It’s an ill hurricane that blows nobody any good

Nick Booth

The IoT’s cameras capture people’s true personalities during a crisis because we get to see what people are like when there’s nobody watching.

The recent storm footage put the people of Texas in a good light. They must have a tremendous sense of community and camaraderie, judging by all the footage that’s emerged of their selfless and brave acts. Meanwhile, in other states, some used the storms as a cover to loot the shops.

Still, who will cast the first stone? The real test of honesty comes when you have to fill out an insurance claim after a disaster. I won’t pretend I haven’t been tempted to exaggerate my insurance claims. I haven’t but only because of the outside chance there may be a God.

It’s too easy to over claim on insurance. There’s no way the loss adjustor can tell if those patio doors were already broken before the burglars got into your house. Besides, it’s a victimless heist isn’t it? The insurance companies offset all their claims with re-insurance companies, so they don’t get hurt do they? That’s the logic people will use to justify their fraud, says Nicholas Booth.

One of the untold stories about Hurricane Irma is that plenty of people will try dishonestly cash in. These are the ‘normally honest’ types who massively exaggerate their insurance claims by blaming all sorts of pre-existing housing conditions on the storm, and claiming for their repair on home insurance.

Or sometimes, they’ll over compensate for not having one type of insurance, by massively hiking up their claim on another. You may have had insurance for, say, hailstones but not for wind damage. So, you compensate by claiming that, say, hailstones smashed your roof off.

When there are storm warnings, insurance companies get a rush of new business from people who want a new roof.

This victimless crime costs the insurance companies an extra $1.2 billion (€1.01 billion) in claims. The only people that really get hurt are the poor but honest consumers, who will bear this cost in higher premiums. No, hang on, that’s not right, is it?

This is where an IoT start up is helping the underdog. Understory Weather has invented an ingenious weather measuring device that gives the insurance companies a post mortem on the weather event that’s just gone past. The invention of founder Alex Kubicek, it’s a stainless steel ball that can measure wind, heat, hail and rain but is simple enough to be installed by a layman.

This combination of simplicity of form, masking a complexity of function, is a hallmark of engineering genius. It has also enabled the company to build up sufficient coverage in towns which are affected by severe weather conditions and even more painful insurance claims. With sufficient numbers of these units on the ground in Dallas, Fort Worth and Kansas, Understory Weather can gauge how devastating a hail storm really was, and whether it merits the scale of the damage claims that people are making.

For example, on May 8th this year a hailstorm caused $1.4 billion (€1.18 billion) of damage in Denver. The number of devices that Kubicek and co had managed to persuade local schools and local building managers to install were sufficient to capture the incidence of 4200 hailstones. From the associated data, they were able to calculate the mass and distribution of the onslaught and quantify it at 1.6 billion hailstones in total. This storm post mortem helped insurers nail the veracity of every subsequent claim.

In the recent storm in Houston, all the damage came from flooding, but only a minority had flood insurance. More people were likely to have had wind insurance, so there will be a deluge of claims from people claiming the wind damaged their properties. However, the data accumulated by Understory Weather reports that the top windspeed reported was 43 miles an hour, so the insurance assessors will be forewarned with this claims-adjusting argument.

The beauty of the units is that they can be installed in 20 minutes and are self-configuring and self-sufficient. And they should help the honest punter by keeping premiums down. (Conditions apply.)

The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer

 Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

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