Could your portfolio weather another Kyrill?

Posted on September 29, 2016 by Derek Blum



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With the tenth anniversary of Windstorm Kyrill coming up this January, I can still recall the buzz in the insurance market when it first hit. Insurers were still reeling from a brutal 2005 U.S. hurricane season that brought Katrina, Dennis, Rita, Wilma, and several other large events. So the news of Kyrill came at a time when event response was emerging as both a proactive and reactive discipline, and insurers felt more prepared to respond. The tools they used weren’t quite as sophisticated as what exist today, but they expected to have access to quality data and to be able to provide a rapid supply of information and services to policyholders, management, and investors.

While it wasn’t the largest windstorm ever to impact Europe, it was the most significant storm, in terms of financial impact, since Lothar and Martin in 1999. In addition to 47 deaths, the powerful storm was responsible for more than €4 billion in insured losses (in 2016 euros), according to PERILS.

Nearly ten years later, Kyrill still serves as an important reminder to examine your windstorm exposure carefully, minimize your catastrophe risk wherever possible, and take steps to improve how quickly you can respond to claims. As the Vice President of Product Marketing at SpatialKey, I’m excited to share that our European Windstorm app can help you accomplish these goals in a way that just wasn’t possible back in 2007. The app, which we developed with Willis Re, will be released just in time for European windstorm season.

Today’s tech can simplify how you respond to risk

An average of six windstorms threaten Europe every year. Not only do you have to be prepared for storm activity that may impact multiple countries throughout the season, you just never know which storm could turn out to be the next Kyrill...or worse.

“When looking over a longer time series, such an event is not rare,” notes Tim Edwards, Head of Europe Catastrophe Analytics, Willis Re. “We estimate that an event the size of Kyrill will hit the European insurance market every five to seven years.”

That’s why it’s critical to evaluate how your portfolio would be impacted—and how quickly your claims team will be able to respond—if a storm of equal or greater severity as Kyrill happened today.


With SpatialKey’s new app, understand the windstorm as it occurs, plus view multiple layers of portfolio and claims data to understand the event and effectively deploy your claims response.

Since Kyrill, advancements in geospatial analytics have made it possible to see exactly where your insureds are located in relation to windstorm forecast data or an event footprint. Today, you can visualize information like this easily on a map and know exactly how to prioritize the deployment of your claims response. If you think that’s cool, these days, you can also understand your exposure and potential claims costs based on insured values or limits by overlaying an event footprint on your portfolio data. That was not an easy feat back in 2007.

Just as important, you can now more easily track a windstorm as it’s happening. SpatialKey and Willis Re partnered with EuroTempest to bring you the windstorm forecast and footprint data you need to estimate potential damage, understand where to deploy claims personnel, and get an early sense of likely losses. As I’m sure you know, your customers’ expectations for timely response have only increased in the past ten years, so advancements like these are critical to maintaining your customer retention.

Since Kyrill, technology isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Your portfolio has likely evolved due to gradual market changes or even through acquisition. Greater population and building density, along with increased coastal erosion may also drive more risk. Evaluating your current portfolio against an actual windstorm footprint offers valuable information about your potential claims costs from a similar event. These ways of analyzing data can offer valuable insights for managing the health of your portfolio against future windstorms.

With European windstorm season just around the corner, now is the time to make sure you have access to the data you need to understand your exposure, respond to claims faster, and proactively handle whatever blows your way from November to March.

SpatialKey European Windstorm can help you manage risk and prepare for incoming claims with expert data and advanced analytics. To learn more about how SpatialKey can help you, contact us today.

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It’s time to evolve how you collaborate in a data-driven world

Posted on September 26, 2016 by Tom Link



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When I first discovered how well the insurance industry collaborates, I was blown away. As an outsider, learning how agents, brokers, carriers, and reinsurers all work together to identify, write, and share risk was both overwhelming and fascinating. I was impressed at how multiple insurers participate in sharing a single risk and how each does so leveraging its unique strategy and specialty. An industry that initially seemed boring to me became artful and fascinating, even noble. I continually reflect on how this level of collaboration and risk sharing makes tremendously ambitious projects—from skyscrapers to city centers— possible. And yet, surprisingly, this industry that is so fundamentally built upon collaboration seems to lag far behind its peers when it comes to technology innovation and collaboration.

