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Tapping weather data to improve IoT applications

General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM

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The cornerstone of a cognitive business is a data platform that enables organizations to learn by linking business data with valuable external sources of data to understand context, uncover actionable business insights and become digitally disruptive. Over time, organizations have made great progress in creating a platform that curates and analyzes internal, enterprise information. Many organizations have made advances in extending that platform to include nontraditional data types.

In a hyper-connected world, where potentially every person and increasingly everything on the planet is a source of rich data, the explosion of data is outstripping our ability to understand the meaning of that data. Even more importantly, this data is being used to provide answers and insights back to people and things as they move around the planet in real time. Understanding that data is a critical precursor in the cognitive journey.

IBM’s developments in IBM Watson and cognitive computing, coupled with the superior power of the IBM Internet of Things (IoT) platform, can help strengthen our clients’ ability to understand information and make better decisions. The Internet of Things and cloud give us an unprecedented number of new observations—more personal weather stations, more data from trucks and planes and buildings, barometric pressure from watches and cell phones, more data about retail sales and visual data about the environment. This can help clients link their business data with weather and other pertinent information to understand context, uncover new business insights and transform operations. Watson will help accommodate new data sets, compute an ever-increasing amount of observations and let cognitive computing find new patterns and correlations. Businesses and people making decisions based on the weather will have greater knowledge to help them make better decisions.

With this in mind, IBM announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties of The Weather Company (TWC), the world’s largest weather enterprise. The planned acquisition would bring together IBM’s powerful cognitive and analytics platform and The Weather Company’s dynamic cloud data platform, which powers the fourth most-used mobile app daily in the United States and handles 26 billion inquiries to its cloud-based services each day.

The Weather Company provides IBM with a platform that can be expanded from weather data to ingest other kinds of information—created inside or outside the enterprise—at massive speed and scale, supporting an incredible volume of queries at very low latency. TWC’s mobile capability provides a solution for consumers, citizens and employees to access this source of intelligence in a localized and personalized way. Today, this is focused on providing weather forecast data; we envision that tomorrow, it could be used for other IoT applications such as smarter cities or utilities.

To understand how this will come to life, consider this potential use casein utilities. Through the use of The Weather Company’s highly granular weather pattern analytics and forecasting with IBM Outage Prediction and Response Optimization (OPRO), utility companies can identify high-probability outage areas and manage both resource logistics and load in those areas to help prevent major losses. By understanding predictive temperature and dew points, energy companies can manage power consumption and load factors to help optimize provision of electricity to those areas with the highest chance of power failure. Hurricanes, tornados, floods and many other weather-related disasters can be analyzed and mapped on a geospatial basis to help estimate the impact zone before they happen. This process can alert utilities on where to place resources, how to deal with rapid response and offer ways to coordinate with government and businesses to help provide accurate assessments and logistics prior to the event.

The Weather Company’s platform ingests, processes, analyzes and distributes enormous data sets at scale, reliably, in real time. The platform generates an astonishing 4 gigabytes of data each second. Its sophisticated models are capable of analyzing data from 3 billion weather forecast reference points, over 40 million mobile phones, 50,000 flights per day and more. The platform transforms and expands IBM IoT initiatives by enabling a strategic integration of global atmospheric and weather insights with enterprise information to create disruptive industry solutions that optimize decision-making and business processes. Once the acquisition closes, clients, partners and IBM will put these capabilities and assets to use in ways that directly benefit business and society. This is cognitive business in action.