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IBM brings IoT-based weather analytics into critical business systems

Tue 31 Mar 2015

IBM will work with The Weather Company in a ‘groundbreaking global strategic alliance’ intended to offer rapid business insights based on meteorological conditions monitored by over 100,000 weather sensors.

Atlanta-based The Weather Company owns The Weather Channel and weather.com, and is collaborating with IBM via its global business-to-business division WSI. The project involves the movement of WSI’s weather data services platform to the IBM cloud, where integration with IBM’s Watson AI-analytics system will combine with an unprecedented input stream from IoT-based devices to furnish real-time weather-based business alerts.

In one example of the potential of the project, the announcement cites the possibility of real-time weather data to alert retailers to likely falls in income based on changing temperatures, allowing employers to adjust their staffing levels and supply chain.

Also noted is the potential for insurance companies to offload liability for hail-damage to cars protected under their policy by alerting customers to forecast hail damage – a problem which costs insurers $1bn annually. It is claimed that associated policies could fall by $25 per policyholder under such a scheme.

Another example notes that a five-degree temperature difference in Texas can raise electricity spending by $24mn (£16mn) daily, and claims that with better and more timely meteorological advice utilities companies will ‘be able to more accurately predict power consumption so they can avoid overproducing power, reduce service interruptions and better serve customers’.

Chairman and CEO of The Weather Company David Kenny says: “This is a watershed moment for businesses that have long been impacted by weather but haven’t had the rich data or enhanced decision-making ability to drive positive business outcomes. The combination of our new high-resolution forecasting capabilities with IBM analytics opens up a world of possibilities for the enterprise,”

Senior vice president of IBM Analytics Bob Picciano commented “There’s an opportunity to inform all business operations and decision-making with real-time actionable insight delivered securely via the cloud and extracted from all this data collected from sensors all over the planet,”

The new cloud-based system will deliver services to customers with three approaches: by joint development of industry solutions – primarily aimed at insurers, energy companies and retail and logistics companies – based around analytics provided by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system; via cloud and mobile app developer tools using analytics via IBM’s Bluemix app-dev platform; and by the training of thousands of consultants in the interpretation of industry ‘pain points’, to better understand how improved weather data can bring business savings and growth.

The Internet-of-Things miasma of global sensors from which the raw weather data is to be derived comes in the form of bespoke weather sensors, aircraft, moving vehicles and contributions from millions of smartphones.

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