporating radar or other custom sensor data into their analysis.

Capturing the raw data from these sensors is the first step, but then that data has to be stored, categorized, curated, combined, and interpreted automatically to determine the severity of the damage in a specified region.

Insurers have two options when it comes to sorting this sort of data. They can do so on-demand (i.e. when a new claim is filed) or conversely insurers can employ the low cost and high-frequency tasking capabilities of Satellogic. In the latter example data analysis can happen proactively, so insurers are notified as soon as the remote sensing solution detects flooding, before a claim is even filed. This new technology has the potential not only to dramatically speed up the claims process, but in some cases, it may even completely automate it.

Companies like FloodFlash are already using IoT sensors to fully automate the flood insurance claim process, but the same principle hasn’t yet been applied to flood insurance for farms or fields, for example. In reality any flood claim that exceeds the limitations of IoT sensors is still subject to the same old analog review process. Insurance companies will inevitably come around to investing in this satellite technology. Convenience cost dictate that sooner or later the technology will become ascendant in the insurance industry. The only question at stake right now is which companies will end up leading the charge and which ones will end up following.


Ideas that break the status quo, right in your inbox.


Integrating This Technology

While Satellogic provides an API to directly manage their satellites, Insurance companies don’t need an isolated tool, they need a fully integrated management solution; a platform that gels seamlessly with their existing software and legacy systems and complements their existing workflows for managing claims.

At Theorem, we specialize in custom software development. By partnering with Satellogic, we’ve been able to build just these sorts of solutions, tailored specifically to clients’ needs, minimally disruptive to workflow while still maximizing client value . Below we’ll explore an example concept of what this type of solution may look like through mockups — high-fidelity visual models that show how an application could look when built. These do not represent finalized requirements. Think of them rather as a preliminary exploration of what is possible for insurers who choose to embrace change. 

FloodSAT Concept

Executives, managers, and specialists (such as claim verification experts) would each see different versions of this dashboard, optimized for their own workflows and needs. In this example, we can see an overview of insured properties against flood damage across the United States as well as high level analytics. Let’s discuss each element in more detail.

  1. On the bottom left widget, we see a list of properties that is sortable and provides filters to dynamically update the entries in the list. This list would be pre-filtered depending on the user type and permissions (for example showing only properties assigned to a claim verification officer.)
  2. Right above that list, we have a month-by-month aggregation of the level of flood risk and claims. By clicking on any particular month we can access a more detailed monthly report with a summary of processed claims.
  3. On the top right, we display high-level analytics. What’s shown here is both customizable and expandable so that clients can attain a more detailed view. In this example, we summarize properties per assessed criticality as well as the aggregated dollar amount of estimated claim damages.
  4. On the bottom right, you can see an interactive map of the United States which immediately displays flooded as well as at-risk areas and provides additional information by hovering over it. The map itself can also be expanded and zoomed into to the point of displaying individual properties. Below the map, we have an interactive timeline that allows users to replay the evolution of flooding over time and by hovering over specific properties in past events we would also see the satellite images taken at that time.
  5. The smart search bar at the top allows not only searching for specific properties, but also contacts status reports, and more. This would also be a strong integration point with existing systems within the insurance company.
  6. This dashboard is not meant to be a view-only page. Think of it more as a control center. A good example of this is the smart notifications system which routes employees to any and all outstanding work items, newly completed satellite reports, and more complex workflows, which would be seamlessly integrated into existing systems.
  7. Finally, users can also set up new satellite-monitored areas and properties directly from this view.

Clicking on any entry on the list of properties or on the map itself would take you to a dedicated view for that property.

This view integrates with existing systems and is able to pull in all required data for the property, including the relevant contacts, property information, history of claims, billing details, etc.

This is also where the data and reports provided by Satellogic are most visible in detail. During an active claim, we can see at a glance a visual report of the property that includes before and after images. Claim verification officers can hand-pick a point in time for the “before” image, potentially combining different images for subdivisions.

This sort of solution also supports switching between different satellite images and sensors, and in some cases overlaying them to get a fuller picture of the flood damage claim. This is crucial, for example, when the weather doesn’t permit a clear satellite image and radar is able to capture more information than high resolution photos could.

By pulling data from external sources, we also include complementary analysis tools such as weather reports and other relevant information, which would automatically be stored as accompanying documentation for the claim process.

Finally, this view lists a dollar amount for estimated damages. This amount is based on configured company rules and policies as well as historical data regarding similar claims in that region.

Moving from Concept to Production

Concept sketches are designed to provoke and inspire reactions, to anchor discussions of an important idea, and give it, and them, a tangible shape. Concept sketches are not all-encompassing of course; they focus on perceived core functionality. They’re precise enough to elicit feedback but not full of secondary features that distract from the core concept.

If this was a real Theorem + Insurance Company X engagement, the next step would be a detailed Discovery process. Theorem product, design, and engineering experts work with you to rapidly fill in and validate the concept details. Discovery provides tight definition and prioritization of desired functionality, determination of technical approach, and the creation of an implementation plan. With this foundation in place, development and deployment can proceed faster, with lower risks and more certainty that exactly the right solution is being built. 

Sources

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To learn more, contact our team at 1-888-969-2983 or hello@theorem.co.

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Theorem is a strategy, design, and software build partner to the Fortune 1000. If you would like to learn more about how we could incorporate Satellite data in your company, or if you have any other complex custom software development, please get in touch with us:

To learn more, contact our team at 1-888-969-2983 or hello@theorem.co.

Lucas Nasif

Director, Solutions Consulting

Lucas began his career as an engineering consultant, working with several startups both remote and on-site, including Grid.com, Mercado Libre, and Howcast. His search for impactful projects and quality engineering talent lead him to Theorem. He joined in 2011 and never looked back. Lucas is driven by an unquenchable thirst for building things and solving complex problems. At Theorem he leads our Solutions Consulting team, empowering individuals to be world-class consultants that live up to our values and our ethos. He believes in the power of deep thinking.

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Director, Solutions Consulting

Lucas began his career as an engineering consultant, working with several startups both remote and on-site, including Grid.com, Mercado Libre, and Howcast. His search for impactful projects and quality engineering talent lead him to Theorem. He joined in 2011 and never looked back. Lucas is driven by an unquenchable thirst for building things and solving complex problems. At Theorem he leads our Solutions Consulting team, empowering individuals to be world-class consultants that live up to our values and our ethos. He believes in the power of deep thinking.

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