Following a spate of insurtech failures, Rebecca Jones, CEO and co-founder of drone technology provider Iprosurv, argues that newcomers need to get real and stop promising the world.
Either by design or by accident, the insurtech community has been positioned as either the disruptors of, or in more recent years, the saviours of the insurance industry.
Which is handy because throughout 2020 it has become clear that however proud we are of our industry, there are huge issues that must be addressed, and quickly. So far, the industry has shown that it cannot find its own way out of the current situation – it needs the energy, the willingness to change and the know-how to make it happen that often only an outsider can bring.
But if the stars are aligned for incumbents and insurtechs to create a new future for the industry, why have we seen so many incomers stumble and fail in the last 12 to 18 months?
In a series of interviews with the founders of failed insurtechs, conducted by Oxbow Partners, every single one said the industry simply wasn’t ready for the change they were bringing and that their big idea hadn’t met current market needs.
Now that may be a catch-all to hide various other failures, but it is very revealing and starts to get to the root of why so many insurtechs fail. It’s fine to have a great idea and vision for the future of insurance but if it isn’t practical, isn’t actionable and doesn’t actually help those in today’s industry do things in a better way, then there is literally no point to it.
Whatever insurtechs aim to do, it has to be grounded in reality to have any chance of being adopted, never mind changing the industry. It seems that too many have been too keen to take on all the problems facing insurance in one go, racing to be the one that delivers the game changer.
But that is like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – the game changer exists only in the minds of the deluded. Any new entrant into the market, whether they identify as an insurtech or not, will only make inroads if they are 100% focused on fixing the problems, or enhancing the opportunities, of today.
If they continue to focus on a too-distant future, they will continue to fail. And that doesn’t just damage their business – it damages anyone who seeks to apply new technology to traditional processes.
Because every time distrustful incumbents see another insurtech fail, it reassures them that they were right all along, that they should keep doing things the way they always have. And if that trend continues, we will all have failed.
It’s time for those of us who promise a better future for insurance to get real about those promises. We might see the potential that technology brings. We might get frustrated at those who don’t get it. And we might even think it’s all going to be a waste of time.
But those frustrations are our failures, not the industry’s. They can be addressed by being realistic about the application of the technology we have and rather than taking a technology-first approach, we have to look at what isn’t working or where opportunities aren’t being exploited and only then seek out the technology or approach that can address it.
If insurtechs continue to promise the world and deliver only failure, a real opportunity to change insurance for the better will be lost, perhaps forever. Far better to rein in those ambitions and frustrations and get real about what insurance really needs.
We must first focus on today and only when we’ve cracked that, can we move on to tackling tomorrow.
The Grenfell disaster which claimed the lives of 72 people was not a one-off event, absorbed and grieved over before everyone moved on. The repercussions of that night are still with us and continue to be significant for residents of high-rise buildings across the country. And, indeed, for the landlords, housing associations and local authorities responsible for those properties.
The task facing the nation’s property managers is huge. They have to survey an estimated 1,700 high rise blocks, remove the cladding and make them safe to live in. And they need to do it quickly.
Which presents a huge fiscal challenge for everyone involved, not least local authorities.
It has been estimated by the same Committee that the cost of making each building safe will be £1.7m, covering everything from initial inspection, to the removal of cladding, to finishing the job. While it is clear that cutting corners or looking for cost savings in materials isn’t a viable option, there remains a pressing responsibility to keep costs down to make that fund stretch as far as is safely possible.
One part of the process where costs and timescales can be significantly reduced is in the inspection and survey of all these buildings through the use of drones. Not only can they do what a human can at a fraction of the cost, they can do it faster and with a greater degree of safety.
Drones are often viewed in extremes – either as a hobbyist’s toy or as a weapon of war. They are of course both, but increasingly, they are making their presence felt in the commercial world as more and more organisations wake up to their flexibility and adaptability. And one such area is the surveying of inaccessible properties.
Using High Resolution RGB imaging, drones can inspect the condition of a high-rise property (at a distance), in minute detail, in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually using scaffolding, cherry pickers or ropes. The High Resolution RGB imaging is then translated into a 3D interactive model of the property which can be inspected in detail (up to 20mm) highlighting even the smallest amounts of damage to the outside and, when using thermal imaging, investigating anomalies such as damp ingress and thermal efficiency of the fabric of the building.
If LIDAR is incorporated increased levels of accuracy can be achieved down to 10mm and below.
The whole process, from instruction to inspecting the model, can take two or three days rather than the weeks and months required with traditional methods, and it is the speed with which drones can conduct surveys that should have landlords and local authorities sitting up and taking notice.
