Insuring a property is a complicated process. First, the insurer has to correctly underwrite the risks associated with every type of claim. This takes computing the likelihood of small incidents, like slips, leaks, or equipment failure and also takes into consideration bigger risk factors like earthquakes, floods, or economic downturns. Next, an insurer needs to keep their policy updated as building conditions change and the macro-economic situation evolves. Last, the insurer has to service any claims that are made by assessing their responsibility and working with contractors to correct any damage.
All of these processes started off as manual, making an enormous job of insuring all of the properties in the country. An army of actuaries create the underwriting calculations. Hordes of adjusters are tasked with inspecting damages and filing claims. An entire industry of contractors service the buildings and fix the problems that are covered by insurance policies. As this creates a huge amount of work and overhead for insurance companies, they are using every tool that they can in order to streamline their process. One of the technologies that is increasingly being leveraged by the insurance industry is 3D imagery. Interestingly, it has been adopted first for the work on the backend of a claim, the adjustment and repair, but is working its way into the entire process from there.
“We first saw interest for our 3D images come from restoration contractors,” said Tomer Poran, Head of Business Development and Partnerships at 3D imagery technology company Matterport. He explained that the 3D models were used to estimate the cost of repairs. Software was now easily able to use 3D imagery to show the extent of damage and how it fits into the entire property layout. More than just being a much easier way to measure and document damages, it was also a great way for contractors to please an adjuster by making their job much easier. “If you are a contractor, having an adjuster like the way you work is huge since that is a primary lead source for many large restoration firms,” Poran said.
Now, Matterport has around 1,500 contractors nation-wide using its imaging and measuring software. They have even created a network of contractors authorized to operate during COVID-19 as an essential service, and able to schedule and arrive on-site any building in the U.S. within eight hours, ready to capture the loss in 3D.
These images are proving more valuable than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers and residents are both worried about exposing themselves to the virus during a claim process so being able to reference a holistic picture of a property has become a way to avoid risking exposure for all parties involved. As they become a more integral part of the insurance industry we will likely see discounts for buildings that have these images already accessible. They can also be a great way for building owners and management to share information about their equipment, building history, and past claims. All this and more can be attached to these 3D digital twins, creating an intuitive way for someone to quickly understand the idiosyncrasies that are inherent in every building.
Poran sees opportunity for 3D imagery to help with not only fixing problems, but preventing them altogether. “We are developing machine learning algorithms that can identify possible risks from these images, such as possible slip and fall hazards,” he said.
As they continue to analyze the vast amount of images being input into their database every day the ability to automate compliance grows. Eventually, every insurance policy could first include an automated risk abatement process that would save millions for the policyholders and the insurers alike. Now Matterport has created a way for this same 3D scanning technology to be done with nothing more than an iPhone which could lead to the property owners themselves being able to provide a preliminary 3D scan of the loss before anyone has even stepped on-site.
Insuring buildings will always be a hard process. Claims are expensive, buildings are unique and so much can go wrong in a place where people spend most of their time. Most InsureTech companies attempt to tackle property risk with socio-demographic data, rooftop imagery and chatbots, but the majority of property risk has to do with what the inside of the building looks like.
Matterport is attempting to improve the data underwriters have at their disposal about interior properties. This difficult process of assessing risk and handling claims can be made easier, though. The availability of high-quality, inexpensive 3D imaging is already transforming the way claims are handled and will likely soon become an integral part of the entire process. They say that an image is worth a thousand words. Very soon we will be able to see exactly what a 3D image is worth—but in terms of dollars rather than words.