Accurate and granular mapping data can turn reaction times from weeks and days into hours and seconds for insurers. The technology exists today, so what's the hold up?
The granular mapping information insurers have so longed for is already here, says one of Canada’s leading location-based information companies.
“We have the data and a wealth of information,” says Phil Kaszuba, vice president and general manager of DMTI Spatial Inc., based in Markham, Ont. “When catastrophes happen, it becomes evident that the correct data, partnerships and timelines are crucial to efficiently and effectively help people in need.” Kaszuba says that DMTI Spatial has a wealth of granular location information available from across Canada – information that was put to good use by First Calgary during the Alberta flooding.
“In the case of the Calgary flood, we were able to provide our clients with all the addresses within the impacted area, so that they could cross reference it against their existing customer base,” he says. “First, Calgary Financial was then able to quickly respond to their members and employees with financial-relief assistance and advice.”
In fact, DMTI’s client list reads like the who’s who of corporate North America, with names such as TomTom, Apple, Nokia, Google, Garmin, OnStar, Genworth, and the list goes on.
In the aftermath of the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, DMTI Spatial had a geographical layout of the impact zone, and through its partnership with ERIS (Environmental Risk Information Services) was able to provide a comprehensive model of what had happened.
“We have a database of all the train lines, power lines and cell towers in Canada – and through our partnership with ERIS, a holistic picture of the environmental situation,” said Kaszuba. “We can provide a model of potential risk using this data anywhere in Canada – and have it available in literally milliseconds.”
The need for accurate, granular mapping of population centres is crucial for insurers. Sharon Ludlow, president and CEO of Swiss Re, has stated that not only is flood insurance needed, but so is a flood program, specially tailored to the needs of specific regions.
“I believe you can have a subset of flood insurance for each particular region,” says Ludlow. “We have a category for highest risk drivers in auto coverage; we could have something like that to address high-risk locations.”
And the only way to do that is through the type of detailed mapping that a company like DMTI can provide.
“We have to have adequate risk mapping. We do have some, but not at a granular level,” says Ludlow. “We need to be able to compare and determine what the risk looks like, what the right risk and premium should be.”
Swiss Re distributed a CAT-NET model of Calgary during the flooding – a joint project with the European Space Agency – that used satellite images to map the affected regions and area during and immediately after the flood.
“We distributed these images to our clients. Some of the larger, more sophisticated companies (like DMTI Spatial) already use this technology,” Ludlow says. “By applying it across Canada, we can use that technology to produce the right models and be able to price for the risk.”
“We have quite a few banking and insurance clients, and when the crisis hit, they started working together with us,” adds Kaszuba. “Especially our relationship with the insurance mortgage underwriter Genworth, one of our major clients. From a customer service perspective, First Calgary was reaching out to people within a day. Being able to understand what the potential risk is as far as a disaster like that, with that level of detail, and getting that information within a day, saved them weeks and weeks of work.”
The $64,000 question is: With all of this information that DMTI Spatial has, can it be made available to insurers across Canada today – and more importantly, how much would it cost?
“We want this information available to all companies across Canada,” says Kaszuba. “Cost? The cost structure is not the question. Is the computing power and the information available? That is the real question.”
It is the investment in information that DMTI Spatial has to offer.
“We have over 270 geospatial layers of information available,” Kaszuba says. “We refer to it as an ecosystem. Through our partnership with ERIS, we are able to determine the proximity of environmental perils. For example, if you are 50 metres away from a buried oil tank that could be leaching, we can provide not only our information, but that of our third-party partners, ERIS, as well.”
In addition to the environmental and elevation information available, DMTI Spatial also has access to earthquake information.
“With our comprehensive high precision location information and our partnerships, we can deliver value to many industries including insurance companies and banks,” he says. “It is the information that Genworth uses for their mortgage model, an automated process that takes into account 27 different variables to create a neighbourhood score. Three-quarters of every insurance request can be approved by having this information.”
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- The flood impacted over 100,000 Albertans in 30 communities
- More than 14,500 homes were damaged
- More than 8,000 applications for disaster recovery support
- Payments of more than $7 million have so far been made.
A topographic map portrays and identifies features of the earth’s surface as precisely as possible within the limitations imposed by scale. Topographic maps depict relief, drainage, forest cover, administrative boundaries, populated places, transportation routes, and other cultural features.
The National Topographic System (NTS) provides topographic map coverage of Canada at the following scales: 1:500,000, 1:250,000, 1:125,000, 1:50,000 and 1:25,000.
Granular mapping goes into much greater detail, with DMTI having over 270 geospatial layers of information through its partnership with ERIS.
Phil Kaszuba is vice-president and general manager of DMTI Spatial Inc., based in Markham, Ont.