One of the problems facing property managers is understanding, in detail, the scope of the risk posed by their property portfolio and with the safety of tenants paramount, they need to understand it quickly.
Drones can help them do that as several inspections can be conducted in one day or over a period of days, providing the local authority with a quick, comprehensive view of their portfolio, including which properties pose the highest risk.
From here, the triage process begins, and drones are a speedy, cost-effective way of streamlining it, allowing the local authority to act quickly on its most vulnerable properties.
Drones can also act as a quality control tool to monitor and assess the ongoing work, and that governance role extends to post-work inspections to ensure the property has been re-instated as required.
If used properly, drones could and should act as the start and finish point of this remediation work and while they are not, of course, a catch-all solution for the many problems dogging the remediation programme, they do have a crucial role to play.
If the current remediation fund will not, as has been suggested, be sufficient to complete all the necessary work, then it is vital that any safe, reliable and proven cost-cutting measure be embraced as soon as possible.
In common with much of the commercial world, local authorities are at the early stages of exploring the possibilities presented by commercial drones. And in common with their private sector peers, it is those that recognise the opportunity earliest and act first, that will gain the most.
And that means giving tenants up and down the country quicker and more certain reassurance that they and their families are safe in their home.
Iprosurv has again established itself as one of the UK leading supplier of drone services, with the successful award of a place in the £8m contract in conjunction with YPO and the Home Office national framework agreement.
Iprosurv tendered for one part of a four-lot contract to deliver drone services through their nationwide platform of CAA approved drone operators and associated services to the public sector organisations, in particular the blue light organisations and the emergency services, the contract runs for 2 years until 2022 with a further option to extend for a further 2 years until 2024.
Iprosurv will be on the YPO government
framework agreement delivering a fully managed inspection service, along with
bespoke services including immediate response for blue light services wishing
to deploy drone technology where they have no or limited in house capability.
The award of the contract is testament to the continued success of Iprosurv and platform of dedicated professional pilots, in conjunction with flight safety and client service at its core.
Rebecca Jones CEO of Iprosurv commented, “We are extremely proud to have been awarded a national framework agreement with YPO, in conjunction with the Home Office, to provide associated services. Throughout 2019 we have supported over 50 organisations where they have no or limited in house capability. Increasingly we have seen deployment for major incidents on the rise through our existing partnerships in instances such as fire and floods and its not an uncommon for Iprosurv to assist the emergency services with vital aerial data insights whilst the pilot teams have been on site. Its evident drones are becoming a vital tool to collect fast and accurate data whilst improving public safety. To further support both the blue light and emergency services along with the wider public sector is a testament of our award-winning service and demonstrates our niche and bespoke solution of deployment capability is encouraging wider use of safe drone deployment”.
Explaining the reasons behind the drone
framework, a YPO spokesman said: “We were approached by the Home Office to
discuss a gap in public procurement. Explaining the
reasons behind the drone framework, a YPO spokesman said: “We were approached
by the Home Office to discuss a gap in public procurement.
“Naturally we are very excited to be working with the Home
Office and on a framework that incorporates drone technology, but we are also
really pleased to be working closely with the police and fire and rescue
They concluded: “After much discussion and healthy deliberation,
a lot structure was agreed, believed to be fit for purpose for all
public-sector organisations, not just police and fire.
“The group involved in creating the framework has a wide
knowledge base. This, coupled with different personal requirements, is what
will make the framework a benefit to emergency services and the wider public
This follows a recent further award and a place of two lots out
of a three part lot of a £1.1m framework agreement – drone services, data
modelling to local authorities and housing associations.
For most people, their home is their biggest
asset, but let’s say you are business owner – would it be fair to
say that the business is your biggest asset. When we say asset we mean of
course it’s people, it’s buildings, it’s machinery and it’s stock. Progressive
use of drone technology means it is now much easier to ensure all aspects of risk
to any asset of any business are improved. To put it more simply drones can
protect people and businesses.
We look at an example below where drone imagery played part of a larger customer proposition providing greater insights for the broker, customer and insurer tailoring a policy around the customers requirements and assisting with an inherent building defect which, once identified and rectified led to an improved underwriting risk.
Aston Lark Case Study: Risk Management – Aerial Drone Survey
A book printing client in Suffolk has grown dramatically over the past 150 years, having grown from a single building to an array of buildings covering a 600,000 sq ft area. The buildings have been constructed without access to roof spaces and therefore inspecting the condition of their roofs and guttering was extremely difficult and dangerous.
