Pitney Bowes MapInfo and WSI Partnership Equals Weather Risk Information

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Industry News
Pitney Bowes MapInfo and WSI Partnership Equals Weather Risk Information
by Susan Smith

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WSI's real time radar (delivered through a web service) - the purple boxes represent actual client policies.
Real-time weather information has garnered a lot of attention in the geospatial news frequently lately, not surprisingly in light of the catastrophic weather events we have had over the past few years in the world. Across all different lines of business, real-time weather information has become critical, and severe weather that disrupts any type of business is dependent on where it occurs geographically.

Craig Bedell, director of Pitney Bowes MapInfo’s Global Insurance Vertical and Adam Champion, national account Manager for WSI’s Insurance and Risk Services, spoke about the announcement this week of an alliance between Pitney Bowes MapInfo and WSI, which will integrate real-time and forecasted weather information into the PB MapInfo desktop and web based location intelligence solutions.

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The forecasted track of a hurricane with the associated wind bands, each color represents a different maximum wind gust - the purple boxes are policies.
“PB MapInfo and WSI announced our partnership jointly which ultimately came about as a result of the insurance industry’s need to make better use of weather information with regards to anticipating major events, to be able to analyze the impact of those events on their portfolios (the policies they’re currently writing) and to help them better understand the financial repercussions of an events,” explained Bedell. “Also, we wanted to help them be able to prepare for and respond to an event, i.e. have adequate staff on board to field the “first notices” of loss (FMLs) that would be called into their call center, but then also be adequately staffed for the claims adjusters and various staff people necessary to go out and conduct their disaster response activities.”

MapInfo’s desktop solution has the capability for clients to be able to subscribe to real-time weather feeds coming from public sources like NOAA, etc. and those are valuable in those own right for analysis, said Bedell. “What’s especially valuable from the standpoint of WSI, is that we’re getting from the global leader forecasting a feed that is polygonal in nature, so we can take an event such as a hailstorm and use the polygon relative to their forecast and use it for a cookie cutter to spatially query the policies that are in a portfolio. The beauty of WSI’s services includes a damage index along with it so we not only know the footprint, but we know the severity of that event, so our clients can apply that index against the policies to be then able to calculate what we refer to in the insurance industry as a ‘PML - Probable Maximum Loss.’ A lot of Bedell’s discussion centers around the insurance industry but he is quick to point out that this technology is valuable for any user of location intelligence. “The biggest need our clients have is to be able to understand the financial ramifications of catastrophe and near catastrophe events, but most importantly provide timely and thorough services to their customers, i.e. policyholders, so that they are able to deliver the services people have paid for in an expeditious way.”

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The legend is on the side where you can see what mph of winds are associated with what colors.
What makes this integration of real-time weather into desktop and web based location intelligence solutions is web services. Because of web services, WSI is able to wrap this information in a WMF file and send it to MapInfo with it being spatially indexed along with their forecast insight and a damage index that can be implemented in a map or spatial query behind the scenes in the policy management system.

One MapInfo client, a re-insurance global leader using MapInfo’s Location Integration Component, the bidirectional integration for BI tools, is providing a web service that allows portfolio risk managers to do real-time analyses on their portfolio using the MapInfo Envinsa web services platform. Envinsa receives the messages from WSI real-time and allows the user, through a web portlet, to do various types of analyses. “That’s where it takes on critical value because the analyst who may have used the thick client, MapInfo Professional, to set up certain scenarios and certain rules by which business decisions would be made, can deploy on a web services platform and share across an organization or from one group to another the real-time weather,” noted Bedell.

Champion said that they have noticed how critical real-time weather information has become and how important it is to understand the actual boundary of an event and its geographic location. Knowing where your properties or assets are located and where the weather is, or where forecasted weather is going to be, can be critical. “By making our real-time severity indexes and footprints of severe weather available through MapInfo’s Location Intelligent platforms, the end users can have a real-time actual understanding in relation to their particular business of where the severe weather is, where it’s going and depending upon the severity, how specifically it’s going to affect their business,” Champion said. “Then they can make whatever critical business decisions they need to better prepare themselves.”

As the business-to-business arm of a weather group that includes The Weather Channel and weather.com WSI focuses on the actual operational forecasting 24/7 365 days per year as well as ‘weather analytics research and development,’ which is adding value and enhancing the ability to interpret the weather. Located 25 miles north of Boston, WSI is a subsidiary of Landmark Communications and represents the largest private weather organization in the world, serving industries including aviation, energy, media, financial and insurance.

In their Andover, Mass. headquarters, WSI has a meteorological operations center where all the weather information from around the world is gathered. They have a team of roughly 45 full time meteorologists working 24/7 who Q/A all the radar data, analyze it to make sure everything coming through has been cleaned up before it gets sent out, and then analyze all the different proprietary models plus all of the public models that are available in the U.S. “You’ll see whole walls covered with screens where we’re looking at different outputs on different screens, then interpreting them all and bringing them all together for a consensus forecast that we then send to our clients,” said Champion.

MapInfo chose WSI to partner with because parts of their customer base include most of the major airlines for flight path forecasting, plus 85% of the weather information seen on broadcast TV (that’s not counting their affiliation with The Weather Channel), and they’re also global. MapInfo is also focused globally and especially in the insurance arena. Major insurance markets for MapInfo are the UK, Australia, Canada and the U.S.

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