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Weather IoT: How does the Weather Impact your Business?

Weather affects our personal lives, influencing the choices that we make about what clothes to wear, how to travel, and the activities in which we participate in. How has IoT got to do with weather?

Most countries in Southeast Asia are located near the equator and experience generally two seasons: wet and dry. Countries situated further north, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, experience hotter seasons with temperatures going up to 40% and have snow capped mountains in some of the northern areas.

The most severe weather condition that Southeast Asia experiences is the monsoon season, where the prevailing winds blow up from the seas, bringing in rains and storms. The monsoon season usually starts in May, reaching its peak between August and October then tapers off by November. Between July to August, the rains intensify and evolves into storms or typhoons that rise from the Pacific and crashes through the Philippines and Vietnam and wreaking havoc along the way. In a 2015, a report by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction mentioned that flooding alone accounted for 47% of all weather related disasters (1995-2015), affecting 2.3 billion people, the majority of whom (95%) live in Asia.

Weather broadly affects many industries and the impact of bad weather is far reaching. According to a 2011 paper from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, routine weather events in the U.S., such as rain and cooler-than-average days, can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billon (in 2008 dollars), or about 3.4 percent of the 2008 gross domestic product. Businesses experience problems such as loss of revenue, staffing problems, inventory disruption and shipping delays when bad weather hits.

Internet of Things and the Weather

With the help of the Internet of Things (IoT), weather prediction has advanced towards higher accuracy and flexibility. IoT enabled weather systems are designed to collect data from various sources, ranging from cars to soil measuring, air temperature, barometric pressure, light, etc. Remote sensing technology has transformed the way data can be collected, the data is then pooled and analysed in real time, making weather forecasts more reliable.

I had the opportunity to visit the IBM Innovation Center in Singapore about a month ago and it was interesting to find out that they were doing some impressive weather related work. In 2015, IBM announced that it was buying the Weather Company, one of the world’s largest Internet of Things (IoT) data platforms, that delivers up to 26 billion weather forecasts daily. After the announcement, jokes that IBM had misunderstood the technical term "cloud" started making their rounds on Twitter.

In 2016, IBM revealed its plans on the acquisition by announcing Deep Thunder; a hyperlocal weather forecast—at a 0.2-mile to 1.2-mile resolution—to provide enterprise clients with short-term customized forecasts. Deep Thunder was created through a combination of big data and machine-learning tools from IBM Research with The Weather Company’s global forecasting model.

IBM Deep Thunder can also analyze weather for targeted areas retrospectively, and use machine learning-based weather impact models to help businesses more precisely predict how even modest variations in temperature could potentially have an impact on their business.

IoT promises to bring together data from on-field sensors, aerial drones and weather to generate actionable insights, allowing businesses and the government to take a proactive approach to the weather. Here are some examples where accurate weather forecasting could make a difference.

Agriculture

South East Asia has a large Agriculture base, producing palm oil, rubber, rice and other commodities. A simple application of weather analytics would allow farmers to know when and how much water to use on their crops, this would help improve crop fertility to ensure higher productivity and lower the risk of adverse weather.

Retail

Retailers blame "unseasonal" weather for results falling short. To proactively manage this problem, retailers can potentially use IoT, combining in-store, inventory data and longer term seasonal forecasts, to better manage inventory and their supply chains. On a shorter term basis, staffing levels and weather based marketing strategies can also be adjusted accordingly to weather based events.

Telecommunications and Utilities

Infrastructure outages under poor weather conditions are some of the issues that telecommunication and utility companies face. Prediction models of outages can be built with operational and weather data, this would help operational teams anticipate asset failure and plan for the appropriate responses to cope with these failures.

Disaster Management

Predictions of disaster hit areas will allow the government to better target evacuation efforts before a storm hits the affected area, this will help in better utilizing limited resources. At the same time, first responders can also enhance their plans by understanding the variations in storm scenarios.

How does the weather impact your business? Can the Internet of Things help to unlock weather related opportunities?

Our team will be hosting the 2017 editions of Asia IoT Business Platform in Thailand (24-25 Jul), Malaysia (27-28 Jul), Philippines (1-2 Aug) and Indonesia (7-8 Aug) to discuss benefits and challenges of adopting Internet of Things locally. Let us know if you're interested in participating by emailing info@industry-platform.com. 


By Ernest Ho | May 1st, 2017

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