Are we seeing Weather as a Service (WaaS)? Perhaps it is viable more now than ever, as many businesses rely on weather data to maximize profits. Drug companies and pharmacies rely on weather forecasts to predict when to increase supplies of allergy medications. Agriculture companies use weather data to maximize crop yields. Better forecasting for adverse weather conditions could enable airport controllers, for example, to plan for disruption and enable flight path optimization to reduce fuel consumption.
So two announcements this week highlight the change towards a focus on smarter weather predictions and enhanced data analytics for making money from data on the weather.
IBM announced Wednesday that it has purchased the Weather Company. [It is essentially buying everything except the actual TV network.] IBM is taking the Weather Company’s digital assets, including the Weather Channel mobile app, weather.com, and critically for IBM all the company’s forecasting data and technology. The Weather Company owns the largest commercial meteorological database in the world, along with massive facilities that collect radar, satellite, and other weather information.
And in the UK, having lost the lucrative BBC contract in August, the Met (UK Meteorological Office) announced this week its plans to raise £2bn by offering commercial supercomputing services over the web using a powerful Cray supercomputer.
According to the article announcing the purchase in ComputerWeekly, the Met forecasts that it estimates it will generate its extra revenue for the UK Treasury between 2016 and 2020. “Almost half of the revenue (£933m) will come from companies working to predict the scale and timing of climate change. Another quarter (£526m) will be raised through providing services to the renewable energy sector, which includes wind, solar and hydroelectric power, as well as nuclear power generation. The Met Office estimates that potential customers in the aviation industry, including foreign air forces, could buy up to £295m of services.”
Are IBM and the Met on to something here? So much of climate change is about adaption and response to conditions that are somewhat unpredictable. In terms of big data and smarter analytics, can weather prediction become even more useful as a pattern predictor that can teach us how to apply analytics in other industries?