Weather Underground Case Study
A few weeks ago we were at friends’ for dinner. On the back patio I noticed a weather station. I started asking my friend about it. (This happens to be one of the key folks who was instrumental in sparking my interest in technology early in my career. He gave me the opportunity to experience a wide variety of computing technologies. So we frequently talk technology together.) The conversation went down a pretty predictable path. I asked him about this or that capability of his weather station. He not only answered the questions but offered up other things he thought I’d find of interest. As the conversation was wrapping up I said “I know this might be a long shot, but is your station registered with Weather Underground?” He got a big grin and said “YUP!”.
I’ve used Weather Underground (WU) for a number of years. They have great methods for packing a ton of information into a single display. WU’s model for delivering hyperlocal weather relies on individuals with their own weather stations who are willing to register their station with WU. Data from those weather stations is then automatically uploaded to WU. Although I became aware of WU’s data gathering model a year or two ago, it was fascinating to actually see a station providing data to the service. It was profound to actually see one of these stations that I've been relying on as a WU user. WU reports they have over 250,000 weather stations providing data to their service. What a great Internet of Things example: Take advantage of a device’s ability to gather data, and then contribute that data to create a more robust aggregated set of data for reporting, analytics, etc.
But my interest in WU goes beyond the Internet of Things. Another area of interest in my consulting work is business ecosystems. More specifically, business ecosystems that are structured to create the “upward spiral” (as opposed to a downward spiral). The upward spiral is a virtuous cycle that creates more and more success for all parties as the system succeeds together. Smartphones and apps are a good example: The more apps that are available in Apple's App Store or Google Play the more attractive (and successful) those phone platforms become. And the more successful those phone platforms become, the more app developers think of additional apps to develop and contribute to iTunes and Google Play. The success in each area feeds the other area.
WU’s approach for gathering hyperlocal weather data was very wise: Leverage the power of the people who are already interested in weather. These hobbyists enjoy weather to the point they’re willing to spend their own money on a weather station. And by enabling the hobbyist to connect their station to WU they actually enhance the hobbyist’s experience. Those hobbyists are now contributing to a greater good: Helping people understand the weather around them. WU gets hyperlocal weather data for the “cost” of creating methods for personal weather stations to report their collected data. It’s brilliant!
Because WU touches on multiple areas of my consulting work, I’ll be doing a multi-post blog series on the WU service. The business and business ecosystem will be reviewed, as well as the weather station / data collection aspects of their service. WU brings the two together to deliver a fantastic weather service.
Are you a WU user? If so, why do you like it? Have you tried it and abandoned it? If so, why?
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