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Chiba-shi, Japan

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 | 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."

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