The Perfect Storm - Missed Opportunites with Mobile and Big Weather Data

The Perfect Storm


As the ubiquity of mobile connectivity continues to grow, we seem to be missing an entire class of opportunity. The conditions for a “perfect storm” of circumstances have surrounded us for quite some time. So, why are the forecast conditions failing to cause action?

Current Conditions 

There are four factors that exist today influencing my enthusiasm for this perfect storm. They are the global advances in mobile connectivity, the ability to produce inexpensive micro-sized sensors, the low cost of data transmission and the mass adoption of GPS type services. And while these factors are the main ingredients actively driving many industries, they have yet to be combined to create a higher value approach to collecting environmental data on a mass scale. The higher value comes from the real-time and the high-resolution nature of data captured for input into almost any business equation. Imagine the possibilities of what could be accomplished if we had a billion global “actual conditions” data points feeding a weather forecast model. I am not a Meteorologist. I have however spent almost a decade working with leading experts in the field. Most believe that high-resolution weather data would produce more accurate forecasting on a street-level scale that would save lives and potentially billions of dollars a day in lost profitability for industries affected by weather. And here’s the most important point, every industry is affected by weather conditions…


Devices and Opportunities 

A possible reason for little development is a lack of interest for investing time and money in an area that is new and beyond the boundaries of one’s basic business. Additionally, it’s difficult to get many companies in different industries to work together for a common cause. To be significant, companies like SiriusXM, OnStar, GM, Ford, Mercedes, Audi, Nokia, HTC, Qualcomm, and many dozens of others would potentially need to invest time and money into an initiative holding unknown value. Security considerations have also been a deterrent for forging ahead. “Big Brother” issues and recent legal discussions on digital privacy tend to make companies nervous when deciding where to allocate R&D resources. However, both of these areas have for the most part already been addressed in the market through an effective opt-in strategy. In other words, a basic premise that could be incorporated is: those who choose to provide anonymous data to the network would then be eligible to receive services from products powered by the higher quality network data.

Incorporating a Windfall

 Let’s take a simple example and consider the commercial value of a real-time, street level (micro-scale) logistics program. This program could ingest traffic and weather conditions and produce more optimal vehicle routing. Based on company statistics, FedEx and UPS both operate approximately 100,000 vehicles each worldwide. When you factor in fully loaded operator drive-time costs as well as fuel and vehicle use, we could conservatively say that their costs are at least $1.00 a mile across their fleet. If a more accurate data program could save each vehicle one mile per day, then the total potential savings is $200,000 per day. Can you see how quickly the money could multiply given that environmental conditions such as weather affect almost every business in the world?

Now there is the consumer side of the equation. How much money would you be willing to pay to reduce the time you spend sitting in traffic, fighting that urge to return countless text messages? Or, how many times have you been caught in a surprise situation because you planned your day based on a “Partly Cloudy” forecast for your city while a smaller event drenched your neighborhood? Even if we see no advances in the science of weather forecasting, micro-scale data input would produce a more accurate micro-scale output on a street-by-street level. Specifically, the U.S. alone would see a huge value-increase when we move from a thousand nationwide data points to hundreds of millions of nationwide data points, an average microscale resolution of 10 to 20 meters in populated areas.

Weather this will happen 

This is such an exciting topic for me. Beyond the numerous business and commerce benefits, we could spend days identifying the countless advances in global public safety surrounding the idea of building a real-time, micro-scale data network. I contend that there is so much value in this initiative that companies might want to sit up and revisit the idea. The forecast conditions are ripe for a perfect storm…

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