The Weather Company crowdsources extra forecast points

Big data

The Weather Company crowdsources extra forecast points

Caroline Baldwin

“Weather is the original big data,” according to Bryson Koehler, chief information officer of the Weather Company, the organisation behind the Weather Channel in the US.

But weather forecasting has been going through a change, he said, and experts want to learn how they can improve it.

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“We have a company full of scientists, story tellers and folks who work hard to keep people safe – how do we provide these services?” said Koehler, speaking at Cisco Live in San Francisco.

“Not a lot of companies publish their mistakes every day," he said, admitting that the Weather Company is wrong 20-30% of the time when forecasting the weather. “And we’re the best, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

The company now has 2.3 billion forecast points, which has increased from only 2.2 million a few years ago. But despite this huge increase in forecast points, there is still a 1-2° fluctuation in forecast temperature accuracy every day. “If your business relies on this, that’s a big deal,” he said.

But according to Koehler, the internet of everything (IoE) has the ability to improve weather forecasts more in the next two years than it has over the past 20 years.

Koehler said gathering extra forecast points through crowdsourcing from “weather geeks” – individuals who enjoy monitoring the weather, usually using sensor equipment they have installed themselves in their back gardens – has also really helped the company.

Cisco currently provides infrastructure services for the company, and Koehler told Cisco CEO John Chambers during his keynote that he would like to see more innovation from the top down.

He also said Cisco needs to “think like an application engineer” by taking and building application with additional business value in real time.

“We don’t have time for massive long-term projects which go on for years – we have to be innovative,” said Koehler.

“There are people building applications in the App Store competing with us, and we’re arming the competitor. But that competition makes us better.”


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