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July 18, 2016

Geospatial Solutions: A Vital Enabler

Summary:

The notion of a connected world is not an academic one for the future. It is a here-and-now issue affecting every industry, including insurance.

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At SMA we have long been tracking the rise of smart things and their implications for the insurance industry. A variety of emerging technologies has been rapidly advancing to make everything imaginable smart. But participating in the ESRI User Conference in San Diego this year has driven home one key point: Geospatial solutions will have a critical role in making sense of all those smart things. The notion of a connected world is not an academic pursuit – possibilities to ponder about sometime in the future. It is a here-and-now issue affecting every industry, including insurance.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

The Internet of Things is already upon us. Sensors and embedded chips are present in buildings, infrastructure, agricultural settings, vehicles, devices in the home, medical facilities and government operations. Add to that billions of mobile phones and the capability to track location, movement and environmental conditions, and the result is many connections and massive amounts of data already measuring, monitoring and acting on the world around us. Predictions about the adoption of connected things vary widely, but, by any measure, the connection points and the data volumes will continue to increase exponentially. The problem, then, is not deploying smart things or collecting data from the smart things. The fundamental problem is the ability to combine and analyze data to gain some insights. In some cases, those insights might trigger decisions with global implications, solving some of humanities thorniest problems. In other cases, the insights might lead to a small action that improves the life of one individual.

Enter geospatial solutions. Analytics and big data, in general, have essential roles to play in understanding the data generated in the connected world. But visualizing that data in a way that tells a story and reveals insights is the province of geospatial solutions, an area that has much to contribute to the connected world. Unfortunately, old impressions of geographic information systems (GIS) linger, especially in insurance. Most insurers have GIS solutions to do geospatial analysis, but they tend to be used by a small number of specialists for very specific applications. Today, the advances in 3D; animation; digital capture through drones, satellites, or LiDAR; and other technologies offer new opportunities. Tools for spatiotemporal analysis (understanding changes over time), crowdsourcing of real-time data and cloud-based collaboration platforms for maps and apps have elevated the discipline and provided government and industry with the potential to gain a deep understanding of the world to aid in addressing both new and old problems.

See also: How Connected Will Connected World Be?

Many insurers are considering the implications of the connected world and how it will affect their particular lines of business. Connected cars, smart homes, the quantified self, smart cities, autonomous commercial fleets and many other new areas create both threats and opportunities for insurers. Evaluating how geospatial capabilities can be harnessed to gain a better understanding of these emerging areas should be part of every insurer’s strategy and planning initiatives.

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About the Author

Mark Breading is a partner at Strategy Meets Action, which helps insurers develop and validate their IT strategies and plans, better understand how their investments measure up in today’s highly competitive environment and gain clarity on solution options and vendor selection.

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