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MIT grads weather out solution to forecast issues

This new software could be answer to changeable British summers

Jake Stones
3 Jan 2019
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Three former MIT graduates have developed a new way of observing ground level weather patterns through the wireless networks in our phones and connected devices, creating the densest weather monitoring network on the planet.

Taking advantage of the wireless world, such as communication networks from mobile phones and the “internet of things”, the three founding members of the company ClimaCell have managed to create virtual sensors capable of tracking and predicting weather patterns.

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Classically, weather is predicted through satellites and radar tech. However, as most citizens of the UK know all too well, these means don’t always prove accurate. In fact, most barbeques are tentatively attended and no one is surprised when the host forces inside due to a surprise thunderstorm.

For those who don’t believe cooking off the hob “tastes the same anyway”, then the ClimaCell tech is exactly what you need in your life.   

ClimaCell tech utilises the fact that weather patterns intervene with the connectivity between our everyday devices. Unbeknownst to us (unless it starts to rain, of course), all connections to our wireless devices are impacted by minor alterations in precipitation. That’s because the changes are too small to notice; our phones will receive messages and play videos all the same.

However, our smart devices do still pick up these interferences, making them prime extensions for an immediate ground level weather system. With this information (literally) to hand, the team at MIT created sophisticated algorithms to monitor the data disruptions caused by changes in weather patterns.

The fruit of their labour? Enter ClimaCell’s software, dubbed HyperCast, which strings together all the data from wireless devices in a single area, producing the densest network of weather sensors in the world.

The software is able to create weather forecasts relative to every 500-metre space on the surface of the Earth, which can be updated every minute.

Two years after its inception, ClimaCell’s technology is garnering a warm reception in the world of business. Current ClimaCell customers include airlines JetBlue and Delta, and the company has independently released a Skill for the Amazon Alexa and Echo devices. 

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Broader applications include using the technology to aid with flood prediction. ClimaCell’s founders are all too aware that the the countries and cultures which suffer the most from extreme flash floods tend to be those with significantly underdeveloped infrastructure to deal with them. This is something the MIT team hope to rectify, with the help of their handy new technology.

The endeavour’s chief strategist, Rei Goffer, lamented that “the most weather-sensitive communities around the world actually get access to the poorest-quality data,” dubbing it “a huge market failure”.

With demand for its technology abounding, ClimaCell’s future looks bright. Goffer, for one, is optimistic. “The biggest challenge for us is there’s just a huge amount of opportunities,” he commented.

Barbeque fiends, in the meantime, needn’t worry. A first iteration consumer app has been released to both Google Play and App Store customers. Meaning, come next summer, you’ll be able to plan ahead for the 15 minutes of dry weather you need to make the perfect burger – and then eat it inside.

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