There’s a “perfect storm” currently occurring in the property and casualty insurance industry. This is due to an increase in competition from numerous low-cost providers and a shortfall in underwriting profits. The past several years have recorded higher than expected claims, pushing insurers to raise their rates to keep ahead of the game. As an insurance company underwriter, whatever you can do to help lower costs and increase profits is helpful. One area offering promise to this end is the utilization of emerging insurance inspection technology. Here are some ideas to consider.
Loss Mitigation Through Accurate Risk Analysis
Property inspections are an important part of the insurance underwriting process. They’re used to not only confirm what you already know about a property but also to uncover any unknown characteristics that may pose potential risk for future claims and to help ensure proper policy pricing. Thorough inspections, especially of older homes, can be an important factor in providing an accurate risk analysis.
There are a number of different types of property insurance inspections available, with each designed to provide a different level of data for your underwriting needs. The inspection you require for a brand new home that has just undergone a full battery of building inspections during construction may consist of a simple photo report to verify things such as:
- Square footage
- Roof size
- Construction materials
- Location of property boundaries
- Distance to hazards
- Exterior property characteristics
- Replacement cost estimate
- Existence of exterior features such as out buildings as well as pools, trampolines, treehouses, etc.
Current inspection technology allows for a “virtual inspection,” where once a boots on the ground (or drive-by) inspection was needed. Newly emerging inspection technology involving high-resolution aerial imagery makes it possible to provide a variety of property images without the need to actually set foot on site. These images may be provided by any number of sources with access to high-resolution satellites in orbit overhead. As an alternative, a property inspector with access to a drone (UAV) equipped with a hi-res camera, or even a smartphone, can get a good look at a property quickly and unobtrusively.
Two Important Pieces of Inspection Technology
Drones and smartphones have made a huge impact on the property inspection process both for underwriting purposes as well as in helping to determine claims. A drone with a high-resolution camera gives your property inspector the capability of looking at a property from many different angles and to get up close and personal without the need to even enter the property. This means things like:
- Inspecting a backyard even when no one’s home to allow entry through the locked gate
- Accomplishing a close-up inspection of a roof without having to climb up onto that roof
- Data collected for use in assessing insurance risk before underwriting a policy can be sent automatically to the cloud for immediate use by you, the underwriter
- Images collected by drones can be used to aid in determining the need for preventive maintenance or to assess damage following a claimed loss
- Drones can be used to compare current with historic imagery to see what changes have taken place over time. This is useful for policy renewals as well as claims inspections following large covered losses
- Aerial views of an entire property are much more beneficial to inspectors than street view images provided by a typical “drive-by” photo inspection. See beyond a mere street view to include everything up to the property borders and beyond, where additional hazards may exist
Drone Inspection Technology for High-Rise Buildings
The exterior inspection of high-rise buildings has always been a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process. With the emergence of inspection technology such as drones featuring high-resolution cameras, inspection of high-rise buildings has become much quicker, more thorough, more affordable and easier than ever before. Drones can travel as high as 100 meters or more and reach places that are, otherwise, basically inaccessible. Drones can reach these places without any specialized equipment while the drone operator remains on the ground.
Data can then be sent to a computer, tablet or smartphone in real time, enabling you, the insurance policy underwriter, to “go along for the ride.” All this makes your underwriting duties easier and less expensive to complete and cuts the time required significantly. This particular inspection technology has multiple purposes besides simply looking at a high-rise building exterior for insurance purposes, including:
- Looking for general building damage and maintenance needs
- Conducting thermal mapping of a building, looking for hot spots where further insulation is needed for energy savings
- Remote surveillance for security purposes
Other Drone Uses
Sometimes, close-up observation of certain roof surfaces can be challenging. This may include the roof of a clock tower, a church steeple or a roof with a substantially steep slope. Previous inspection technology to handle these challenging jobs included the use of boom lifts, binoculars, rooftops of adjacent buildings or utilizing certain rope techniques. These rope techniques often offer only limited access, poor viewing and, sometimes, create hazardous conditions.
A properly equipped and well-piloted drone can make these alternate roof observation techniques unnecessary. Drone use can make roof inspections quicker, safer, more complete and less expensive to do than the old, standard methods. Remember, though, there are different quality levels of drones as well as drone cameras and drone pilots. Make sure to ensure that your inspectors are providing you with the quality of drone inspection data you require.
The Number One Insurance Inspection Technology Device
One of the most ubiquitous devices found in the world today is the smartphone. Born in the 1990s, smartphones were first launched onto a G3 network in 2001, giving users the ability to conduct video conferences and to send sizable email attachments, both of which have become important features used in the insurance business.
The true smartphone revolution, however, started in 2007 with the introduction of the first Apple iPhone. Earlier phones relied on a keypad, whereas the iPhone featured a large touchscreen that rivaled a computer’s ability to navigate pages on the Internet. Earlier phones merely offered a watered down version of Internet access.
There are currently an estimated 260-275 million smartphone users in the U.S., and smartphones have become an invaluable tool for use by your property inspectors. A well-designed app loaded into a smartphone can make a property inspection easier, quicker, more thorough and less expensive to complete.
Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, photos and videos taken with a smartphone make insurance inspections less complicated and inspection reporting can be done while the inspector is still on site. Inspections that are fast, efficient and accurate benefit everyone in the underwriting or claims process, including the insured, who will greatly appreciate things being speeded up and simplified.
Two Most Important Pieces of Insurance Inspection TechnologyWhile you can find an ever-increasing amount of emerging insurance inspection technology currently helping to streamline the insurance underwriting and claims processes, none have had more impact than smart phones and drones. Add to these the number of apps available for inspecting and reporting and wide access to wireless Internet connections almost anywhere. Inspection Risk Services is at the forefront of these technical advancements and uses them to help underwriters nationwide. Contact us to learn how we can help you.