Before starting SpatialKey, I co-founded Universal Mind, a digital agency dedicated to helping businesses figure out how to use technology to differentiate themselves and improve customer experience. SpatialKey is a natural extension of that simple idea, except we focus specifically on helping insurers. As I’ve worked to build companies I’m proud of, I’ve learned some invaluable lessons I think can help everyone participating in the insurance space.

To me, the industry’s call to be more data-driven is a call to collaborate on solutions that simplify the process of interpreting data. After all, consider the caveman. Probably not where you thought I was going with that, right? Bear with me.

Neanderthals died out for one simple reason: they failed to learn how to collaborate with groups outside of their tribe. Homo erectus, on the other hand, thrived because of their ability to trade their specialized skills with outside groups, according to Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything.

Today, it’s really not all that different. Our economy is built on this simple exchange of skills, and I’m betting that’s hardly surprising to anyone. But I see business leaders thinking they can go it alone when it comes to technology in insurance. In talking with clients, I hear a lot of stories about data being difficult to interpret, contextualize, or provide in a timely fashion to decision makers. I hear about internal teams building systems that stray from their areas of expertise, and a cry for a way to get work done faster (not to mention cheaper). I can’t help thinking we’re ignoring some of the lessons of our ancestors. This is why I deeply believe in the power of focus, specialization, and exchange. The only way to survive—and let’s face it, evolve—is to hone our own skills and have the good sense to collaborate with other experts along the way.

I invite you to consider that outsourcing to experts is something you already do. You may use third-party administrators to manage claims adjustments during an event or underwriters and managing agents who specialize in writing certain regions and classes. So it makes sense to do this with the data you use to drive your business forward, right?

Data, to put it simply, has no value unless you understand it. Over the past several years, the explosion of available data sources you can access to make decisions has been amazing. But the creators of that data are frustrated because few people can deploy that data effectively (or sometimes, know it even exists). And you are challenged by having to manually manage disparate data sources and provide relevant data meaningfully and effectively to people making decisions. SpatialKey was designed to help both parties—making more data available and useful so it can be interpreted and acted upon. I’m proud of how we’ve made that happen—and I appreciate that it could have never have happened if we hadn’t collaborated with our clients.

That’s why I’m passionate about building an ecosystem where we’re an effective contributor and where we can be smart about how we collaborate with others. One of the ways we do that at SpatialKey is by partnering with data experts. We don’t make flood footprints or wildfire extents, so we understand the value of working with experts like JBA Risk Management, KatRisk, NOAA, USGS, and Location, Inc. (to name only a few), who do incredible work with data. Exchanging our skill of visualizing data with their talent of creating it helps us move technology forward for insurers. Without this exchange, there’s no way we’d be able to give our users the ability to visualize and interpret the data they need to make the decisions that positively impact their bottom line.

The truth is this: maintaining the status quo will hinder our long-term success. I knew this when SpatialKey was in its early days and was determined to make sure we were always thinking creatively to help our users stay ahead of their competition (while maintaining our own edge in the software space). We’ve always known that our specialization is building innovative software with a keen focus on purpose-built analytics and great design. What we didn’t always know is that it would be for insurers. One of our first clients, Willis Re, is a veteran in the insurance space. Willis Re are experts in placing reinsurance, and needed a way to effectively develop and convey their strategy and recommendations to their clients clearly, interactively, and fluidly. Rather than build their own internal solutions, as was the traditional route for other reinsurance brokers, Willis decided to collaborate with us. They appreciated that what we brought to the table could help them differentiate and create a better and more impactful solution for their clients.

