The Weather Company will leverage one of the largest Internet of Things (IoT) platforms in the world to provide critical weather data to millions of people in currently underserved areas. With severe weather statistically occurring more frequently, governments and businesses are seeking supplemental weather data to better prepare for impending disasters.
For the period 2010-2015, severe weather events caused more than $100-billion in damage in the US, where modern warning systems exist, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Even more concerning is the fact that 70 developing countries lack robust early warning systems, exposing citizens to potentially life-threatening disasters. On a global scale, The World Bank reports that over the past 30 years, natural disasters, which include severe weather, have taken an estimated 2,5-million lives and cost more than $4-trillion.
To address these challenges, in 2001 Weather Underground (WU), a subsidiary of The Weather Company, which is an IBM business, developed the Personal Weather Station (PWS) Network. With over 200 000 stations in 195 countries, this network enables The Weather Company to provide hyperlocal forecasts to millions around the world with unprecedented accuracy.
Each station is equipped with multiple sensors for detecting barometric pressure, humidity, temperature, wind speed and direction, and other factors. Greater personal weather station data leads to more precise and enhanced forecasts, which can help governments and communities better anticipate and act on weather conditions.
“The Weather Company’s weather forecasting strength is based on more than 160 weather models and the expertise of more than 150 meteorologists to produce the most precise and accurate forecasts available,” says Mary Glackin, head of science & forecast operation, and senior vice-president for public-private partnerships, The Weather Company. “We are committed to continuing to improve the accuracy of our forecast and working in concert with national meteorological services toward our goal of providing every person on the planet with the weather forecast information they need to be safe and prepared in the face of weather. As our climate continues to change, our mission will become even more critical.”
To improve the availability of such data, Weather Underground is collaborating with various local meteorological and government organizations to provide 100 personal weather stations where they may be most beneficial based on population density, web connectivity, current infrastructure gaps, and exposure to unique severe weather challenges.
With this criteria in mind and as part of IBM’s philanthropic Smarter Cities Challenge programme, Santiago, Chile and Vizag, India will be among the first cities in the program to receive personal weather station donations. These stations will help city leaders and citizens better prepare and respond to emergency events, including weather-related natural disasters such as flash flooding, landslides, extreme drought and heat.
As the network is expanded into these areas, the data will augment official infrastructures, and combined with severe weather warnings and alerts issued by national meteorological agencies, will help communities takes measures to remain safe during hazardous or life-threatening weather.
“Because of its location, Santiago is vulnerable to a number of natural disasters. The combination of having Weather Underground’s personal weather stations installed throughout the city and having access to IBM experts in data and analytics through the Smarter Cities Challenge, will not only help improve local weather forecasts on an everyday basis but will help us to better predict a potential emergency situation and react in real time,” says Claudio Orrego, the chief executive of the Santiago metropolitan region.
As the PWS Network expands and integrates with the Watson IoT platform, researchers can leverage the cognitive computing power of Watson to develop new systems and applications for things like precision agriculture (for example, optimised irrigation, fertilisation, pest control) for these emerging and developing markets, thereby providing integral solutions for governments, city planners and businesses looking to optimize industry growth and management of critical resources.
In addition to IoT infrastructure expansion and data availability, the installment of these weather stations in data-sparse areas provides a unique opportunity for researchers and meteorologists to quantify the improvement in forecast accuracy as a result of the data ingested from each new each station over time. IBM’s Watson IoT technology, with the aid of this personal weather station data, will extrapolate upon current atmospheric models – enabling forecasters to potentially discover new predictive patterns.
As various IoT sensors have been introduced within the global marketplace, the expectation of IoT capabilities to help improve public safety, resource management, and streamline various business and industry needs has grown exponentially. In an effort to create an enhanced IoT infrastructure to address these needs, Weather Underground is working with the Trans-African HydroMeteorological Observatory (TAHMO) to deploy more than 300 personal weather stations across Kenya, Nigeria, and various other African nations, in close cooperation with the national meteorological agencies.
Each of these stations will be placed in a strategic location to serve a historically underserved community with real-time, accurate weather data. Potential results of the installations include helping improve irrigation and agricultural resource management as well as providing unique climate insights for the aviation, power, insurance, and various service-related industries.
“The private sector, including companies such as Weather Underground and The Weather Company, has played a useful role in the delivery of weather forecasts,” says Christian Blondin, head of cabinet of the secretary-general and director, external relations, World Meteorological Organization. “We welcome the role of such private sector companies in the provision of selected value-added services in complement of the services provided by national meteorological and hydrometeorological services around the world.”
Pictured: A close-up look at a personal weather station (credit: The Weather Company).