Posted by Weatherflow ● December, 2021
Tempest News | December 2021
NEARLY 100 YEARS AGO THE DEADLIEST TORNADO IN U.S. HISTORY STRUCK THE MIDWEST
Unseasonable and devastating tornadoes ripped through portions of the Midwest earlier this month, resulting in the loss of at least 80 lives and leaving many more injured. Nearly a century ago, a similar outbreak of deadly tornadoes tore through almost the exact same region. The Tri-State Tornado was almost a mile wide at times, with winds reaching 300 mph, killing almost 700 people across Missouri, Indiana, and Illinois.
CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASINGLY THREATENS THE U.S. ELECTRICITY GRID
The United States power grid is already facing a growing number of challenges. Struggles to meet current demand coupled with aging infrastructure and a future with only higher demand doesn’t paint a promising picture. Now, experts are calling for climate change to be considered as future infrastructure planning begins.
FUTURE HURRICANE SEASONS COULD BE EVEN MORE DAMAGING
It’s no secret that the 2021 hurricane season was a bad one. Over 20 storms counted throughout the season caused NOAA to move to a backup list of official storm names for the second year in a row, and US coastlines racked up $480 billion in damages from hurricanes and tropical storms. Research shows that damage in future seasons could be exacerbated by storms surging towards the coast but then slowing down once they arrive, a characteristic amplified by warmer climates.
INNOVATOR OF THE MONTH
Since childhood weather geek Vincent Toupet has been captivated by weather data, collecting measurements daily for things like temperature and precipitation on just a sheet of paper in his home. Fast forward to adulthood and Vincent is still obsessed with weather data, but collects his measurements with a more sophisticated personal weather station, enjoying the perks of being able to view his weather data even while out on the go. But Vincent became frustrated with the lack of data analytics in the user interface of many stations and decided to find a solution. He started a side project to create an application that would allow him to manipulate his weather data to create reports, compare weather with the previous day or year, and more. Thus, his app SmartMixin was born!
For the future, Vincent plans on building a configurable widget for Android and iOS, extending the app’s alert system with more complex scenarios, and adding more reports. On the weather forecast side, he would like to extend the way we can compare forecasts coming from different models (GFS, HRRR, Arome, Arpege, ICON...). Tempest is supported by SmartMixin through our open API and can be downloaded for iOS and Android.
...with our very own co-founder and CEO here at WeatherFlow-Tempest, Buck Lyons! We caught up with Buck this month to talk more about the importance of neighborhood-level weather data, the company's recent success on StartEngine, and more.
Q: TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK IN WEATHER AND WHERE YOU GOT THE IDEA TO START A WEATHER TECHNOLOGY COMPANY.
A: I first started connecting weather with business more than 20 years ago. I realized that for many of the things I liked to do, (skiing, hiking, fishing, diving, kiteboarding), having better, more localized weather information would be a game-changer. For instance, although I wasn’t much of a surfer at the time, I saw Surfline had very valuable data for surfing that was likely to be the genesis of a new internet-based chapter for them. I hoped to have the same across a broad array of outdoor sports, and with that in mind, I started what is now WFn Holdings at the beginning of 2000. I hoped to build organically and also through the acquisition of some pre-internet services. Unfortunately, by the time we got started, valuations of businesses with a .com angle were out of sight. We lost out on some early acquisitions but still charged ahead. On the flip side, when the crash came, our focus on providing unique valuable information allowed us to continue to generate advertising and subscription revenue. Unlike most new companies of that era, we were able to stay in business and eventually thrive. To continue growing, we migrated our data and skills to business and government customers. But we never forgot our roots providing weather information to outdoor sports enthusiasts!!
Q: WHEN DID YOU LAUNCH THE TEMPEST? CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT IT?
A: We started our company WeatherFlow-Tempest Inc in December 2018 based on some success with an earlier test version of a personal weather station. The Tempest System launched in May of 2020. My partners and I had already built our first business based on proprietary weather data, but that involved a significant investment in equipment and maintenance. We recognized that advances in various technologies would allow us to create Tempest - an elegant system with no moving parts that is simple to install and maintain while also very reliable. Not only is it an excellent stand-alone weather station, it creates a new source of valuable data that helps inform and improve many products. Tempest fits perfectly into the IoT ecosystem, where smart devices, sensors, and communication hardware can collect, send and act on data collected from their environments.
Q: JUST READ IN BLOOMBERG THAT VOLATILE WEATHER IS FORCING CITIES TO SEEK 'ADDITIONAL' WEATHER INSIGHTS. HOW HAS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTED DEMAND FOR WEATHER DATA?
A: Absolutely. We provide weather insights to businesses, governments, and community organizations like fire departments, community risk reduction offices...really anywhere where our unique weather insights are valuable. There is now a lot more awareness around how having better weather information can help individuals or entities like cities and governments. And there is increasing acceptance of private-public cooperation as part of the best solutions.
Q: CAN YOU PROVIDE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE PRIVATE AND PUBLIC WEATHER SECTORS ARE WORKING TOGETHER? WHY IS THAT COLLABORATION IMPORTANT?
A: While public organizations are certainly doing critical work for the collective good, realistically they do not have the budgets or ability to invest in all the data they need to do their job optimally. Cooperation between the public, private, and academic sectors is crucial in order to adequately leverage our respective strengths and resources to achieve common goals.