“We are at the forefront of risk and reinsurance, but we recognize where others can provide exceptional capabilities for us—especially when it comes to software,” says Vaughn Jensen, Executive Vice President, Willis Re. “Investing in our partnership with SpatialKey has given us a real competitive advantage because we can stay focused on being experts on what matters most to our clients and business.”

As it turned out, we needed Willis Re  to help us see how beneficial our solution could be for geospatial insurance analytics. This exchange is one of many that pushed us to actively pursue developing our software specifically for insurers. It was through this collaboration that I saw the benefit of offering, not to just Willis, but to the insurance industry, one of the key things they’re always trying to provide their own clients: peace of mind. What excites me the most about collaborating in this way is the remarkable ripple effect it has on product advancement. The more we collaborate with our clients, the better solutions we can offer the entire industry.

It’s no secret that many companies in the insurance industry are working to catch up when it comes to technology. Collaboration is the clearest way for you to get where you need to be. Together, we’re building something that is advancing technology in insurance. The more collaboration that happens, the more we’ll see companies grow, innovate with technology, and maximize profits.

The cool part is that insurance is one of the most prevalent and necessary things in our world today, and it’s only going to keep evolving. I know there are endless opportunities for exchange, specialization, and advancement—new players in the industry, new ideas, new approaches. With so many ways to move forward, if you embrace collaboration as a way to innovate, you will not just survive, you’ll thrive.
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SpatialKey and Impact Forecasting are giving insurers greater access to global peril data

Posted on September 20, 2016 by Sarah Kinnel


SpatialKey to include hazard data for more countries

SpatialKey now offers its insurance clients access to global peril data from Impact Forecasting, a catastrophe model development center within Aon Benfield. Designed to highlight potential risks for underwriters and exposure managers, SpatialKey geospatial analytic solutions now seamlessly integrate with expert content from Impact Forecasting. Insurers can now access the same, expert hazard data across both underwriting and exposure management disciplines, enabling them to make more confident business decisions.

“We’re excited to offer our clients access to a greater breadth of global hazard and risk data,” said Bret Stone, COO of SpatialKey. “Insurers rely on expert content to write and manage their exposure. Working with Impact Forecasting means our clients can easily access the information they need to inform their risk management strategies across the globe.”

In 2015, insured catastrophe losses totaled roughly $27 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Risk experts, like Impact Forecasting, and geospatial insurance analytics providers, like SpatialKey, play an increasingly strategic role in helping insurers improve their bottom line. Both companies help insurers perform more accurate underwriting and risk assessment—two key factors in keeping insurers profitable.

Impact Forecasting provides data for eight kinds of perils in more than 60 countries, including emerging markets. With that data integrated into SpatialKey, insurers can identify new market opportunities and gain insights where their competitors lack understanding.

“We’re delighted to make our risk and hazard data models available to SpatialKey clients for the first time,” commented Adam Podlaha, CEO of Impact Forecasting. “Now, underserved markets can easily access, visualize, and analyze the data they need to better manage risk and write more profitable business.”

To learn more, please contact us.

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Hazard data from Willis Re View of Risk now available to Willis Re clients via SpatialKey

Posted on September 16, 2016 by Heather Munro


Willis Re, the reinsurance division of Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), the global advisory, broking and solutions company, today announces the availability of proprietary Willis Re hazard data to its clients via partnership with SpatialKey.

The Willis Re View of Risk assists Willis Re clients in developing their own view of risk, through a combination of enhancing and evaluating existing models, and developing new models where there are none. Constantly advancing Willis Re’s in-house modelling solutions by combining insurance industry experience with expert knowledge, Willis Re Catastrophe Analytics teams help quantify the financial impact of natural and man-made catastrophes on their clients’ portfolios across the world. 

Data developed by the team specifically focuses on gaps in the market for global perils where no reliable risk quantification tools exist, or where Willis Re can help clients enhance limited coverage or improve less detailed information.

