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January 9, 2019updated 23 May 2019 8:53am

IBM Weather Forecasting Crowd Sources Data Via Phones and Planes

"Weather influences what people do day-to-day and is arguably the most important external swing factor in business performance"

By CBR Staff Writer

A new weather forecasting system developed by IBM will be the first to utilise data collected from atmospheric sensors on aircraft, enabling a higher degree of forecast accuracy in regions of the global that don’t have specialised weather instruments.

The Weather Company, a subsidiary of IBM, has unveiled the Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) which will provide hourly-updated weather forecasts with a high degree of accuracy.

GRAF will gather data in a crowd source manner from millions of devices and sensors worldwide to build a dataset of constantly updating weather informatics.

Individuals can contribute to the dataset by allowing IBM to tap up their smartphone for the data it can gather via embedded barometers which provide pressure sensor readings of the atmosphere.

Cameron Clayton, GM of Watson Media and Weather for IBM commented that: “Today, weather forecasts around the world are not created equal, so we are changing that.”

While weather forecasts in North America and Western Europe often have a high degree of accuracy and frequency, the rest of the world does not have access to precise measurements.

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In many cases forecasts that try to predict weathers system, for example over a 15 kilometre section of land, are inaccurate and are too wide to identify many weather events. Even if they do manage to accurately predict a forecast most are only updated every 6 to 12 hours.

See Also: UK Ordnance Survey to use Mobileeyes EyeQ to Build Detailed Maps

IBM’s GRAF system aims to provide 3 kilometre resolution forecasts that are updated on an hourly basis.

“Weather influences what people do day-to-day and is arguably the most important external swing factor in business performance. As extreme weather becomes more common, our new weather system will ensure every person and organization around the world has access to more accurate, more finely-tuned weather forecasts,” commented Cameron Clyaton.

IBM Weather

To crunch all the data gather by atmospheric sensors on planes and smartphones, as well as The Weather Company’s existing datasets, GRAF will use IBM’s POWER9 high performance computing hardware.

POWER9 is a 14nm manufactured symmetric multiprocessor custom made for use on intensive data workloads. The system has the computational power to process 10 terabytes of weather data daily providing highly accurate localised weather predictions.

POWER9 hardware is currently used by the world’s most powerful supercomputers Summit and Sierra, built by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Predictions made by The Weather Companies new GRAF system will be made globally available at a later point in 2019.

Dark Clouds Hanging Overhead

IBM bought The Weather Company in 2016, taking over all of its assets with the exception of The Weather Channel, who still receives weather forecast data via a long-term licensing agreement with IBM. IBM does have usage right of The Weather Channel branding.

Forecasts made by the GRAF system will be made available to users via The Weather Channel application.

IBM Weather

However, many may view the crowd sourcing element of the system and its connection to The Channel application with some suspicions, as the attorney for the city Los Angeles has this month filed a lawsuit claiming that The Weather Channel application deceptively collected and profited from the location information it had gathered from American users.

The lawsuit also claims that the application designed by the IBM owned Weather Company unfairly manipulated users into allowing location tracking by stating that the data would only be used for localised weather reports. The LA city attorney claims that the location data gathered was used to target users with commercial marketing.

IBM spokesman Saswato Das told the New York Times that: “The Weather Company has always been transparent with use of location data; the disclosures are fully appropriate, and we will defend them vigorously.”

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