PLATFORMS: Windows 95 and Windows NT.

BACKGROUND: Florida Farm Bureau Insurance (FFBI) is part of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, the state's general-interest agricultural organization. Florida Farm Bureau Insurance handles property, liability and life insurance for its members.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed a way to analyze our concentration of real and personal property insured for catastrophic events, such as hurricanes. To stay within our financial loss capacity, we must make sure we do not have more property insured in an area than we can handle. Also, when a catastrophe does occur, we needed a way to analyze where the incident occurred, what properties might be damaged and probable claim amounts. Applying mapping technology enabled us to provide the best means to achieve these goals. We are able to produce thematic maps for management showing exposure amounts and fluctuations on a grid draped across the state. GIS has allowed us to make precise loss estimates from catastrophes right after the event. We also wanted a way to validate rating information on insurance applications, such as how close properties are to the nearest fire station and what rating zones applied. With a modest amount of programming and additional map creation, we designed a system for checking all location-specific rating information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The new Universal Translator has placed whole new data sets at our fingertips. There are many digital maps available on the Web and from government sources. Many of these files are in DLG-O or ARC/INFO format, which can now be converted into native MapInfo format. There are a number of MapBasic tools available from MapInfo, written in house and others placed in the public domain. The new tool manager organizes these functions in a manner which documents what the application does as well as where it is located. Applets can be launched at will or set up to load whenever MapInfo is started.

STRENGTHS: MapInfo Professional 4.5 has better spatial queries than its competitors. Because MapInfo has a large market share in the desktop geographic information systems (GIS) community, data is readily available in MapInfo file formats. The company really listens to their users and is willing to incorporate suggestions from users into future releases.

WEAKNESSES: MapInfo Professional 4.5 needs some of the features other desktop GIS programs offer, such as new thematic map types (prism maps). Also it would be helpful to be able to create contours and regions of influence from point data. This would enhance the ability to analyze information fully. A free viewer to distribute maps would be great too.

SELECTION CRITERIA: MapInfo Professional was selected because of its community support (MI-L discussion list--MapInfo's on- line user exchange program, user groups, related Web sites), ability to create custom applications and price. This would enhance the ability to analyze information fully. A free viewer to distribute maps would be great too.

DELIVERABLES: With MapInfo Professional, users can perform sophisticated and detailed data analysis from a geographic perspective. This enables users to discover patterns and trends not previously detected on spreadsheets or tables, create quality maps that visualize data and facilitate effective decision making across the organization, and enhance reports and presentations. Besides creating maps to analyze the concentration of exposure to natural disasters in a designated area, our sales force uses the maps to show what business we have throughout the state. By looking at this information on a map, the sales team immediately knows what areas are too saturated with business and where to concentrate business development efforts.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MapInfo's vendor and reseller support is excellent.

DOCUMENTATION: Hard copy and on-line documentation are excellent and include examples for most functions.

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