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Two companies that use crowdsourcing to provide an alternative to data from traditional weather stations have joined under the same umbrella. Weathernews Inc Japan announced today that it has acquired Boston-based Weathermob for an undisclosed amount. Weathernews, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, claims to be the largest private weather information service company in the world. In Japan, it provides enterprise clients with meteorological data and also makes tools that allow about 20 million amateur weather enthusiasts to share reports and photos. In 2013, it released Sunnycomb, an iOS and Android app that marked its entrance into the U.S. With its focus on crowdsourced data, including information gathered from smartphones with built-in barometers, Sunnycomb competed with Weathermob’s app, which counts 100,000 monthly active users in 140 countries. After the acquisition closes, Weathermob chief executive officer Julia LeStage will join Weathernews as chief editorial officer, helping the combined company expand its worldwide operations. “We were direct competitors in the market and decided to join forces because in the weather world, more data is better data, and the potential of us partnering is better than doing it alone,” said LeStage during a joint interview with Weathernews director Tomohiro Ishibashi. “In Japan, Weathernews did very well, so everyone there knows the power of crowdsourced weather,” Ishibashi added. “But in the U.S., even though the market is big compared to Japan, people still don’t recognize the power of crowdsourcing, especially in the weather industry.” The Sunnycomb and Weathermob apps will remain separate for the immediate future, but the two may merge their databases so users of each have access to more information. Democratizing Weather Data Weathernews hopes its alliance with Weathermob will help it turn into a “major worldwide weather cooperative” that provides faster data than traditional weather stations. “We are about the app business in the first stage, but I see weather data as a basic infrastructure for everyone, like water or the Internet or electricity. Our final goal is to make this data open to everyone and easy to use,” says Ishibashi. LeStage notes that there are currently 29,000 weather stations worldwide, with the majority—about 20,000—located in the U.S. Many are maintained by governments or airports, which means that countries with less developed economies have reduced access to accurate information and are at a disadvantage when it comes to preparing for natural disasters. While Weathernews also maintains its own traditional weather stations, most of which are in Japan, Ishibashi believes the future of forecasting lies in smartphones equipped with pressure sensors, like the iPhone 6. “This is very important data for us because if we get data from pressure sensors, then can we can forecast the route of a typhoon or hurricane. A lot of devices now have sensors, in homes, in airplanes, in ships, so we want to gether that data, as much as we can. Even though the accuracy is a bit lower than data from big national weather observation stations, we have quantity and our goal now is to change the quality,” he says. Unlike some of Sunnycomb and Weathermob’s most engaged users, I’m not a weather geek. I’m usually happy staring out the window to see if it’s raining or checking my iPhone’s Weather app for the week’s forecast. Sunnycomb has proven very useful, however, for travel planning. For example, before a recent trip to Auckland, I was worried because the forecast showed nothing but a line of thunderbolt icons. When I looked at user photos in Sunnycomb, however, I saw that the rain was interspersed with patches of glorious sun and clear skies. While apps like Sunnycomb and Weathermob are useful for consumers, LeStages says Weathernews faces the challenge of convincing meteorologists about the benefits of crowdsourced data. “Traditonally the weather story has been told by scientists and they are used to getting data from weather stations operated by airports and governments. In the emerging market, they are almost non-existent because weather stations have to be maintained,” she says. “In my personal opinion, the disconnect is that the smartphone is fundamentally a tech play, so to depend on a new kind of data, I believe, makes many meteorologists nervous because it is new. Weathernews has already changed forecasting in Japan using crowdsourced data, but they are the only ones in the world that have that model.” As an example of how Weathernews is used by Japanese consumers, Ishibashi points to cherry blossom season, a major tourist event throughout the country. The government relies on temperature forecasts to pinpoint when blossoms will appear each spring, but climate change has made that increasingly difficult. Weathernews crowdsourcing tools allow users to upload photos, which, when combined with other weather data, make it easier for travelers and venue operators to make plans. Another hurdle for Weathernews as it expands into the U.S. is the fact that data from the National Weather Service is free and used by over 400 commercial weather companies. On the other hand, this can be an advantage for Weathernews, because weather agencies need to differentiate instead of using the same forecasts as their competitors. Weathernews’ data can also be valuable for agricultural companies and other organizations whose financial performance is tied directly to the weather, especially if they operate in regions where weather stations are scarce. For example, in 2013 Monsanto paid an impressive $930 million for weather technology company The Climate Corporation, in part to help it sell corp insurance in Brazil and Argentina. In the near-term, however, Weathernews’ goal is to grow its app business in the U.S. and pursue strategic partnerships in Europe, the next market it wants to tackle. “Sunnycomb’s launch was global and it was very focused on the U.S., but our struggle is easy to understand. We didn’t have a good English speaker, so we didn’t know about the culture,” says Ishibashi. “Now that Julia has joined Weathernews and is chief editorial officer, I believe this partnership will define the missing piece and help us increase engagement for Weathermob and Sunnycomb users.”


