Awesome Digital Insurance Projects, Ep. 1 — Betterview
Learn how Betterview leverages drones, AI and humans to improve property inspections and in turn insurance processes.
Where insurance, technology and humans are brought together with a clear mission and proper expertise, insurance business can suddenly be fast & fun.
We at Widgetlabs are avid believers in modern and digital technology and are confident that it can be put to great use in the insurance industry. When apps, Blockchain and AI meet humans and business goals in projects which aim for creating real value then there’s a kind of synergy you won’t ever get in isolation.
Story begins below the photo.
Using drones for examining the exterior of properties and AI for analyzing and building upon that footage and sensor data, Betterview produces a vast amount of information which is highly relevant to insurers.
Their platform has two parties perfectly united: Drone pilots focus on capturing the footage and roofing & construction experts focus on analyzing that footage, heavily supported by AI. As an insurer you can easily tap into that ecosystem in order to significantly improve risk assessment, risk mitigation, damage assessment and fraud detection when it comes to properties.
In their own terms:
The leading platform for drone-based property inspections
For decades, we’ve served the property insurance industry and helped people like you get better data to make better decisions.
What Betterview does really well is focusing on and building around just one single workflow. Throughout the value creation chain all relevant parties are fully involved, guided and heavily supported by technology at just the right moment. It’s having such a commitment to creating value and focusing all energy on it which sets good projects, products and companies apart by far.
The following paragraphs roughly describe their workflow.
Using just the property’s address some information can already be aggregated and evaluated upfront for estimating the roof’s condition, e.g. satellite imagery, historical weather data and building age. Experts, supported by AI, analyze the data and can give a recommendation whether a thorough drone-based examination makes sense.
As neither insurance nor drones are toys and we’re talking about serious business, a solid process is needed to ensure excellence in every single step of a drone-based property examination. That includes ensuring that the correct building will be examined, acquiring consent from relevant parties (esp. the FAA wants to be deeply involved in drone flights in the U.S.), scheduling based on time, weather and other conditions as well as accurate instructions for the certified drone pilot.
Since the drone pilot is focused primarily on capturing the property and doesn’t need to be involved beyond that they need clear guidance. A mobile web app leads them through the examination to ensure a proper flight execution using checklists (pilots love these!) and a secure upload to the platform.
While initially thrilling, watching drone videos all day isn’t the most efficient way to spend your time. This is where Artificial Intelligence really shines. From visual video footage, thermal video footage, satellite imagery, sensory data, measurements and other relevant data AI can derive sophisticated models like a 3D model or a surface model of the property or an elevation map of the terrain.
It doesn’t end with these models. AI can in turn use these models and the data, compare it against models and data of other properties and use a vast amount of knowledge about potential issues to detect issues of this property or the overall site. That includes for example roof damages, facade damages, debris on the roof, ponding, trapped moisture, rust, loose wires, overheating electrical wiring and risk of wildfire.
“Non-biased” (as Betterview repeatedly notes) roofing & construction experts build upon that information using a well-tailored desktop web app in order to improve and finalize their analysis. The final report is an insurer’s wish come true and spans a wide range of highly relevant information about and potential risks of the property.
Every insurer knows that consistent auditing is highly important, so staying on top of the process is obviously as important for the platform. Job tracking, flight logs and ensuring compliance are some examples Betterview lists on their website in this regard.
Here a more visual overview:
We love technology and Betterview is using quite a lot for a very specific workflow. Building upon the technological capabilities of today and using the right technology for the right task can make all the difference.
What’s difficult for humans is peanuts for a drone: They can easily be flown around and above a property at any distance and collect plenty of data in the process. High-resolution videos, thermal videos and laser-based measurements like depth and humidity are no problem these days. All that happens in a fraction of the time one or even multiple humans would need on-site when manually capturing all that information.
Data — a lot of it
While not a technology per se it’s notable how much data the platform can aggregate for a single property. There are satellite imagery, current & historical weather information and everything captured by the drones, to name a few. Being able to manage, process and leverage such a vast amount of data requires a solid technology stack.
By now it looks a lot like that AI is going to have an impact way beyond just being a new technology. Betterview did not depreciate AI as just another feature of their platform but put it front and center and made it a vital part the workflow which everyone involved can rely on.
