Aon and Irish firm Skytek use spacetech to make shipping less risky

6 Mar 2019

Image: © donvictori0/

Space-adapted technology could help insurance firms better manage marine, port and offshore risk.

Shipping is risky business at the best of times, especially in an era of mega-ports and large container ships, but insurance giant Aon has its eyes on technology made by Irish firm Skytek to manage risk better.

In a new research initiative, Aon and Skytek will combine their expertise to offer the insurance and reinsurance industry space-adapted software systems to better manage marine, port and cargo risk.

‘These new products open up an exciting future for deeper risk insights within the marine reinsurance world’

Skytek has a track record in developing software solutions for some of the most challenging industries and, in particular, it has expertise in the space environment, where it has decades of engagement with the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. It has also developed intelligent software solutions for many other industries, including marine transportation, aerospace, defence and insurance.

“Skytek and Aon are using advanced data analysis techniques and space technology to monitor marine, port and offshore assets to help insurers gain critical insight into risk accumulation,” explained Skytek CEO Dr Sarah Bourke.

“With Skytek’s technical solutions, in near-real time, reinsurers have the ability to visualise and monitor risk thresholds, and receive appropriate alerts where established risk concentrations have been exceeded. It is also possible to identify asset movement patterns over a number of years.”

Bourke explained that the ability to take vast amounts of Earth observation and space-based data, and create tailored insurance products was inconceivable only a couple of years ago.

“These new products open up an exciting future for deeper risk insights within the marine reinsurance world.”

Space research

The technology emerged from a Skytek and Aon research initiative with ESA.

“Following ESA’s support, it is rewarding to see a practical application of science to the insurance industry – and in turn supporting ship and cargo owners globally to have confidence in the protection of their assets,” said Piera Di Vito from ESA.

The new strategic partnership over the next two years will embark on a multimillion-euro research initiative to improve the reaction and response timeframe by insurance companies to major disasters, using the latest Earth observation, artificial intelligence and data analytics technologies.

“As part of Aon’s commitment to data and analytics, this insurtech partnership is focused on using innovative technologies to enhance risk management practices,” explained Christian Silies, head of marine and energy at Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions business.

“As part of our development partnership, we will be taking the analysis beyond cargo and hull marine aggregation to also weave in business intelligence functionality using clients’ own data,” Silies added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years