Insurers have used satellite images to assess the impact of catastrophic events and estimate potential losses for some time.
Dave Fox and Dan Schnurr realised that integrating satellite images with other data created powerful analysis and forecasting tools that could lower trading risk and generate higher returns for investment managers, particularly hedge funds.
They founded Geospatial Insight to provide this in-depth business intelligence to clients. With the help of the Satellite Applications Catapult and Innovate UK the company is now winning investor backing and developing innovative forecasting products for global commodities.
Dave was involved in the organisation that became the Satellite Applications Catapult. He believes that it’s an extremely effective way for companies like Geospatial to grow their business.
The company went through the Satellite Applications Catapult’s investment readiness programme – a process Dave is impressed with. As a result, it’s now well-advanced in getting the investment it needs.
“We’re an experienced management team, I’ve bought and sold businesses in the past but the programme pointed out some things that I didn’t know. It also gave our work validation by a respected third party,” Dave said.
The need for speed
Speed is a critical factor when you’re supplying information to clients. For example, after a catastrophic event an insurer wants estimates of potential losses as quickly as possible.
Geospatial is building relationships with several earth observation data providers so they can access the information they, and their clients, need fast.
The company worked with a major reinsurance broker after Hurricane Sandy damaged large areas of the US Eastern Seaboard in October 2012. It used earth observation and other data sources to assess the flood boundary and damage levels across the affected area. This enabled the client to estimate potential losses, inform their insured parties and put a damage limitation strategy in place immediately.
“Some of these services are available already. Our challenge is to beat the market and provide information more quickly,” Dave said.
Commodity indexes for crops (and rocks)
This is particularly true in commodities markets where speculation fuels rapid and unpredictable price movements. Geospatial is developing commodity intelligence and index tracking products to help clients reduce the risks of trading in these volatile markets.
Geospatial won grant funding via Innovate UK for a project to develop an accurate and rapid wheat price forecasting product.
WheatTrac® uses satellite data to provide more reliable measurements and forecasts. This could help iron out fluctuations in wheat prices and even food prices down the line. The company is also working with the University of Leicester to develop a palm oil price monitoring tool.
“We’re starting with wheat because it’s well understood, but we want to expand to other commodities. Nothing like this exists for palm oil. It’s a chance for us to establish a totally new product,” Dave commented.
Geospatial have also secured funding from the European Space Agency to develop a service for monitoring mineral commodity supplies.
It will track metal ore extraction, shipping and stockpiling globally to build knowledge about metal supply flows, volumes and choke points and improve commodity price forecasting. The service is scheduled to launch in 2015
This is only the start for Dave and Dan.
“We can see lots of potential opportunities for forecasting and monitoring tools in other markets, not just commodities but other areas like equities or property. The relationships we’ve built with the help and support of the Catapult and Innovate UK are helping us make it happen,” Dave said.
Geospatial Insight combines analysis of earth observation data with other information sources to help customers in the finance sector better understand the risks associated with their assets and investments.