Crowdsourced weather reporting platform Weathermob has been acquired by Weathernews Inc., a private weather data company headquartered in Japan. Founded out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2011, Weathermob has often been called the Waze of weather, notching up more than 400,000 app downloads and a 100,000-strong active community who report on the local conditions where they are, using a dedicated iPhone app. The service basically combines social and meteorologic data in real time across 140 countries to try to convey a more accurate picture of the weather. Launched in Tokyo way back in 1986, Weathernews is a major weather data company that employs hundreds of meteorologists around the world, and secured $110 million in revenue last year. The company provides weather data to a myriad of industries, including airplane operators, ship routing, road management, and disaster prevention for local governments. Weathernews has dabbled in the social weather realm too, introducing a mobile app called Sunnycomb back in 2013. Similar to Weathermob, it’s basically a community of “weather enthusiasts” who report on the conditions where they are. In addition to traditional metrics such as temperature, emotion also plays a part — the app asks users how the weather makes them feel. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Weathermob only has a couple of small angel funding rounds under its belt amounting to $1 million, so this would have made the company particularly appealing from an acquisition standpoint, given that there isn’t a huge number of investors to appease. Ultimately, it’s a big win for both companies — Weathermob can scale a lot more quickly with the backing of a major company, and Weathernews can turbocharge its existing crowdsourced weather data. Crowdsourcing has become a hugely powerful means of acquiring large amounts of data quickly. Wikipedia has more than proven the model with its online encyclopedia, while the now Google-owned Waze has shown how crowdsourcing can improve real-time traffic reports. Companies such as Weathermob are doing the same with weather. While it’s still early days, the coming together of Weathermob and Weathernews could create one of the preeminent weather forecasting and reporting platforms, one that ties together data strands from a myriad of sources, including emotions, direct observations from those on the ground, and actual scientific data. The company says that it’s now well-positioned to “become a major worldwide weather cooperative with enough truly global critical mass to generate very precise weather data through integrating diverse datasets and user-centric weather reporting.” There are a number of other players operating in the crowdsourced weather space. It’s worth mentioning London-based startup OpenSignal’s own WeatherSignal app, which adopts a more passive approach to crowdsourcing weather data — it reappropriates the sensors from users’ mobile devices to serve as weather-capturing tools. For example, a phone often employs a barometer to improve GPS positioning, but it can also be used to record atmospheric pressure, the instrument’s original purpose. It would be interesting to see whether Weathermob and Weathernews could automate data collection in a similar way, as it would scale things massively.


