The Weather Company: The Internet of Weather Things

doddi    March 27, 2017

Weather is one of the biggest influences in our lives. In the last few years, social media tools have become increasingly important in the communication of weather related warnings and forecasts.  Businesses with heightened access to detailed, relevant, real-time weather information are able to make more informed decisions which can significantly impact their bottom line and save lives.

As the trend towards data analytics continues, the role of social media in the future of weather tracking will be notable.  In fact, many weather services claim that social media will be a key tool in helping track severe weather in the future.  Recent research completed by Warwick University in Britain found that certain words and photos on social media can act to predict extreme weather conditions before they actually occur.  According to Warwick, certain words on social media platforms like Flickr can signal weather risks developing in specific locations at specific times.  “Our analysis demonstrates that metadata in social media image postings enables them to be used as social sensors, which can serve as a valuable supplement to instrument-based systems for predicting and monitoring floods, and other kinds of natural hazards” said researcher, Nataliya Tkachenko of the Warwick Institute for the Science of Cities.

The growth of the Internet of Things will have a positive impact on social media’s use with weather. For example, several U.S. States use a variety of sensors to provide real-time data on pavement conditions.  The sensors can determine “grip factor” which is a measurement of how slippery the road is.  The lower the grip factor, the more adverse the road conditions.  The conditions read by the sensors are monitored by the Transportation Management Center which is the nerve center for hundreds of plows and road crews around the state. Sensor data is tracked and used to communicate road conditions to drivers on the message boards along the highways.  In the future, such data from weather information systems could potentially be used  by self-driving vehicles to make navigation decisions.

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, is the world’s largest private weather enterprise, helping people make informed decisions  and take action in the face of weather. The company offers the most accurate, personalized and actionable weather data and insights to millions of consumers, as well as thousands of marketers and businesses.

In 2015, IBM announced the purchase of The Weather Company which included a large number of weather data collection points and consumer and business applications.  The Weather Company collects data from around the world, relying on 100 terabytes of third-party data from a network of 200,000 personal weather stations as well as atmospheric pressure data from smartphones and traditional radar and satellite data.  From this data, the system produces forecasts for approximately 2.2 billion locations worldwide,  totaling up to 26 billion forecasts per day.   With the understanding that weather has an impact on everything we do, IBM in its spirit of innovation had the foresight to develop a tool called Deep Thunder which advances the precision and accuracy of weather forecasting by combining hyper-local, short-term custom forecasts developed by IBM Research with The Weather Company’s global forecast model.  The tool will assist business leaders to make better critical decisions by providing access to weather data that will help them understand how slight changes to weather can impact things like consumer behaviour, sales and supply chain.


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For example, the Weather Company mines Doppler weather radar data and provides the data to insurance companies who can then use the data to notify its customers of weather events like an imminent hail storm, the customers can then react by parking their cars in a garage hence avoiding losses for the insurance company and customers.  This is an example of how the Weather Company will leverage data and science.

Another example of how the Weather Company is using the Internet of Things and data analytics to optimize the use of social media is by sharing data regarding pollen levels with pharmaceutical companies.  There are an estimated 50 million allergy sufferers in the U.S. , 80% of which attribute symptoms to weather.  The Weather Company can use data analytics and work with pharmaceutical companies to alert people when pollen levels reach a certain level that will trigger allergies so that people can better prepare.

Furthermore, the Weather Company plans to leverage its robust Internet of Things platform via a recent collaboration with the BMW Group. The Weather Channel’s hyper-local forecast weather data will now be featured in their Connected Drive systems in vehicles across North America, thus, providing drivers with deeper insight on weather conditions helping drivers arrive to their destination safely and efficiently.

Moreover, the Weather Company is utilizing innovative social media strategies to save lives when networks are down.  The Weather Company in its joint venture with IBM has determined a way to send weather alerts even when networks are down via mesh networking. With mesh networking, a device with access to connectivity is able to receive the latest information and send it to others nearby who can then pass it onwards as soon as others are in the vicinity.  Mesh networking leverages the common use of smart phones in developing countries. Information can now be passed over long distances even without internet connection. “The combination of the innovative mesh network alerts and global reach of the Weather Channel mobile app can deliver a new level of underserved populations” said Bijan Davar, IBM Fellow and VP, Next Generation Computing Systems and Technology IBM Research. The mesh network is an innovative and promising initiative that does not rely on drones or balloons to deliver internet connectivity but instead relies on the smart phone which is the most prolific thing in the world.

You may soon experience the effects of IBM Watsons Internet of Things in your own community. Wouldn’t it be great if in a thunderstorm, street lights would adjust to enhance your visibility and minimize glare?   A Minneapolis suburb in conjunction with the Weather Company is now drawing on Watson’s data analytics to provide weather information that can be disseminated to lighting systems.


Lessons for Others


Key takeaways:

  • Data mining and date analytics will have a significant impact on the future of social media customization
  • Internet of Things will continue to be a powerful tool in connecting all people and things globally.
  • Internet of Things will help companies provide very precise customization and optimize efficiencies in supply chain
  • Data analytics  and innovative initiatives like the mesh network have the potential to impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
  • The future of social media serves to provide businesses and people globally with convenient access to accurate, precise, real-time information so that faster and critical decisions can be made .

Organization: The Weather Company
Industry: weather
Name of Organization Contact: Andria Stark, Communications Manager

Authored by: Diana N. Oddi

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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