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CEO Q&A: How Weather Source uses Snowflake Data Exchange to share climate data faster

Thu 7 Nov 2019

Climate technology giant Weather Source recently joined Snowflake Data Exchange, Snowflake’s new platform aimed at facilitating swift and secure data sharing. Techerati spoke to Weather Source CEO Mark Gibbas to find out why the company got involved and the results so far

When did Weather Source first hear about Snowflake Data Exchange and decide to get involved?

Snowflake first popped into our mind when we read an article following the massive amount of funding it had secured. And after looking a little deeper, we found that Snowflake’s solution was ideal for our data requirements. In late 2018, our VP of business development contacted Snowflake to discover Snowflake’s proposition of an innovative data marketplace where data providers such as ourselves could showcase our data offerings.

The timing was perfect as Snowflake hired a new Director of Data Sharing, Bryan Naden, who explained the ambition of the Snowflake Data Exchange (SDE) and it instantly struck a chord with us. It was his priority to onboard data providers in advance of the SDE rollout, so we were at the very forefront of this exciting new data initiative.

What does SDE look like from an end-user perspective?

Weather Source’s flagship data product, OnPoint Weather, is a curated continuum of data from the year 2000 to present, and with a forward forecast view of up to 15 days. In addition, we also offer OnPoint Climatology which is the statistical representation of weather over time. This provides valuable insight on what is the “normal” or “average” weather (mean) and the “normal” standard deviations.

These two datasets are globally uniform and homogenised and available in hourly or daily format. The size of our OnPoint global datasets are over a petabyte.

From an end-user perspective, Weather Source does all of the heavy lifting as the data we deliver to the end-user is of the highest quality and has been gap-filled, error-checked and homogenised across space and time.

Enabling this dataset within the Snowflake platform and SDE removes the requirement for the end-user to engage in data moving and the ETL process as the data is instantly available and useable, significantly improving speed of insights.

How easy is it to integrate data and existing data to generate new insights?

All Weather Source Data Products are hosted in Snowflake. As such, Weather Source Data Products are easily accessible and easy to combine with other data within a users’ Snowflake environment.

Users can query and combine data using Snowflake SQL, and if needed perform more advanced analytics using integrated coding services such as Spark, Python, R, and other data analytics services, while visualising this data through tools such as Looker or Tableau.

What insights does the new data provide?

To put things in perspective, weather is the largest external swing factor in US economics and accounts for over $600 billion in annual economic loss. Almost every business has some degree of weather sensitivity.

Weather Source data enables companies to reduce waste, increase return on investment, fine-tune logistics, optimise marketing strategy and improve resource planning. In the retail sector for example, a nationwide retailer wanted to quantify the impact weather had on seasonal product sales to determine when to move seasonal products off the floor or mark-down products in anticipation of the upcoming season, compared to using a pre-determined date to move seasonal inventory off the floor.

Weather Source assisted the customer with the creation of a predictive model that forecasted end-of-season product demand based on identification of seasonal anomalies that resulted in continued demand due to atypical weather. After implementation, the retailer was able to recognise increases in end-of-season product sales, and an on-average higher sale price of end-of-season products.

Has SDE enabled Weather Source to further monetise data?

The SDE has enabled Weather Source to monetise its data by putting data in the hands of prospects in much faster than previously imagined.

Historically, data has been an expense under an IT department budget which is often understaffed and over-worked. Furthermore, the staff were not data experts and ETL required a learning curve, resulting in slower implementation of data throughout an organisation. This meant that it was much more difficult to get useable data into the hand of the business unit requesting the data and thus resulting in longer sales cycles.

Snowflake has flipped this process on its head as the Snowflake Platform makes the data in the SDE instantly useable, removing the legacy issues that surrounded data previously. The platform is far easier to use and data is instantly viewed in a manner that our business units can view.

Has SDE allowed Weather Source to target new companies and verticals?

The SDE has created an entire new sales channel as Snowflake users now have the ability to not only browse products and services within the SDE, but also instantly obtain data samples. This opens up a whole new world of potential prospects as the companies visiting the SDE are the exact companies that we want to talk to.

Furthermore, for industries such as retail that have very tight budgets, Snowflake is a great option for those looking to reduce operational costs as the whole premise of the Snowflake platform is robust performance at low cost. Snowflake’s solution is built in the cloud meaning that both the storage and compute are separate, so you only pay for what you use. There is also no ETL requirement, reducing OPEX costs.


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