News Article | May 20, 2015
Site: www.zdnet.com

Weathermob, the Boston-based social weather company announced that it has been acquired by Weathernews, Japan. The company intends to "create a leading social weather prediction platform for highly accurate forecasts using on-the-ground weather observation and reporting". Weathernews Japan has already validated the crowdsourced weather data model and is looking to increase its global reach. The Weathermob acquisition will give it enough global critical mass to generate accurate weather data through integration of its datasets and user-centric weather reporting. The release of the Sunnycomb app for iOS and Android in 2013 was the company's first foray into the global consumer market beyond Japan. Weathermob has been building the world's largest weather community with users in 140 countries. It aims to bring deeper weather data from people who are experiencing the weather first hand across geographies. Through social sharing, Weathermob has made anyone with an iPhone into a weather reporter and has been gathering a large dataset. Weather and climate data is an enormous and important business that extends far beyond the traditional forecast arena and dominates economies, let alone lives. A 2011 report from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found that finance, manufacturing, agriculture and every other economic sector are sensitive to changes in the weather, and may add up to as much as $485B in the US alone. The Weathermob app has been downloaded over 400,000 times. There are over 100,000 monthly active users, with an average of six minute session times on the app. Tomohiro Ishibashi, Director of Weathernews said: "Weathernews has been very successful because weather forecasts are based on users' uploaded reports, comments and photos - providing excellent real-time information and when partnered with Weathermob, provides extremely reliable forecasts that are even more accurate than the national weather bureaus' forecasts." Julia LeStage, founder and CEO, Weathermob said: "The Weathermob 'weather army' of users is a powerful source of information. Weather models for forecasts need data, and with Weathermob now working with Weathernews we can continue to help create and collect that data and fill in many of the gaps in the world's weather system together."


Weathernews Inc. Japan, the owner of Sunnycomb and Weathermob apps, is striking a new partnership with Paris-based Netatmo to use data from its home weather sensors for crowdsourced forecasts. Netatmo’s weather sensor sets, which is sold in 174 countries, are made up of small outdoor and indoor modules that send information about temperature, humidity, air pressure, and carbon dioxide levels to a connected app. The company has not disclosed how many of its sets are in use, but they are sold through the Apple Store and it claims to have the largest network of home weather sensors in the world. Tomohiro Ishibashi, director of Weathernews, says one of its goals is to become the largest crowdsourced weather company in the world, providing forecasts for consumers as well as enterprise clients. Weathernews, which acquired Weathermob recently to expand its U.S. presence, says partnering with Netatmo will allow it to provide more people, including Sunnycomb and Weathermob users, with comprehensive information about meteorological conditions. While Weathernews also operates its own traditional weather stations, it believes crowdsourced weather data from smartphones and home sensors are an important alternative for areas that don’t have access to stations, which are often run by the governments or airports. Crowdsourced forecasts can potentially help guide responses to natural disasters in places without stations, provide quicker weather updates, or be sold to industries like agriculture or shipping. Partnering with Netatmo is a big step for Weathernews as it expands in Europe. Ishibashi says the company hopes to strike more alliances with other companies that make climate sensors for consumers and also plans to create its own smart devices.


