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Streamlining the Insurance and Insurtech Data Stack with a Robust Place Identifier

Mar 18, 2021 by Placekey

Traditional and high-tech players in the insurance industry are using Placekey to standardize, validate, and extend their data models. This enables them to make smarter, more predictable bets, cut expense ratios by minimizing manual operations, and deliver faster service to customers.

The Case for a Standardized Geospatial Identifier in Insurance

Insurers are constantly ingesting information about places - from customers, brokers, partner firms, internal data sources, data vendors, field research, and so on. How those places are referred to, however, is constantly changing. For example, a customer may slightly alter the format of the property address she wishes to have insured year over year. Business names change, and businesses change locations. New data vendors are evaluated and added, while other sources of data may be retired. New relationships form between brokers and carriers, and information delivery formats can differ in each case. In short, an insurer is likely to have relevant information about a given place and/or policy which is nevertheless inaccessible due to the lack of standardization across the firm’s disparate data sources:

“In property analytics, we are receiving property data from brokers and other intermediaries. But there's no real kind of standard format that we receive from a broker. So one broker will do it one way. Another broker would do it another way. So you have 50 or 100 different ways that you can see this data.” - Manager, Catastrophe Modeling

Placekey solves this problem by providing a free, standardized, stable identifier for addressable places. By referring to places using the Placekey as the primary key, firms can tie the addresses and entities scattered across their data stores, unlocking the information and opening up a wellspring of analytical potential. Placekey makes it straightforward to match addresses and business names, perform data validation and quality assurance, and enrich data by standardizing data delivery across the ecosystem of third-party data suppliers.

A Stable Primary Key for Addressable Places and POIs

The best way to think about a Placekey is as a unique reference to a place. Addresses, geocodes, and geographical boundaries may describe a place, but are themselves not unique identifiers and so are best thought of as attributes. Keeping a column of Placekeys as the unique identifier enables insurers to resolve differences in the input format used by clients and partners, data suppliers, risk management systems, and internal data - and thus leverage the full range of attributes available to them in their underwriting decisions.

Placekey also natively supports points of interest (including businesses) and thus fully captures the notion of a business at a specific location. This enables insurers to leverage not only attributes of the property but also to incorporate firmographic information - all while using just one identifier.

“Customers give us addresses, businesses names, latitude and longitude...we then pull the address, geocode, and look at the parcel and imagery. We could find a lot more better matches if we were looking at the business name, too.” - Product Manager, Insurtech


Entity Resolution Powered by Authoritative Sources

Low data quality can be costly to the extent that it causes poor underwriting decisions to be made. As a result, insurance firms (and their customers) often spend considerable resources ensuring the accuracy of their information. This is often a costly, manual process.

“When it comes to reporting, data veracity is a big deal for us - we don’t want to be insuring something that’s not the asset the customer wanted insured.” - Founder, Insurtech

Placekey can help improve data quality in two ways: first, the data sources that power the Placekey API go back to authoritative sources of address validity and points of interest. This means that when a Placekey is successfully matched to a record, there is a high degree of confidence that the place actually exists. Second, having a Placekey on a record of data provides a logical way to have conversations about missing data, or “no-hits”, from vendors.


The Path to Data Enrichment

In the world of insurance, having more high-quality data on which to make underwriting decisions can lead to real competitive advantage. For most firms, third-party data vendors play a crucial role, “filling in the blanks” of underwriting models. Unfortunately, friction often exists between insurers and their optimal third-party data stack. It is difficult to identify and evaluate the multitude of data providers that sell insurance-relevant information, particularly the long tail of smaller or more specialized vendors, such as BlueSpot AI. Additionally, data delivery processes vary widely, and it’s infeasible to build custom data ingestion pipelines for each individual vendor.

Placekey data vendor partners
"What you guys are doing is literally the dream state for property underwriters in the insurance space".

Placekey can help to unlock insurance firms’ own data by tieing entities and places across disparate internal datasets. Additionally, Placekey is also useful as a medium of exchange for data enrichment:

  • Data Discovery and Evaluation: The consortium of Placekey partners has been hard at work integrating Placekey into their datasets. This means that insurance firms can go to a data supplier (such as Landgrid) with a Placekey, and actually purchase a record of data tied to that Placekey. This saves both parties the need for a complex entity resolution process, making it far easier to discover, evaluate, and acquire interesting attributes to drive underwriting models.
  • Streamlined Data Delivery: When it comes time to ingest new attributes from a vendor, having records on both sides already indexed using Placekeys makes getting the data trivially easy. Complex workflows involving multiple API calls and data manipulations are reduced to a simple lookup.

Placekey inspired one user to comment, "What you guys are doing is literally the dream state for property underwriters in the insurance space".

“If we just standardize the data in the beginning, we can start to pull data from anywhere - RMS, tax assessor data, we can buy it from a vendor...If I have my data standardized I can save my company 3-4 points on our expense ratio.” - Manager, Catastrophe Modeling


More about Placekey

Placekey is an open initiative to create a free universal ID for places. By making it easy for data science teams to find, acquire, and match data about places together, Placekey facilitates analysis, shortens time to insights, and helps the data ecosystem grow.

To get a free API key and start using Placekey, sign up here and see our API documentation and quickstart guide

To learn more about becoming a Placekey Partner, visit this page.

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