ClimaCell Weather Data Comes from Cellular Networks
In today’s on-demand society, we want instant gratification, whether it’s hailing an Uber or streaming Netflix. Having to wait more than five minutes for anything these days could be grounds for a lawsuit. The same attitude extends to our need for data in the Information Age. Our hyper-connected, sensor-laden world collects terabytes of data every fraction of a second, feeding the hungry algorithms that monitor industrial machinery for failure or spot a face in the crowd. Despite our heedless rush toward the Singularity – that moment in time when our technology will outpace and enslave us – most of the time we’re still concerned about more mundane things, like the weather. Even then, we demand infallible hour-by-hour weather forecasts, cursing the weather guessers when they rain on our picnic. A startup called ClimaCell says it analyzes weather data with a unique twist for street-level forecasting.
We first featured ClimaCell earlier this year for our roundup of six weather forecasting tech startups. The Boston-based startup just raised a $45 million Series B a few days ago, bringing total funding to $65 million in just two years. While it’s easy to dismiss ClimaCell as small potatoes in this new age of $100 million mega-rounds, that’s still a ton of cash when it would just be a lot cheaper and easier to buy and carry an umbrella around all the time. Obviously, something is going on here.
Maybe it’s the company’s origin story: ClimaCell was founded by three Israeli military veterans who were somehow reunited while all pursuing graduate degrees at Harvard and MIT. As the story goes, CEO and co-founder Shimon Elkabetz nearly died due to a faulty weather forecast while flying as a pilot for the Israeli Defense Forces. A quick look at the investors’ list will show us where some of the interests are located: JetBlue and Ford are among the backers, and mobility/transportation is one of the key markets targeted by ClimaCell.
Where Does ClimaCell’s Weather Data Come From?
So, what makes ClimaCell special? It’s forecasting technology goes way beyond the usual satellites, as well as ground-based radars and weather stations. While the startup leverages these traditional weather data sources, its solution is software-based. Specifically, it has developed algorithms to analyze how ground-level precipitation and other conditions affect signals in cellular networks – data missed by the world’s 940 ground-based weather radars. (This sounds a bit like the technical wizardry involved in turning WiFi signals into motion sensors.) The platform works by analyzing changes in microwave signals between cellular towers, which reveals the type and intensity of the precipitation down to street level. That means ClimaCell can predict rain on your street but says nothing will happen just a few blocks away with amazing accuracy.
Climacell also taps into millions of IoT devices to deliver additional temperature and storm data not regularly collected, throwing a much denser net (500 million weather data points versus about 12,000 used by most other weather companies) to create micro-weather forecasting models.
Use Cases for ClimaCell Weather Data
ClimaCell produces two products from its unique weather data. Hypercast is its historical, real-time and near-time weather-forecasting software (along with a version tailored for the aviation industry). Its Microweather API can be incorporated into a company’s applications for various uses, from navigating drones through a windswept cityscape to whether an impending downpour will justify a 20-percent hike in ride-sharing fares.
Let’s take a closer look at how Hypercast could potentially help a company like JetBlue pocket even more of its outrageous baggage fees. JetBlue went live with Hypercast back in 2017 in Boston. In one instance, every major weather company predicted that a snowstorm over Logan Airport would end by 11 am, while ClimaCell called for an end to the storm by about 8 am. That three-hour window was the difference between more cancelled flights, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Specifically, JetBlue estimates that ClimaCell can save it as much as $50,000 per month per hub during inclement weather months.
ClimaCell aims to serve just about every market imaginable – not just transportation – including insurance, construction, media, sports, and retail. The sort of on-demand intelligence about planet Earth proffered by ClimaCell isn’t a new concept. Just take the example of satellite companies doing geospatial analysis to predict economic health based on pictures of parking lots. Or a startup like Orbital Insight that applies algorithms to that imagery to calculate the world’s oil reserves. People are always willing to pay for an edge, and right now it appears ClimaCell has an edge on the competition.
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