It's Another World

How alternate reality checks can make you more resilient

Take to the sky. Construct alternate realities. Virtually visit inaccessible locations.

These tasks were unthinkable in 1835 when Zachariah Allen, FM Global founder, transformed property protection. Nearly 200 years later, the company continues to push boundaries and create realities that develop new solutions to protect clients.

Here's a glimpse of some of FM Global's recent developments. Find out how these advanced technology solutions could help keep you resilient.

Drones...and beyond
"Instead of talking about drones, I like to refer to remote aerial sensing," says Jaap de Vries, Ph.D., vice president, innovation science and technology, FM Global. "This includes manned aircraft and satellites. Improved sensing capabilities including infrared, multispectral and LIDAR (laser imaging detection and ranging) have opened up new ways of evaluating both risks and losses."

Satellites can provide images from which distances can be calculated. Using these images, distances between facilities and risks like brush, hazardous materials and dangerous goods storage can be measured. Three-dimensional models of buildings and geo-referenced elevations captured by drones enable calculations that are extremely accurate.

"This technology also allows us to safely access an entire roof, including any roof-mounted equipment, to provide instantaneous updates on the condition," de Vries explains. "Basically, we can collect as much, probably more, data than a person can, and we can do it faster and more efficiently."

Equipped with infrared cameras, drones can detect damage to roofs and solar panel fields.

Heat leaks and moisture can be detected using thermal cameras. That way, FM Global can make clients aware of the health of their buildings in a way that would be difficult for them to do themselves. As de Vries explains, "Clients have their business to run, so this  could create mutual benefits and put the information immediately into perspective."

This high-flying technology finds its place at ground level, too. de Vries says, "We can take a drone snapshot of the highest water level in a flood event. This information could accelerate the claims process."

Now you see it, so later you don't
When all is well, imagining disaster can be difficult. That's where alternate realities can assist. Virtual reality simulates a facility under peril. Augmented reality overlays perils like fire and flood at actual client facilities.

"FM Global produced 360-degree videos of several fire tests that can be viewed through virtual reality goggles," says Balaji Purushothaman, vice president, innovation data and digital, FM Global.

"Our football field-sized burn laboratory allows us to create unique content for virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. Our engineers could use virtual and augmented reality for field training and for client communication. It helps make clients aware of hidden risk exposure and the value of FM Global's engineering recommendations that help prevent these virtual loss scenarios from becoming a reality."

More realistic experiences can help clients envision hazards at their facilities. Modeled holographic flood events can show a client what 100- and 500-year floods would look like at their location. Through virtual reality, clients can experience how fast a roll paper fire develops, or how cognac barrels burn.

"And all from view angles that were impossible up until recently," Purushothaman says. "It is an extra tool that can make our core message more convincing and engaging at the same time. Being placed right next to a fire and submerged in smoke drives home the point."

Remote access
Inaccessible properties and those in countries with imposed travel restrictions are now within reach. FM Global uses a hands-free video conferencing system—a camera mounted to smart glasses—to communicate visually worldwide.

The unit can be shipped and worn by a designated person at a remote location. The individual wearing the camera-mounted smart glasses can then transmit what they are  seeing to the remote expert.

Field-tested at facilities in Ahmedabad, India, and Agbara, Nigeria, this remote  engineering and communication solution enabled FM Global experts in West Glocester, Rhode Island, USA, to provide property loss prevention advice in real time.

"For FM Global, it's about identifying risks in remote locations that are unreachable by our field engineers, and this is a technology that helps us do that," explains Ronnie Gibson, vice president, innovation business and insurance, FM Global. "Our remote expert can see what the field agent sees through the camera-mounted glasses. They can snap screenshots, and create and share drawings and notes in real time to send to the expert for analysis. Many emerging market economies now have 3G and 4G networks, and even Wi-Fi. Five years ago, this wasn't necessarily a viable technology."

Expert-driven loss prevention solutions
But it's the pre-loss use of innovative technology that sets FM Global apart.

"Engineering services is the key differentiator in FM Global's use of advanced technology solutions. For instance, we use drones to share knowledge with clients to help prevent a loss from occurring, rather than simply as a tool should a claim arise. This helps our clients become more resilient." explains de Vries.

"We are the lone knowledge provider in a commodity-based industry, so we're able to use and advance technology with the perspective from the countless situations we've seen in our nearly 200 years of business, as well as our world class research and development."


From the Industrial Revolution to the Technical Revolution, FM Global's engineers, researchers and innovation team embrace Zachariah Allen's core belief that the majority of loss is preventable. How we prevent loss is what evolves.


Hear from Jaap de Vries in his podcast interview with The Insurance Innovators Unscripted.

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