We see two key locations where Betterview leverages the strengths of AI:
- Processing images, video footage and sensory data to derive highly useful models of properties and sites like for example 3D models, surface models and terrain elevation maps.
- Analyzing these models along other data and collected knowledge in order to identify property and site conditions and in turn potential risks and damages which need maintenance.
As there’s still manual work from multiple parties involved, a useful yet simple user interface is essential for a successful workflow. Since we don’t have access to their apps we can only perform a quick evaluation of a low-resolution visual of their redesign by the end of last year.
The first notable finding is that the desktop web app is focused on the experts while the mobile web app is focused on the drone pilots. That makes sense since the experts’ analysis is way more complex and likely done on a bigger screen while on the other hand the drone pilots need on-site guidance at the property’s location while fulfilling their duty. It may seem trivial but we’ve seen several projects fail for not thinking about something that simple.
Both interfaces are clearly built around the processes relevant for each party, free of useless clutter and with the user’s situation always in mind. The pilot’s version for example is split into a high-level checklist-style overview of the job as well as in pre-flight, flight and post-flight instructions. Building such user- and process-centric designs in a way which are easy to understand, useful and engaging is incredibly hard and usually evolves over multiple iterations. What we’re seeing here definitely evolved over time and with experience.
Native Mobile Apps
It certainly makes sense to cover the processes and tasks of the drone pilots and the experts with a native mobile app instead of a web app which has the tendency to be unreliable in various ways. Betterview has indicated that they’re going to release two mobile apps soon and we’re looking forward to see what they’ve built.
Relevance for the Insurance Industry
While Betterview is set up as broad as property inspection can be, they seem to have a focus on the insurance industry. We can only encourage that since the value they create for insurers is really high.
Reliable risk assessment is the core of every successful insurance business. Being able to easily collect, aggregate and analyze such a vast amount of data around properties and sites upfront allows for a much more detailed condition analysis which in turn helps to properly identify and classify the risks being involved.
With all the data now readily available insurer and property owner can go a step further and proactively use that data to identify a lot potential issues early on and perform proper maintenance way before they become a real problem. Both, insurer and insured, are always happy if there is no damage to be claimed.
No matter how good the risk assessment and property maintenance is, damage can always occur. In such cases being able to access and analyze all the data from before, during (e.g. weather data) and after the damage is invaluable for a quick yet thorough claim management.
Being able to identify potential issues early on helps identifying fraudulent behavior, e.g. where someone wants to insure a property with the expectation or even the intention to make a claim soon after. Similarly someone may make a claim for a damage which was caused deliberately or for some other reason not covered by the insurance policy. Here AI can tell whether the damage cause being reported fits in with all the data being available due to the drone flight, earlier flights and historical weather data.
Because of their excellent ability to identify patterns, AI in general is well-suited to identify fraud.
- There’s a strong focus on a single workflow and value creation chain where everything is built around which leads to high quality results.
- All people involved always know what to do and how. Errors are systemically reduced as much as possible.
- It’s an excellent use of drones for minimizing manual work.
- It’s an excellent use of AI by leveraging its strengths in visual recognition and data analysis.
- Drones and AI are deeply integrated in the workflow rather than being just an add-on.
- The massively systemized and optimized workflow can reduce the cost for evaluating properties a lot.
- The web apps are, as far we can tell, on point. Focused on the right things while keeping the user in mind.
By The Numbers
- 374,000,000 sq. ft. of rooftop analyzed
- 15,000 properties inspected for 90 insurance clients
- 1,500,000 photos captured & analyzed
- 23,000 photos tagged with 87 roof issue types
- 4,400 drone pilots in the U.S. (+ partnerships in Europe & Canada)
- $3,600,000 in funding
Betterview was founded in 2014 by David Lyman and David Tobias and is located in San Francisco, California. Through founders, employees and their network of pilots and experts they combine all the relevant knowledge in one platform: insurance industry expertise, construction industry expertise, business & startup expertise and drone-flying expertise.
In The News
Munich Re to Offer Drone Services to Clients Through Partnership with Betterview
Betterview, a drone-based inspection company specializing in risk and damage assessments, has formed an agreement with…
Disclaimer: We’re not affiliated to Betterview in any way. All information was researched on the public web and evaluated using our long-term expertise in digital technology & development and in the insurance industry.