Willis Re’s partnership with SpatialKey enables Willis Re clients to access this proprietary Willis Re information alongside data that clients may license from other industry sources, via a powerful and user-friendly geospatial platform. 

The territories and perils covered are broad in scope, ranging from volcanic risk in Italy, to tsunamis in Japan, to flood and storm event assessments in Europe and flood in Australia and New Zealand.


Karl Jones, Managing Director, Willis Re said: “It’s important for us to help clients understand their risk, especially for perils and regions that get less attention from the commercial vendors.  The expertise of our analysts around the globe, combined with the resources of the Willis Research Network and the power of the SpatialKey platform, puts the latest science at our clients’ fingertips.”

Tom Link, CEO of SpatialKey, said:  “We’re pleased to broaden the range of information that Willis Re clients can access through our platform.  SpatialKey’s vision is to empower insurers with all the information they need, enabling them to make optimal use of their risk capital to enhance profitability and resiliency.”

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A final look at the impact of Hermine

Posted on September 12, 2016 by Heather Munro


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With post-tropical storm Hermine no longer a threat, insurers are busy handling claims from wind, flood, and storm surge damages across the eastern seaboard.  An early estimate from catastrophe loss estimation firm Karen Clark & Company (KCC), predicts insured losses likely to approach $500 million, with total economic damages close to $1 billion. Three deaths were attributed to the storm.

Hermine made waves, so to speak, as the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The category 1 hurricane slammed into the state early Friday before weakening into a tropical cyclone and slowly heading up the coast, where rough surf kept many beaches closed over Labor Day weekend.

Most of Florida experienced a state of emergency and officials were concerned that stagnant water would help breed mosquitoes that could spread the Zika virus. In the town of Cedar Key, waters rose more than 9.5 feet, among the highest surges ever seen, according to the National Weather Service.

In addition to dropping heavy rain and wind on parts of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia, the storm caused power outages, coastal flooding, and beach erosion. By Sunday, the storm had weakened further into a post-tropical cyclone, settling off the coast of New York and New England and eventually dissipating.


As we near the halfway mark for hurricane season, it’s important to note that the damage could have been much worse. Responding to Hermine claims is a top priority, but it’s also a good time to evaluate your portfolio performance and to determine if your event response processes were as efficient as they could have been.

Like most hurricanes, Hermine was a dynamic event, strengthening and weakening over its life. Now that the storm is over, SpatialKey can help you visualize the impact to your portfolio, reevaluate underwriting guidelines, and even perform “what if” analysis such as considering if Hermine, had made landfall in St. Petersburg and exited through Jacksonville instead. Armed with this knowledge, you can adjust your strategies to ensure you are writing a healthy book of business.

You can also understand how to improve your response efforts for the next big storm by comparing your initial claims estimates from tracking the hurricane’s path and actual claims from the event’s final footprint.

With the National Hurricane Center keeping a close eye on tropical storms that could develop into the next named storm, you’ll need to prepare for all possible outcomes. Hurricane paths and footprints are automatically pulled into SpatialKey as soon as they are available, giving you the information you need to take action.

To learn more about how SpatialKey can help you apply the lessons from Hermine and other hurricanes for faster claims response and stronger portfolio performance, contact us today.

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Fizzled but not forgotten: Hermine may have weakened, but storm surge still a concern

Posted on September 7, 2016 by Heather Munro



Dozens of beaches were closed over Labor Day weekend, as post-tropical storm Hermine made its way slowly up the northeast Atlantic coast. Life-threatening riptides and rough surf kept swimmers out of the water in coastal towns across New York and New England.


On Tuesday, Hermine continued to weaken off the coast, but the storm is still expected to cause damage. Parts of Long Island are bracing for possible storm surge and moderate flooding.

SpatialKey can help you understand which insureds could be affected by secondary damage from the storm’s lingering presence. With the hurricane footprint from NOAA integrated within SpatialKey, you can also determine the storm’s impact on your book of business. Easily view and filter your exposure in coastal areas that have experienced storm surge or are expected to do so.