News Article | June 25, 2015
Site: thenextweb.com

There are 29,000 weather stations across the globe. 20,000 of them are in the US. This leads to huge gaps in coverage and means weather forecasters are often making educated guesses. That’s a big problem for us all and the secret to fixing it begins with cherry blossoms. No, really, stick with me here. Japan’s obsession with spring flowers will make weather forecasts better for everyone. In Japan, the cherry blossom season is a big deal. Hanami (‘flower viewing’) is an important tradition and there’s fierce competition to accurately forecast when the trees will start to bloom. From 1955, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the country’s national weather service, provided forecast data on when the blossoms would flower across the islands. Five years ago, it stopped. The reason? Other organizations had better data. And that’s why it’s getting easier for you to know whether you’ll get sun, rain or snow, wherever you are. The Japanese Weather Association, whose forecast is shown above, was the country’s first private weather company. It was founded in 1950 and employs 580 people. But it has been out-paced and outgrown by a much younger rival. Weathernews is now the world’s largest private meteorological services company. It’s headquartered in Japan and has over 700 staff worldwide in 40 offices spread across 15 countries. It was founded in 1986 by Hiro Ishibashi, whose interest in accurate weather data was partly inspired by the loss of a merchant ship during severe storms. Ishibashi’s son, Tomohiro Ishibashi, has followed his father into the family business. He told me how it managed to create a more accurate cherry blossom forecast by sourcing data through its mobile apps: Japanese people are crazy about the cherry blossom. They party under the trees. But the problem was that the old forecasting model was not accurate, because of climate change, it doesn’t work anymore. So we gathered data from our users. We said to them, ‘Please send a photos of the buds to us. As many as you can.’ We got images from across Japan and put all of that data into our system. It is much more effective.” Apps like Dark Sky have introduced innovative ways of displaying the weather. Ishibashi is a fan but says that’s not enough: He compares the process of improving forecasts to running a race: “It’s like the 100m sprint. Adjusting the algorithms just leads to a slight improvement over time. Using crowdsourced data is like suddenly running on a moving sidewalk.” In May, Weathernews acquired Weathermob (“Waze for weather”), a Boston-based social service. It had already launched Sunnycomb, its own app for iOS and Android (“the Instagram of weather”), using a similar approach in 2013. Both now coexist under their parent company feeding information into the same growing database. Weathermob’s CEO – now Weathernews’ Chief Editorial Officer – Julia LeStage had a previous life in TV commissioning. At UK station Channel 4, she was responsible for the first series of Big Brother. She’s now inspired by the mingling of information from smartphone users, traditional weather data and algorithms: LeStage argues that the company has changed the way weather forecasts are seen in Japan. It’s certainly the dominant player there with well over 20 million downloads for its main app. Ishibashi says the appeal of Weathermob was its community: It also has an interesting approach to letting users report the weather around them, tapping into the ubiquity of emoji. LeStage explains: But making it easier for people to share their own reports doesn’t solve the lack of weather stations providing accurate meteorological data. Weathernews has an answer for that. The company has just partnered with Netatmo, a French company behind the largest network of privately owned and smartphone connected weather stations. It’s suddenly able to draw a much better picture of the world’s weather. Netatmo’s devices are spread across 175 countries. They’re made up of an indoor module that measures temperature, humidity, decibels and CO2 in your home and an outdoor one which tracks temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. All of that information is now part of the overall data included in Weathernews’ model, meaning it can now make its forecasts hyperlocal. It’s as close as you can get to the accuracy of looking out of the window or even, god forbid, going outside. LeStage paints a utopian vision: “Many different countries collecting data and sharing it together, but it could be world changing in the way we understand the weather.” Ishibashi goes even further. He is intensely passionate about realizing what he sees as his father’s dream: It all reminds me of Samuel Johnson’s comment on the English and weather: With our smartphones in our hands, we can tell not just those we meet but the world about the weather around us and in doing so, we might just be contributing to data that finally fixes forecasts forever. Read next: Carrot Weather will be your favorite new sarcastic weather app


