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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A startup is employing machine learning to process aerial imagery and remotely analyze insurance risks to properties around the country.

Why it matters: The combination of AI and aerial imagery from satellites and even stratospheric balloons can help insurers quickly judge property risks without an in-person visit, saving money and time.

How it works: Arturo's AI model can identify potentially risky characteristics of a property — like roof tiles in need of repair or a pool that lacks a fence — and estimate the likelihood of an insurable accident in the future.

  • "We create high-fidelity information about the property in seconds for the insurers today, and likely lenders tomorrow, to understand what's actually there," says John-Isaac Clark, Arturo's CEO.

Background: Arturo's business model is a combination of two major technological trends: the ever-increasing growth of aerial imagery that can capture detailed pictures of the ground and the power of machine learning.

  • Before he became the CEO of Arturo, Clark was head of product at DigitalGlobe, a major commercial vendor of space imagery and geospatial content.
  • "There's been a fundamental change in how we understand location as consumers," says Clark. "Whether it comes from space, from satellites, from airplanes, this imagery created for us a way to understand where things were and where we were going."

The big picture: Insurance might seem like the blandest of businesses, but since its origins hundreds of years ago, the field has focused on using available data to try to predict the future — which happens to be precisely what machine learning is good at.

  • A recent report from Porch Research found "InsurTech" companies like Arturo raised $5.4 billion in venture funding last year.
  • As both the sources of data — Arturo recently partnered with Urban Sky to tap that company's cost-effective "Microballoon" imagery — and the computational power of AI systems grow, so will the InsurTech field.

The catch: Given that insurance essentially exists as a shared hedge against uncertainty, the better insurance companies get at predicting the future, the harder it might be for some properties or people with higher risk profiles to get protection.

Go deeper

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Migrants attempting to enter the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Photo: David Peinado/Xinhua via Getty Images

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Why it matters: The contract is by far the largest ever awarded to Family Endeavors. It's potentially worth more than 12 times the group's most recently reported annual budget — a sign of the demand the new work will place on its operations.

23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A leading conservative group is targeting the business community with a seven-figure ad buy on CNBC and local TV defending Georgia's new voting law from its corporate critics, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: By focusing on the C-suite through a network it watches, Heritage Action for America is offering a rejoinder to some companies — even Major League Baseball — after they waded so prominently into politics.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Advocates and lawmakers favoring marijuana reform are trying to capitalize on the social justice movement and COVID-19 economic rebound to legalize and normalize the use of pot.

Why it matters: The supporters are also trying to take advantage of polls showing broad public support — and get ahead of the reality Democrats could lose their control of Congress after the midterm elections next year.