(Photo credit: John Kerstholt.)
Understory, a Madison, Wisc.-based weather network and analytics company has launched five new networks of its surface-level weather stations, known as RTis. The new networks cover the metropolitan areas of Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Denver and St. Louis. Understory has also doubled coverage in its first major urban-area network, Kansas City, and has announced that Pacific Specialty (Palo Alto, Calif.) has become one of its insurance carrier clients.
Insurers use Understory’s data and analytics to improve their handling of weather events, including claims and catastrophe response. The RTi sensors are placed approximately two miles apart and monitor hail, wind, rain, temperature, pressure, and humidity at ground-level on a continual basis. The Understory weather platform can also provide information on wind chill, heat index, evaporation rate, and other conditions. The size of a given network will vary with the size of the city in question, e.g., Dallas-Ft Worth Metroplex has about 150 weather stations, whereas the rest of the cities have between 50-70 stations.
“We are very excited about our relationship with Understory,” comments Stann Rose, Senior VP, Pacific Specialty. “We’ll be able to better manage hail events, which will improve our accuracy, efficiency and, most importantly, our customer experience.”
Understory’s expansion into the new cities has resulted in its networks covering critical locations for hail events. “With these networks, we’re covering the areas where between 6 and 8 percent of annual hail damage in the U.S. is reported,” comments Alex Kubicek, CEO, Understory. “Our goal is to deploy into other metro areas to cover over half of the annual hail damage in the country.”
The costs of manufacturing, deploying, and maintaining Understory’s RTis are orders of magnitude less than the comparable weather stations on the market, according to Kubicek. “We deploy the stations on flat, commercial roofs—schools, churches, golf courses, small businesses. In some cases, we lease the space on the rooftops. In others, we trade data and services for the ability to place the sensor. Our deployments are community driven as we believe our weather data can have a strong positive impact on the public safety in an area.”
Monitoring Where Losses Occur
Understory, as its name suggests, differentiates itself by its capacity for surface measurement. “The current weather-sensing infrastructure does a great job at showing us what is happening in the sky, but it doesn’t show us what’s happening on the ground, where people and businesses operate,” comments Kubicek.
He might have added: “and where insurance losses take place.” Understory’s RTis demonstrated their capabilities during a May 8 hailstorm which may be the costliest to ever strike Denver. “The sensors captured 4200 individual hailstone impacts, which let us do some interesting analytics,” Kubicek relates. “Radar can tell the size of hail, but we are able to measure the impact and the angle at which the hail was hitting buildings, as well as the distribution of hail size—which are potential factors in losses.”
Understory currently has over ten insurance carrier clients including American Family, which has invested in the company. “We know that the granular information our networks offer will aid the Pacific Specialty team in making quicker and even higher quality decisions when it comes to how they respond to weather events,” Kubicek says of Understory’s latest carrier client. “While this will obviously have a great impact on the organization’s bottom line, the positive change this will fuel within their customer service and their customer satisfaction is what really gets our team excited.”
Speeding Claims Response
Tying data into carriers’ claims process can help them reach out proactively to policyholders rather than waiting for claims to be filed, Kubicek says. By pinpointing where and how forcefully weather events strike, Understory helps insurers more quickly identify where losses will occur, which improves customer experience and can also reduce the long-tail effects of claims by ensuring that they are resolved earlier.
Understory will continue to expand aggressively in pursuit of its goal of covering more than half of the hail loss areas in the country and is already in the process of identifying the next metro regions within which it will deploy the RTi sensors, according to Kubicek.