Due to climate change, powerful storms with hailstones as big as golf balls occur more frequently. But even with smaller sized ice projectiles, numerous vehicles are covered with countless dents, large and small. Frustrating for vehicle owners in the affected region, but good for business for Bochum Germany’s adomea (advanced optical measurement and automation) GmbH - when insurance adjusters and underwriters have difficulty handling the number of cases, despite additional personnel, this mobile hail damage scanner can help save time. Additionally, it makes complete documentation of damage possible for the first time. Thanks to high-resolution cameras, MIKo sees far more detail than an adjuster can perceive with mere eyes.

Rapid Surface Error Analysis

Policy holders in regions ravaged by hail need not travel to adomea in Bochum to have vehicle damage evaluated; MIKo (a German acronym for mobile identification system for vehicle surface defects) is mobile, fits in flight cases packed into a trailer, and is set up on location, such as in a warehouse, like a transportable roofless garage. Its aluminum frame construction, with a footprint of approximately 50 m² (538 ft2), provides sufficient space to check the entire surface of any current vehicle model. The walls surrounding the vehicle are illuminated by projectors. A total of seventeen cameras are mounted in different positions to capture the entire exterior of the vehicle.

Similar to an adjuster’s procedure, the reflection of a pattern on the vehicle’s surface is observed. But in contrast to a human observer, MIKo delivers an objective measurement result on a metric scale. By observing the reflection, even the smallest surface errors can be reliably detected.  In order to register the smallest irregularities and distortions within the surface, two Allied Vision camera models with high resolution are used: the 6-megapixel Manta G-609 camera equipped with a Sony ICX694 CCD progressive sensor, delivering 15 images per second at full resolution (2752 × 2206), and the 9-megapixel Manta G-917 camera, from the same camera family, which contains a 1'' Sony ICX814 sensor with EXview HAD II technology that distinguishes itself with outstanding image quality and high resolution.

“Moreover, due to the system geometry, they have to be cameras that can run on Power over Ethernet so that each camera only uses one single cable and a robust system construction is possible. Furthermore, because of the cable length necessary, only a GigE Vision camera would do,” stated René Franke, managing director of adomea in Bochum, as further reasons for selecting Allied Vision GigE Vision cameras.

Three-Dimensional Damage Report

All seventeen cameras are synchronously controlled using PTP (Precision Time Protocol).  Together, they generate a complete image of the examined vehicle. Using Allied Vision’s Vimba Software Development Kit, the cameras are integrated into damage analysis software developed by adomea where 3D renderings for nearly 90% of the highest sold auto models over the last ten years are stored. The results, specifically the individual dents, can be subdivided not only according to shape and depth, but also can be designated according to the corresponding section of the chassis. A visual representation of the damage is included in a damage report that is generated automatically. Using available interfaces, the common damage calculation software can be connected. Even system operation via tablet computer is possible.

René Frank summarized the actual measurement process: “The damage assessment takes two to three minutes and in another two and a half minutes, the results are logged and available.” For him, the enormous time efficiency, objective measurement result and complete documentation are the hail scanner’s significant advantages.

Camera Technology With a Good Image
Currently, five mobile MIKos are ready for use across Germany and are utilized anywhere hail damage occurs. In such instances, adomea works closely with different insurance companies as a cooperative partner. How much the entire damage assessment, calculation, and regulation process can be completely digitized is currently undergoing lively debate throughout the industry. In most cases, the hail scanner serves, at the moment, to support experts in most cases and has not completely taken over the evaluation process. Still, acceptance of “artificial camera eyes”, which in cases of doubt see more than the human eye, is rapidly increasing among policy holders that some prefer to rely on the technology rather than their adjuster. Confidence in an adjuster’s expert option increases when he or she makes use of modern imaging and measurement technology, according to Franke. 

The German specialists’ mobile hail scanner is in use in the USA as well, using the same measurement technology  and camera models as in Germany. However, due to market conditions, adomea’s systems engineers have created a highly flexible variation. The aluminum frame construction has been replaced by a large truck that can be set up and parked conveniently in shopping center or supermarket parking lots. The measurement chamber’s area has been adapted and increased in size to accommodate American pickup trucks.

While the MIKo image detection and processing system has been primarily used for identifying hail damage, adomea is already developing new models and is planning to use a 29-megapixel camera from Allied Vision. This next stage in the system expansion is expected to be used not only for identification of hail damage, but also for detecting the smallest surface flaws (such as scratches and rock impacts).