February 28, 2019

The State Of The Weather

Weather isn’t just for small talk. It’s big business—and getting bigger. A lot of very clever people are devising ways to apply emerging weather tech to serve both businesses and consumers.

As a consumer, it’s easy to appreciate better weather tech—anything that reduces the risk of being late to work, a ruined vacation, or a bad hair day sounds pretty good. But some of the business opportunities are less obvious. Insurers and farmers are surely interested in better weather info. Uber drivers, too, may see some benefit. But what about real estate professionals? The fashion industry? Health care? Your business?

Tiny Weather

Is it an umbrella day? Grab your phone, type in your zip code, and get the weather forecast for your area. But the largest zip code encompasses 13,431 square miles—and more than a few weather zones. And your zip code—or maybe even your block—has a range of micro-climes. How do you get accurate weather data?

Weather startup ClimaCell has developed “microweather”—hyperlocal weather data with forecasts for your block. According to their website, ClimaCell uses wireless networks and IOT devices, among other types of collection, to provide over 500 million weather data points. (You can read more about how it workshere.)

ClimaCell’s strategy is expansive and so far entirely business-facing: the company has developed targeted use cases for a range of industries that have enormous weather-related risk. Insurers, for example, can process weather-related claims faster by automating corroboration of a localized weather event. Concert promoters can clear crowds before the lightning strikes. Travel companies (JetBlue is an investor) know when to de-ice planes or slow trains.

ClimaCell is just one example of how better weather info can save massive amounts of cost and optimize risk management…there are more examples here.

Big Weather is Watching You

OK, so all of these companies are going to have really great weather data. How will it affect the average consumer?

We can only hope that airlines use better weather data to save us a trip to the airport when we’re not going anywhere. But surely some of the innovation will be about encouraging consumers to buy more, right? Exhibit A: IBM Watson’s native advertising piece in Ad Age suggests that weather data can be used to target products for sufferers of migraines, cold & flu, and so on. And apparentlyit’s working.

Hyperlocal contextualization has been happening for years, but incorporating weather data into the average ad campaign takes a little work or a third-party tool like WeatherAds. We’re pretty sure weather will get baked into big ad platforms like Facebook soon; in the meantime, we plan to experiment with some weather-based optimization on Google.

Shiver in My Bones Just Thinking About the Weather

The case for demand for B2B weather innovation is clear as the sky above Burlington, VT. But what about consumer-facing innovation? Yes, we know that Elon Musk and others are innovating around climate change, but who is actually making cool weather media or tools or products for consumers?

The Weather Channel’s VR simulations are head-turners—we love watching the reporter battle an imaginary (so far) storm surge. Accuweather, with its close ties to meteorological powerhouse Penn State, is doing some interesting things with Foursquare. But other than the treacly and ill-fated Poncho, weather media is pretty status quo.

One we’re keeping an eye on: Tempest. Still mostly in stealth stage, the startup has a dandy newsletter that focuses on how we will cope with “our new weather.” The brainchild of Modern Farmer founder Ann Marie Gardner, Tempest brings much-needed energy and creativity to sustainability.

Weather Report, Please

Here are some opportunities we see in weather data that could inform new and existing consumer media:

Gardening. Lawn & garden is a $48B market—and it’s increasingly popular with millennials. Integrating microclimate data and forecasting into gardening apps to answer questions like “when should I plant peas?” and “how bad will the drought be on my block?” would be a game-changer.

Real Estate. Surely big real estate developers and investors are paying attention to the impact of climate on property values, but what about the the average homeowner? Providing street-level weather risk analysis for home buyers could help avoid bad real estate investments, buy the right insurance, and manage maintenance wisely.

Health. For people with health conditions, the weather forecast may require more action than remembering to bundle up. Personalized weather info could make a difference in managing specific conditions like asthma and migraines.

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