To learn more about how SpatialKey can help you understand your exposure and mobilize your claims team to respond to events, contact us today. 

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As Hermine changes, so does the impact to your portfolio

Posted on September 2, 2016 by Heather Munro



Officially downgraded to a tropical storm, Hermine is expected to bring heavy rain, tropical storm-force wind gusts, and isolated tornadoes in a swath from southeast Georgia to the Carolinas and southeast Virginia this Labor Day weekend.

SpatialKey can help you understand and re-evaluate which of your insured locations could be affected by flood, wind, and storm surge. With real-time data from the NOAA hurricane event catalog, SpatialKey allows you to evaluate your portfolio data and adjust your strategies as the storm unfolds. So you can mobilize your claims team to respond to the event as quickly as possible.

To learn more about how SpatialKey can help you stay on top of the latest hurricane data, contact us today.


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Track Hurricane Hermine using current path and footprint

Posted on September 1, 2016 by Heather Munro



If Hurricane Hermine maintains its strength, it could be the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005. Remember, SpatialKey gives you seamless access to the current NOAA hurricane event catalog—and is updated throughout the life cycle of the storm. So you have the latest storm data and can prepare your claims team to respond to the event as quickly as possible.

If you need access to hurricane data quickly, contact us today.

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Devastating earthquake hits central Italy: Respond now and plan for tomorrow

Posted on August 26, 2016 by Heather Munro


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 A magnitude-6.0 earthquake rocked central Italy early Wednesday morning, killing more than 260 people. Losses are expected to be below that of the 2009 L’Aquila event, which Willis Re estimated to have £502 million in insured losses. The quake could be felt as far away as Bologna to the north and Naples to the south, and devastated centuries-old towns where historic churches and monuments dot the landscape.

The picturesque village of Amatrice was particularly hard hit, with the mayor telling The Guardian that “half of the town no longer exists.” The town of L’Aquila, which lost 300 residents during the earthquake in 2009, has promised to take in the hundreds left homeless in Amatrice.

As your insureds in Italy focus on rescue efforts and begin the grim task of sifting through the rubble left behind, you can get a more complete view of your potential exposure—and market opportunities—throughout the region.

Understand and act quickly on the impact to your portfolio

Centered about 110 kilometers northeast of Rome and about 35 kilometers north of the deadly magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit L’Aquila in 2009, the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) estimates a magnitude of 6.0 and depth of 4 kilometers. Shallow earthquakes like these generally cause more damage, as was the case here.

To help you understand the extent of this and prior events, SpatialKey includes shakemaps from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) global library of earthquake footprints, which show the impact in and around the epicenter. You can easily visualize which policyholders have been affected and begin mobilizing your claims team to respond as quickly as possible.

Willis Re is already providing insurance companies with an assessment of their potentially affected risks by providing event-response analytics with SpatialKey.

“We have been assisting insurers in visualizing the event and their insured risks that are likely to have been affected,” explains Tim Edwards, Head of Europe, Willis Re Catastrophe Analytics. “We have applied the latest USGS event footprint in SpatialKey to individual client portfolios. This enables the identification of potential policies impacted by the most severe shaking intensities, including net exposures after earthquake indemnity limits. This has allowed insurers to work with their claims teams, senior management, and reinsurers and respond in a timely fashion.”

The image below is an example of the types of value-added analytics Willis Re delivers to its clients to support their event response efforts.



The epicenter was not within a major urban center, and losses from commercial and industrial facilities are expected to be low. Many Italian families, however, flock to the Apennines mountain region in summer, causing populations to double or triple this time of year—a seasonal factor that undoubtedly contributed to the hundreds of lives lost.

Following the quake, about 200 aftershocks rippled throughout the region, most likely causing more damage to many historic buildings because of shakes, fires, and landslides. Evaluating the impacted areas now to determine if the damage occurred from the initial and subsequent quakes will arm your claims team with the information they need to combat possible fraud in the coming weeks.