Here’s an example: Insurance companies want better weather information to help them process claims more efficiently and price their products better in certain geographic areas, but most taxpayers do not want to subsidize that effort. However, suppose insurance companies help promote and subsidize their customers' purchase of weather stations. In that case, that helps both the insurance companies and their customers directly while providing a powerful benefit to the entire community. The stations help create a more accurate picture of the weather for the weather service and emergency managers during events like large fires or dangerous storms. We are able to provide powerful decision support services to fire departments and police departments at such competitive pricing because the insurance use case subsidized part of the data investment. We provide data to NOAA from Tempest stations without charge because it’s good for the community and ultimately that is good for us. We try to be complementary to existing government organizations when it comes to protecting people, especially from broad events, where organizations like NOAA exist to help.
Q: WHY DOES THE WORLD NEED BETTER NEIGHBORHOOD-LEVEL WEATHER DATA AND DECISION SUPPORT?
A: It’s more valuable than ever to have better local data. It allows users to save water, energy, stay safe, and better plan their lives or operations.A great example is a homeowner managing their garden or landscaping. Better localized weather information for their yard is extremely valuable to gardeners in saving water and other resources throughout their growing season. It also helps keep their plants safe from freezing or extreme heat. Systems compatible with our device (e.g. smart sprinkler controllers) allow you to skip watering if it’s raining or about to rain. In addition, we can notify you of a freeze event so you can cover your outdoor plants, etc. The net result is that we guarantee Tempest owners will save water and protect their crops. And through a similar set of compatible features, we also guarantee they save energy.
Q: HOW IS WEATHER DATA HELPING TO MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?
A: First, better weather data allows a smarter approach to different or more extreme weather. Better information allows people to be more prepared and react most appropriately. Second, saving energy is also a large benefit to better weather data and one that gets to the source of the problem with climate change. Further, better weather observation data allows researchers and scientists to measure and track changes in our climate over time. A more accurate and complete record will not change the effect humans are having on the climate or end climate change but it will help fuel a more informed debate around the causes and what actions to take.
Q: PG&E RECENTLY ANNOUNCED THE INSTALLATION OF 300 WEATHER STATIONS IN HIGH FIRE-THREAT AREAS ACROSS ITS SERVICE TERRITORIES TO HELP INFORM UTILITY OPERATIONAL PLANNING. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU THINK WE WILL CONTINUE TO SEE FROM OTHER UTILITY COMPANIES?
A: Yes. Utilities like PG&E need to anticipate when severe weather is likely to create downed power lines and hazards. And with a huge potential liability, they need to feel in control of the most important mitigation. You will also see that utilities want to complement the data from their weather stations with all quality-controlled observation data. Having more and better weather observation data is not just helpful to preventing the start of fires. If you have large quantities of weather stations in a given area, you’re able to get a very accurate footprint of winds, temperature, and humidity in a region which can help predict where a fire is spreading and how quickly.
Weather stations are also helpful for utility management, including day-to-day monitoring of energy use, tracking minor weather issues that create maintenance, etc.
Q: WEATHERFLOW-TEMPEST FREQUENTLY TOUTS ITS NEARCAST TECHNOLOGY - CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT IS?
A: Nearcast Technology is one of our great strengths as a company, and it allows us to provide weather data on the microscale (“near” in terms of space), informing on the differences in the weather in your location and one a short distance away. This is most relevant over a short time frame, and we focus on what the weather is doing right now, later today, and tomorrow. This provides an accurate microscale picture of the past which is also valuable. This short-term focus (“near” in time) is the strength of our products.
Nearcast Technology starts with having more observational measurements than anyone else, partially thanks to the Tempest network. We also make it a point to scour the Earth for all available weather observations. We then use that data within our powerful modeling systems which also utilize our IP and proprietary know-how. We run weather models similar to government weather models but on a finer scale, and we then apply machine learning algorithms (AI) to yield more accurate higher resolution data tailored for specific locations.
Q: IS THERE A SWEET SPOT FOR THE NUMBER OF TEMPEST STATIONS IN ONE AREA FOR BEST PERFORMANCE?
A: Ideal density of the stations varies by where you are. If you’re in a flat area with uniform vegetation, then you need fewer than would be ideal in a hilly or less uniform area, but it always helps to have a dense network. You get greater info on a microscale and you also get redundancy. One thing we do well is collecting this large amount of data and applying quality control checks to it. Someone may have a single Tempest poorly located, so its data is less helpful. With more stations, it is easier for our powerful systems to recognize which stations have greater value.
Q: WEATHERFLOW-TEMPEST RECENTLY LAUNCHED AN EQUITY CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN ON STARTENGINE. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THIS AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE COMPANY?
A: StartEngine is a platform where the relationship between a small investor and a company is simpler, without layers of overhead or institutions making money in the middle. Equity crowdfunding is like a baby version of going public, albeit without the benefit of an immediate secondary market. Instead of issuing shares and having them listed on a stock exchange, our company is selling shares without having to go through all the regulatory steps of being a public company. I would like to think that is attractive for all parties. It’s a good way to get good value from investors interested in earlier-stage investments while giving good value back to them.
The biggest reason we chose to use the StartEngine platform was to expand our relationship with our customers and advocates and to create new advocates and customers who discover us through the investment opportunity. We have a passionate group of ambassadors who are with us on a shared journey and we love the idea of expanding that group.
We had never heard of StartEngine up until about a year ago when they approached us. We have been successful in the past with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. That gave us confidence that we would be successful with equity crowdfunding. It was however important to confirm this step will only help if we seek a large investment in the future, to fully take advantage of our huge opportunity. Getting positive feedback from A-list venture capital and private equity firms was important, and they believe utilizing StartEngine now makes a future opportunity even more attractive for them.
You can learn more about our StartEngine campaign HERE.
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