NICB Offers Inside Look at Geospatial Intelligence Center

By Denise Johnson | August 8, 2018

Last year’s late season three hurricane wallop emphasized the growing use of aerial imagery to assist in assessing hard hit areas.

Jim Schweitzer, senior vice president and chief operating officer for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, spoke with Claims Journal recently to discuss the Geospatial Intelligence Center (GIC).

He described it as a consortium-funded effort to collect imagery using aircraft. Imagery is collected nationally, as well as on a top 100 metropolitan area basis. Photos are captured from a top down view for the whole country, with images of metropolitan areas captured from both top down and from a 45-degree angle. Schweitzer explained this offers the ability to assess a property from the top down, but also offers a view of all four sides of a property.

The imagery captured is the highest resolution currently available.

“It’s much, much higher image resolution than a satellite image would be,” said Schweitzer. “It’s much broader than, for example, a drone image would be. Drones have a very specific use. They do an excellent job of imaging a property or two properties, but what we’re talking about is wide area imaging.”

The goal of the center, according to Schweitzer, is to provide imagery to members of the GIC. He explained that while the GIC is part of the NICB, it is separately funded. As a result, the participants in the GIC will be NICB members, but it does require a separate subscription.

He explained that while geospatial imagery and analytics offer obvious benefits for both claims and underwriting, it can also be used from a fraud perspective.

“What the user of the imagery ends up with is a capability to analyze a property with multiple goals or multiple objectives,” said Schweitzer.

Cost-sharing is another benefit of collecting imagery and analytics through the consortium.

“It’s a great opportunity to leverage the cost of this versus the cost of each company doing this on their own,” said Schweitzer.

He said the GIC plans to continuously improve analytics associated with the imagery.

“Being able to take these high-resolution images and evaluate, for example, what we call the “gray sky” is post-catastrophe,” said Schweitzer. “Right now, we are in position to fly over the Carr Fire in California. And, so, as the sky clears and the ability to get up over those fires is made available we will collect that imagery and then push that imagery to the participants of the GIC, so that decisions can be made faster, more rapidly and more accurately determine what the potential losses are and also interact quicker with the customer to let them know the status of their property.”

He explained that NICB’s specific relationships with law enforcement allow GIC the ability to access disaster sites quickly.

“We’re able to get into these catastrophe sites…leveraging our relationships with law enforcement very promptly and quickly and often times before that area is opened back to the public,” said Schweitzer.

Policyholders can get updates on the status of their property in advance of being able to return, he added.

Another aspect of the GIC is what is called “blue sky” – an ongoing effort to collect imagery when skies are clear, so it can be made available to participants for use by underwriting and claims. By collecting before and after images, insurers can evaluate a property affected by a catastrophe during underwriting or when a claim is presented.

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