Weathernews, one of Japan’s biggest weather forecast providers and the owner of Sunnycomb and Weathermob apps, is taking a big step into the Chinese market. The company announced today it signed an agreement with Moji, the maker of China’s largest social weather app, to share data. Moji claims that MoWeather, its app, has 400 million users who upload weather reports from 700,000 locations throughout China. Weathernews, which acquired Weathermob in May to boost its presence in the U.S., says its partnership with Moji means it is now the largest crowdsourced weather service in the world. The Tokyo Stock Exchange-listed company operates traditional weather stations, but is bent on reshaping the weather- and climate-monitoring industry, which is worth an estimated $6 billion. To do this, it wants to move forecasts away from stations in favor of alternative sources such as reports by app users, smartphone sensors, and Internet-connected home weather stations like those made by Paris-based Netatmo, another recent Weathernews partner. Like Sunnycomb and Weathermob, MoWeather is a platform for people to upload photos of the sky along with comments about weather conditions. The benefit of using crowdsourced apps instead of services like Accuweather or the Weather Channel is that you see real-time updates about the weather and user comments about how it makes them feel, which is useful for sufferers of migraines, allergies or seasonal affective disorder. Weathernews director Tomohiro Ishibashi says that data from mobile devices not only increases the accuracy of forecasts, but also gives people in areas without traditional weather stations information that is important for disaster preparation and climate-dependent industries like agriculture. It is also a potential source of insight for mobile advertisers. For example, Moji currently monetizes MoWeather by using its real-time forecasts to target ads to people in specific locations. Weathernews has been aggressively expanding around the world over the past six months. After its acquisition of Weathermob and partnerships with Netatmo and MoWeather, Ishibashi says the company now has access to over 100 million weather observations—or photos and comments about climate conditions at a particular place and time—produced by a total of 420 million users. Monthly active users on Weathernews’ own apps now number 100 million people in 175 countries. Weathernews’ algorithms collects and analyzes data from all its sources, including MoWeather, Weathermob, and Netatmo, and delivers forecasts to its smartphone apps, website, and clients, who include TV news stations. Its larger ambition is to build a B2B consulting service that will target industries like aviation, energy, and agriculture. In China, crowdsourced reports are especially important because they fuel more accurate alerts when air pollution, a major public health crisis, reaches harmful levels. “We believe we can analyze real-time air quality from the color of sky photos by MoWeather’s users, and from user’s comments and emojis we will understand Chinese user behavior, feelings, or mood according to each weather condition,” says Ishibashi. Ishibashi points out that crowdsourced forecasts from China also benefit people in Korea, Japan, or Taiwan, since weather moves from west to east in that part of the world. For example, yellow sand and smog from China is a frequent source of concern for residents of cities in western Japan and Korea. One challenge of analyzing meteorological data is the lack of traditional weather stations, especially outside of China’s major cities. Ishibashi says Japan has three times more coverage than China, but increasing installations is difficult because it is expensive to maintain traditional stations, which are often run by airports, the military and government organizations. “In Asia, we are all connected, and Chinese data is the biggest missing piece for meteorologist who care about the whole of Asian weather,” Ishibashi says.