With risk, comes opportunity

As you wait for the dust to settle and the claims to begin coming in, you can use SpatialKey to easily display areas where past or future hazard severity may be indicative of loss potential. You can also get a better understanding of your potential exposure by portfolio segment, policy, location, or any attribute within your portfolio data.

Italy is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in Europe, and has documented at least 400 damaging earthquakes in the last 2,000 years. According to Axco, a recent Swiss Re report suggests that only one percent of private households have earthquake coverage, which is heavily limited.

What’s more, the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake made it clear that the Italian government can no longer act as the “insurer of last resort.”

In countries like Italy, it's important to visualize locations of older buildings because many were built before earthquake codes were in place. Savvy insurers looking for ways to pick higher quality risks are leveraging state-of-the-art tools like SpatialKey, and accessing multiple data sources to make informed underwriting decisions and write more earthquake coverage.

Now is the time to begin revising your underwriting guidelines to prepare for what could become a growing private insurance market. This latest earthquake may be just the catalyst to spur Italians to look for coverage—and you’ll want to be ready to write profitable business before your competitors.

To learn more about how SpatialKey can help you manage and grow your earthquake portfolio, contact us today. 

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Flooded with claims: Visualize how Louisiana event affects your portfolio

Posted on August 18, 2016 by Heather Munro



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Over the weekend, Louisiana experienced the worst flooding the state has seen since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A slow-moving tropical depression brought more than 30 inches of rain to parts of Louisiana, forcing the federal government to declare a major disaster on Monday. So far, at least 13 people have died, 30,000 people have been rescued from their cars and homes, and 40,000 homes and businesses have lost power.

Governor John Bel Edwards, who had to evacuate the Governor’s Mansion because of flooding, warned that the dangers are far from over. The Weather Channel reported at least six rivers hitting record high levels, with flood warnings still in effect.

As your insureds in Louisiana—and parts of Mississippi—prepare for continued flooding, you can get a more complete view of your potential exposure throughout this hard-hit region.

Quantify and act on the data you need right now

While the state waits for flood waters to recede and braces for possible flash flooding, the Louisiana Department of Transportation reported more than 280 roads were closed because of high water. Aside from rescue efforts, life has most certainly come to a standstill for your insureds in that part of the state.

To see the extent of the flooding, SpatialKey includes a flood footprint from our data partner, KatRisk. Armed with that information, you can see which properties have been affected, begin contacting your insureds, and mobilize your claims team to respond as quickly as possible.


In addition, SpatialKey offers you a choice of data providers beside KatRisk: JBA Risk Management is also available. You can gain a deeper understanding of the event by comparing and contrasting flood data sources from a variety of providers or select a single trusted data source as your preferred provider.

With the danger of flood still imminent in Louisiana, you can use the data from these expert sources to mitigate additional losses by reaching out to customers. Secondary effects of the flood will also almost certainly lead to more claims related to business interruption, contamination, and cleanup efforts. Evaluating the impacted areas now, can help your claims team determine if damage occurred from the initial flood or from a later peril.

Preparing your portfolio for increasing rainfall

Insurers know floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States. But it may come as a surprise to learn that heavy rainfalls, like the most recent one in Louisiana, are on the rise because of climate change. The reason? Warmer air can hold more moisture, which in turn, causes more rain.

“Very heavy precipitation events, defined as the heaviest one percent, now drop 67 percent more precipitation in the Northeast, 31 percent more in the Midwest and 15 percent more in the Great Plains, including the Dakotas, than they did 50 years ago,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Although there’s nothing you can do about the flood risk you’ve already written, savvy insurers are using state-of-the-art tools and data to make better underwriting decisions. With SpatialKey, you can easily display areas where past or future hazard severity may be indicative of loss potential.

What’s more, you can identify and add policies that capture adequate premium, allowing you to grow a healthy flood portfolio as competition for that business expands in the wake of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

To learn more about how SpatialKey can help you respond faster to floods and write profitable flood business, contact us today.







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