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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

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 4 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.