News Article | July 27, 2015
Site: www.fastcompany.com

She's no Al Roker; she's not even human. The top weather forecaster on Japanese television is Airi, an animated character on the Weathernews channel. (She's part AI and part controlled by voice actors.) Airi not only points out the highs and lows on the map but also chitchats with viewers, who send in comments and questions. With her wide eyes, giggly voice, and geisha-like outfit, this "Weatherroid" may be a quintessential "Only in Japan" phenomenon. But Weathernews aims to take participatory meteorology global by combining its technology for analyzing social-media posts with the native social networks in other countries. "We can't copy and paste a Japanese business model to the rest of the world," says Tomohiro Ishibashi, the director of Weathernews. But the Japanese aren't the only culture that makes weather a social affair. In May, Weathernews bought Weathermob, a social network for people to chat about the weather. Weathermob has about 400,000 downloads in 140 countries. Users post photos and comments to the company's iPhone app—often in the universal language of emoji. Today, July 27, Weathernews announced a deal to share data and data analysis with Moji, whose app, MoWeather, gets posts from about 80 million users in China. The two deals come in addition to Weathernews' own social weather app for the global market, Sunnycomb. A glance at some of the cheesy topics trending on Twitter might call into question the wisdom of crowds; but user input is key to improving weather forecasts, according to Ishibashi. "We do believe the people are the best weather sensor," he says. "They feel everything." Founded in 1986 by Ishibashi's father, Hiroyoshi, Weathernews began as a weather consulting service to the shipping industry. In 1999, under Tomohiro, Weathernews launched a mobile website, and in 2000 it began TV broadcasts. Weathernews users were submitting images of 20,000 trees that the company fed into a special computer model to make predictions. In 2005, the company started bringing its audience into the process with the launch of Weather Report, a site (and later an iPhone app) that allows people to provide photo and text updates on the weather around them. Weathernews combines this input with the official data from weather stations in Japan to fine-tune forecasts to its 20 million users—about 8 million of which provide regular weather reports—often in the form of photos showing clouds, tornados, or earthquake damage. (Weathernews makes money off the 2.5 million users who pay around $2-$3 per month for the premium version of the service.) Weathernews gained notoriety providing better predictions for the all-important arrival of the spring cherry blossoms than Japan's National Weather Service could. The NWS was observing 50 trees to make its forecast; Weathernews users were submitting images of 20,000 trees that the company fed into a special computer model to make predictions. Weathernews provides more than data to users: It provides a social experience. It's on-air presenters, called Weathernews-casters, are essentially performers and talkshow hosts. For example, hosts perform goodnight skits each evening based on a weather phrase of the day, such as "This year’s summer is really hot!" and "Survival food is really delicious!" User comments pop up onscreen during the performance. The Weathernews-casters can relate to the audience because that’s where they started. All the Weathernews forecasters are chosen by their fellow viewers in an American Idol-style competition. (Women dominate the field.) Even Airi the Weatherroid was created by a viewer. On August 1, Weathernews will host its second-annual SORA Expo, a weather-themed festival that it expects to draw 20,000 people. "It's like a rock concert," says Julia LeStage, a former daytime- and reality-TV producer who founded Weathermob and is now chief editorial officer at Weathernews. "They will get the equivalent of a Taylor Swift to write a weather song." As dwellers of an island nation subject to frequent natural disasters, the Japanese may have a special fascination with the weather. But Ishibashi and LeStage think that every culture has its own obsession with the sky. "We had 120 inches of snow in Boston this year," says LeStage. "And on a sparkling sunny day like today, that's something you think about." The conversation is certainly popular in China among the 80 million regular MoWeather users, and Weathernews says it can put all that chatter into better news. "They are actually not a weather company," says LeStage about Moji. "They are more like Instagram. They don't have any place to put the data that they take in." Social weather reporting can have the most impact in places where people are the only sources of information. That's what Weathernews provides—an algorithm and database to process photos of clouds and comments about heat into data points that provide a fuller picture of what's really happening out there. "We are very open," says Ishibashi. "Every text, every photo, every subjective feeling—it's all OK. It is all weather data, and it's all put into the model." Language isn't a barrier, he says, since the weather conversation has a pretty simple and similar vocabulary—shower, heavy rain, etc.—in any language. Weathernews will deliver these insights back to Moji and also use them to make its own service in Japan better. "If there is heavy rain in Beijing, two days later, Japan or Korea has rain," notes Ishibashi. It's up to Moji how it packages the insights to its users in China. Weathernews is not trying to take its social network into every country, just its algorithms. "Some apps are good for some country but . . . not good for another country," he says. The company aims to keep expanding to become what Ishibashi calls a global platform for the weather industry. Social weather reporting can have the most impact in places where people are the only sources of information. About 80% of the world's 29,000 weather stations are in Europe and the United States, leaving the rest of the world with a dearth of data that people with phones can now help fill in. "Ten years ago, mobile infrastructure would not be able to support Weathernews to make a play like this," says LeStage.


