WeatherSignal has now been up-and-running for just over eight months, and in that time we’ve really seen the project take off. We’ve had around 150,000 total downloads, with almost 45,000 users regularly contributing data from across the world. In only eight months we’ve managed to build the world’s first crowdsourced mobile weather network.
To get an idea of what an average day’s worth of data looks like, here’s a map of all contributions to the WeatherSignal project from the last 24 hours.
Our belief in the role WeatherSignal can play in gathering data for meteorological purposes is founded in our commitment to the idea that mobile phones are giving us the ability to completely transform the way in which we are able to understand the world. There are numerous examples of mobile sensor networks being used in innovative ways, and, with WeatherSignal and OpenSignal we are at the forefront of this technological revolution.
One of the questions we’re often asked is ‘what do you do with the data?’ The answer to that question is really twofold – we visualize it on this site, and we provide it as an hourly data dump to our academic partners, with the intention of helping them prove the value of smartphone-collected meteorological data. Below, I briefly summarize four of the most exciting projects using WeatherSignal data.
Dr. Art Overeem
Earlier this year we published a paper in conjunction with the Royal Meteorological society in the Netherlands, which used cell phone battery temperature readings to approximate ambient temperature. Art is now using the temperature readings collected from WeatherSignal smartphones to examine the historical correlations in other cities.
The main challenge associated with finding a use for the WeatherSignal data is proving the validity of the readings that can be taken from smartphones. In order to do this we need to compare a high volume of smartphone readings against a similarly dense network of designated weather stations. Birmingham University Climate Lab (BUCL) have a network of over a hundred weather stations set up across Birmingham, and we are excited to have the opportunity to use this network to prove that smartphone atmospheric readings can be both useful and valuable. The main emphasis of this approach is using smartphone readings to study urban climate, and we are very excited to see how this project turns out.
WOW (Met office)
The WOW initiative at the Met office is an exciting step forward towards citizen contribution to weather data collection. WOW allows owners of personal weather stations (which have increasingly come down in price) to share their data on a live map hosted on the Met Office website. We are in talks with the Met office to add a WeatherSignal overlay to this map, and the Met Office are very excited about exploring the potential for smartphone-collected data.
University of Washington
One of the challenges associated with using smartphone readings for general weather forecasting is the fact that the weather must be understood as an expression of atmospheric conditions. The Atmosphere is three dimensional, and therefore surface readings can only get you so far – which is why much of the work of weather forecasting is done by satellite. That is not to say that surface readings aren’t useful, they most certainly are, but they do have their limitations. but it is pressure readings that offer the clearest route towards incorporating smartphones into mainstream weather forecasting. Clifford Mass, at the University of Washington, is currently making use of the WeatherSignal data stream to investigate the effectiveness of using smartphone barometers for this very purpose. We are very optimistic that Cliff will be able to show that a network of smartphone barometers will be able to improve both the effectiveness and granularity of weather now-casting and forecasting.
We’re always looking for more partners to help us explore the potential for the WeatherSignal network, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact form. We’d love to hear from you!