Aston Lark carried out an aerial survey using the latest drone technology. We were able to offer our Client a close-range inspection of their roof and other areas of their buildings not easily visible or accessible from the ground.
Watch the video to see how we work closely with our clients to manage risk.
Following the aerial survey, we provided the client with high-definition quality footage and stills which are presented in a 3D interactive tool. This enables the Client to view the entirety of their building and zoom in on areas of concern to within a foot. This ultimately enabled our Client to identify areas of concern and take remedial action before it caused further problems and cost.
To find out more about Aston Lark’s Risk Management offering and how it can benefit you, click here.
Iprosurv are the UK’s leading drone pilot supply chain facilitating deployment to insurers and related sectors.
Find out more how Iprosurv can assist your business with ongoing property management, risk consulting or claims adjusting. www.iprosurv.com
Drones aren’t new technology by any means. Now, however, thanks to new software and better understanding by industries-it seems their time has now arrived.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—better known as drones—have been used
commercially since the early 1980s. Today, however, practical applications for
drones are expanding faster than ever in a variety of industries, thanks to
robust investments and the relaxing of some regulations governing their use.
Responding to the rapidly evolving technology, companies are creating new
business and operating models for UAVs.
The total addressable value of drone-powered solutions in all applicable
industries is significant—more than $127 billion, according to a recent PwC analysis. Among the most promising areas is
agriculture, where drones offer the potential for addressing several major
challenges. With the world’s population projected to reach 9 billion people by
2050, experts expect agricultural consumption to increase by nearly 70 percent
over the same time period. In addition, extreme weather events are on the rise,
creating additional obstacles to productivity.
Agricultural producers must embrace revolutionary strategies for
producing food, increasing productivity, and making sustainability a priority.
Drones are part of the solution, along with closer collaboration between
governments, technology leaders, and industry.
Use Cases for Agricultural
Drone technology will give the agriculture industry a high-technology
makeover, with planning and strategy based on real-time data gathering and
processing. PwC estimates the market for drone-powered solutions in agriculture
at $32.4 billion. Following are six ways aerial and ground-based drones will be
used throughout the crop cycle:
1. Soil and field analysis: Drones can be instrumental at the start
of the crop cycle. They produce precise 3-D maps for early soil analysis,
useful in planning seed planting patterns. After planting, drone-driven soil
analysis provides data for irrigation and nitrogen-level management.
2. Planting: Startups have created drone-planting systems that
achieve an uptake rate of 75 percent and decrease planting costs by 85 percent.
These systems shoot pods with seeds and plant nutrients into the soil,
providing the plant all the nutrients necessary to sustain life.
3. Crop spraying: Distance-measuring equipment—ultrasonic
echoing and lasers such as those used in the light-detection and ranging, or
LiDAR, method—enables a drone to adjust altitude as the topography and geography
vary, and thus avoid collisions. Consequently, drones can scan the ground and
spray the correct amount of liquid, modulating distance from the ground and
spraying in real time for even coverage. The result: increased efficiency with
a reduction of in the amount of chemicals penetrating into groundwater. In
fact, experts estimate that aerial spraying can be completed up to five times
faster with drones than with traditional machinery.
4. Crop monitoring: Vast fields and low efficiency in crop
monitoring together create farming’s largest obstacle. Monitoring challenges
are exacerbated by increasingly unpredictable weather conditions, which drive
risk and field maintenance costs. Previously, satellite imagery offered the
most advanced form of monitoring. But there were drawbacks. Images had to be
ordered in advance, could be taken only once a day, and were imprecise.
Further, services were extremely costly and the images’ quality typically
suffered on certain days. Today, time-series animations can show the precise
development of a crop and reveal production inefficiencies, enabling better
5. Irrigation: Drones with hyper-spectral, multi-spectral, or thermal sensors can identify which parts of a field are dry or need improvements. Additionally, once the crop is growing, drones allow the calculation of the vegetation index, which describes the relative density and health of the crop, and show the heat signature, the amount of energy or heat the crop emits.
6. Health assessment: It’s essential to assess crop health
and spot bacterial or fungal infections on trees. By scanning a crop using both
visible and near-infrared light, drone-carried devices can identify which
plants reflect different amounts of green light and NIR light. This information
can produce multispectral images that track changes in plants and indicate
their health. A speedy response can save an entire orchard. In addition, as
soon as a sickness is discovered, farmers can apply and monitor remedies more
precisely. These two possibilities increase a plant’s ability to overcome
disease. And in the case of crop failure, the farmer will be able to document
losses more efficiently for insurance claims.