News Article | August 28, 2015
Site: www.cio.com.au

Predicting the weather is an inexact science. The weatherman often seems to get it wrong, and you find you really didn't need to lug that umbrella around on what turned out to be a sunny day. Crowd-sourced, hyperlocal weather information has been touted as one solution, and web-oriented weather companies are pushing short-term forecasts, also known as "nowcasting," to sky watchers everywhere. As weather apps and consumer hardware proliferate, advocates say millions of smartphones and other devices at hand are providing more accurate predictions than traditional models of forecasting. Introduced in July 2015, AccUcast is a crowdsourcing weather feature in the AccuWeather universal iOS app. Japan-based Weathernews has a popular app, Weathernews Touch, with a user base of some 8 million people across the country. Users upload photos of local sky conditions as well as subjective commentary such as how hot it really feels at a given location. The company's meteorologists review data and help produce localized forecasts. Weathernews also relies on a distributed sensor network for data. In addition to about 1,000 spherical “pollen robot” sensors that can detect airborne pollen, it has given out palm-sized WxBeacon sensors that can detect changes in temperature, barometric pressure and humidity, automatically uploading that data to the Weathernews cloud. "In Japan, according to our verification, our crowd-sourced forecast model’s accuracy is approximately 10 to 20 percent higher than traditional weather forecast models on average," said Ryosuke Ueyama, a spokesman for Weathernews. "The crowd-sourced forecast model works really well at one to three hours short range forecast as we operate 24 hours and update our weather information in real time," he said. Ueyama said the insights of millions of users eclipse the predictive powers of the state-run Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) when it comes to the nation's most important weather event -- the blooming of cherry trees in spring. The JMA used to devote a supercomputer to forecast the cherry front as it moved up the archipelago, but then switched to blooming estimates based on sample trees. It abandoned the cherry predictions altogether in 2009. In contrast, the Weathernews Touch app has crowd-based forecasts of blossoms for 700 locations across Japan. Since more data can yield better accuracy, weather companies are competing for the biggest datasets. Weathernews recently acquired Boston-based social weather company Weathermob, which has an app of the same name that claims over 100,000 monthly active users. It also formed partnerships with the China-based MoWeather app, as well as France's Netatmo, which has an international network of home weather stations. With these moves, Weathernews now claims more than 100 million active monthly users across 175 countries. Crowd-sourcing weather info isn't new, but more and more companies are tapping people power. Last month, U.S. weather news provider AccuWeather launched its first direct consumer crowd-sourcing feature, AccUcast. The service draws on real-time weather and road conditions submitted by users of the AccuWeather iOS app. Users can select from conditions such as "partly cloudy" and road conditions such as "reduced visibility." Each report is represented by a pin on an interactive animated global weather map. "We receive and manage more than 12 billion data requests every day," AccuWeather's president of digital media, Steve Smith, said via email. "Our team takes this information and uses a combination of proprietary algorithms, expert system modeling, unique foundational datasets and the experience of more than 100 meteorologists to deliver trusted weather reporting for any location on Earth." Some experts caution, though, that crowd-sourced weather isn't yet as reliable as it's made out to be. "Most of the crowd-sourcing claims are hype with little basis," Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington who has a prominent blog about the weather, said via email. The exception is pressure readings from phones, said Mass, who coauthored a paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society outlining what the coming network of hundreds of millions of smartphones with barometers means for forecasting. Already, apps such as WeatherSignal and PressureNet, which can measure barometric pressure, are gaining traction and attracting the attention of meteorologists. When acclaimed iOS weather app Dark Sky, which also uses the crowd, announced an update in June, it included support for pressure readings from the iPhone 6, the first Apple phone to pack a barometer. Pressure sensors have been in other smartphones for some time, but the iPhone’s popularity is helping turn mobile devices into a useful sensor network that can help with forecasting. Dedicated weather stations at fixed locations are another important source of weather data supplied by the crowd, Mass said. "Smartphones are an excellent delivery tool of weather information, but no one has proved it to be a useful weather observation tool."


