January 28, 2008
Pitney Bowes MapInfo Responds to Natural Risk with Risk Data Suite Release
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Pitney Bowes MapInfo Responds to Natural Risk with Risk Data Suite Release

by Susan Smith


Responding the growing demand by insurance companies for risk data for specific natural disasters, Troy, NY-based Pitney Bowes MapInfo has developed a Risk Data Suite which will be released quarterly with new features. In an interview with Ron Dodson, product manager for the Risk Data Suite at Pitney Bowes MapInfo, Dodson talks about the suite and its recent additions in the form of bundles such as the Wildfire bundle, Fire station bundle and Shoreline bundle.


RD: The insurance sector spurred us to develop the Risk Data Suite releases such as earthquake information, weather information, both historic and real time. As we move forward with each new release, we try to bring more of those offerings to the market. Within this release we were able to bring out wildfire information, particularly for the California area which has had heavy wildfires this season. The fire station bundle is rolling out state by state and region by region as we go across the U.S. and contains information about each local fire station and department in the U.S., including contact information, county served, type of department and number of stations. Also included are
details about the location of specific personnel and equipment required in a geographical service area.



GW: What do insurance companies use the data for specifically?


RD: For the most part we have seen this data used internally by customers for analysis, such as how many policies do I have in a particular area, what types of hazards are they exposed to? We also see it being used within the underwriting process so as a customer signs up, when the insurance carrier enters in their address and policy information, the product application is able to go through each one of these different layers, and determines what it is being exposed to, and can be filtered by rules engines. Based on this information, they can go through and process of analysis or terminate a policy. This can be done in the upfront process of signing on a new customer.



GW: Is the wildfire information real time information?


RD: It is more of a risk factor type analysis, using information from various state agencies, particularly in California. It has identified what is the risk for wildfire in that particular location. This is really a pre-emptive type offering for insurance and other entities looking to protect themselves from that type of hazard. It helps to understand the risk or exposure to wildfires for a particular property or location and makes it possible to take steps to protect yourself from that particular property. This is valuable for anyone who wants to minimize their exposure to the risk of wildfires.


GW: Is this also something real estate professionals might use as well?


RD: We see interest and use from across a number of verticals but our primary customers are on the insurance side. We also look across at our other verticals including real estate, retail and communications. All those companies have some kind of location component to them. They need to be able to understand wildfires and distance to fire stations but also the distance to an earthquake fault line. What are the chances of being exposed to that type of hazard? Within the Risk Data Suite is also weather, a critical component to communication companies.


GW: Is the Shoreline bundle relatively new?


RD: It’s a new addition to the Risk Data Suite and is focused primarily along the Gulf and East Coast. It is a component to exposure to what are called “slosh zones,” which involve sea, lake and overland surges from hurricanes and the distance from the coast a particular property might be. From an insurance point of view, there are a number of calculations that take place which include the coast. The Shoreline bundle includes data captured from 270 National Ocean Service (NOS) Navigation Charts and spans more than 80,000 nautical miles used to determine distance to coast calculations for all coastal states on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.


Particularly in Florida and the other Gulf coastal areas, they’re able to do a distance calculation with rules set up within their own systems to determine distance and to automatically calculate a rate increase if the property falls within a particular rating territory. It also provides information suggesting that an insurer refuse a particular customer, on the basis of the amount of risk involved in the proximity to shoreline or other location.


GW: Why did you develop the initial bundles?


RD: The development of the bundles dates back two or three years to when MapInfo moved into the insurance market vertical. Using what we had learned from other markets such as real estate, retail and communications, we learned that data was a key piece to our solutions. We have the software and services to help these companies utilize location intelligence but really we needed to be able to bring in the data element as well to help them make decisions about location against other things such as weather, distances to coast, wildfire, earthquakes, etc.


We had some existing MapInfo products, but wanted to add in weather. With the Risk Data Suite, we brought out a complete new offering to the insurance industry. With the acquisition of MapInfo by Pitney Bowes came the Group 1 portfolio of products which we were able to include in our product suite, such as shoreline and windpool.


Wildfire information is based on complexity, data acquisition and data compiling. Fire Station information requires that we look at data state by state. as we perform the research, data validation and the cleansing for those processes.


GW: Are you planning to add more to the bundles?


RD: We will continue to come out with new releases of the Risk Data Suite. As we see things such as slosh zones, which will come out in the next couple of releases, we also see the Fire Station information continue to expand. Later this month we will add another two states. We also will see some revisions to some of our existing products based upon market feedback, adding some additional functionality and data components to those particularly weather and windpool information.


“Mass movement” refers to any time the earth moves, i.e. sinkholes, lava flows, also including additional information such as land size and susceptibility as well as traditional sink holes. Although sink holes are primarily focused in Florida, and includes caves, disappearing streams, spring and underground drainage systems, this information will extend to other states, and will include mine collapse and abandoned mines.


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