News Article | August 29, 2015
Site: www.computerworld.in

Predicting the weather is an inexact science. The weatherman often seems to get it wrong, and you find you really didn't need to lug that umbrella around on what turned out to be a sunny day. Crowd-sourced, hyperlocal weather information has been touted as one solution, and web-oriented weather companies are pushing short-term forecasts, also known as "nowcasting," to sky watchers everywhere. As weather apps and consumer hardware proliferate, advocates say millions of smartphones and other devices at hand are providing more accurate predictions than traditional models of forecasting Introduced in July 2015, AccUcast is a crowdsourcing weather feature in the AccuWeather universal iOS app. Japan-based Weathernews has a popular app, Weathernews Touch, with a user base of some 8 million people across the country. Users upload photos of local sky conditions as well as subjective commentary such as how hot it really feels at a given location. The company's meteorologists review data and help produce localized forecasts. Weathernews also relies on a distributed sensor network for data. In addition to about 1,000 spherical “pollen robot” sensors that can detect airborne pollen, it has given out palm-sized WxBeacon sensors that can detect changes in temperature, barometric pressure and humidity, automatically uploading that data to the Weathernews cloud. "In Japan, according to our verification, our crowd-sourced forecast model’s accuracy is approximately 10 to 20 percent higher than traditional weather forecast models on average," said Ryosuke Ueyama, a spokesman for Weathernews. "The crowd-sourced forecast model works really well at one to three hours short range forecast as we operate 24 hours and update our weather information in real time," he said. Ueyama said the insights of millions of users eclipse the predictive powers of the state-run Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) when it comes to the nation's most important weather event -- the blooming of cherry trees in spring. The JMA used to devote a supercomputer to forecast the cherry front as it moved up the archipelago, but then switched to blooming estimates based on sample trees. It abandoned the cherry predictions altogether in 2009. In contrast, the Weathernews Touch app has crowd-based forecasts of blossoms for 700 locations across Japan. Since more data can yield better accuracy, weather companies are competing for the biggest datasets. Weathernews recently acquired Boston-based social weather company Weathermob, which has an app of the same name that claims over 100,000 monthly active users. It also formed partnerships with the China-based MoWeather app, as well as France's Netatmo, which has an international network of home weather stations. With these moves, Weathernews now claims more than 100 million active monthly users across 175 countries. Crowd-sourcing weather info isn't new, but more and more companies are tapping people power. Last month, U.S. weather news provider AccuWeather launched its first direct consumer crowd-sourcing feature, AccUcast. The service draws on real-time weather and road conditions submitted by users of the AccuWeather iOS app. Users can select from conditions such as "partly cloudy" and road conditions such as "reduced visibility." Each report is represented by a pin on an interactive animated global weather map. "We receive and manage more than 12 billion data requests every day," AccuWeather's president of digital media, Steve Smith, said via email. "Our team takes this information and uses a combination of proprietary algorithms, expert system modeling, unique foundational datasets and the experience of more than 100 meteorologists to deliver trusted weather reporting for any location on Earth." Some experts caution, though, that crowd-sourced weather isn't yet as reliable as it's made out to be. "Most of the crowd-sourcing claims are hype with little basis," Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington who has a prominent blog about the weather, said via email. The exception is pressure readings from phones, said Mass, who coauthored a paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society outlining what the coming network of hundreds of millions of smartphones with barometers means for forecasting. Already, apps such as WeatherSignal and PressureNet, which can measure barometric pressure, are gaining traction and attracting the attention of meteorologists. When acclaimed iOS weather app Dark Sky, which also uses the crowd, announced an update in June, it included support for pressure readings from the iPhone 6, the first Apple phone to pack a barometer. Pressure sensors have been in other smartphones for some time, but the iPhone’s popularity is helping turn mobile devices into a useful sensor network that can help with forecasting. Dedicated weather stations at fixed locations are another important source of weather data supplied by the crowd, Mass said. "Smartphones are an excellent delivery tool of weather information, but no one has proved it to be a useful weather observation tool."


News Article | May 20, 2015
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The amount of the deal, which aims to create a social weather prediction platform for accurate forecasts using on-the-ground weather observation and reporting, was not disclosed. In conjunction with the transaction, Founder and CEO of Weathermob Julia LeStage joined Weathernews as Chief Editorial Officer. Weathermob has been building a large weather community to bring weather data from the people who are experiencing the weather first hand across geographic regions via its social sharing features. Its app has over 400,000 downloads and more than 100,000 monthly active users, with an average of 6 minute session times. The company has secured $1m in funding. Weathernews is a private weather information service company providing disaster mitigation and advanced warning services and operating a community where people can connect on a social and local level. Its Sunnycomb app is available for iOS and Android.

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