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Bringing weather data to transport planning

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, believes real-time weather data can be transformational for transport planning

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The transportation and freight industries are now starting to embrace real-time weather data that many other fields have been using for years, according to The Weather Company. “Traditionally, transportation agencies, trucking companies and DOTs have relied heavily upon historical weather information and data from public forecasting agencies, which isn’t very precise or up-to-date. As a result, weather is still significantly impacting transportation companies more than it should, keeping them from operating as efficiently as they need to be,” the company stated.

In an interview with WorldCargo News, John Bosse, Offering Manager at The Weather Company, said the company has been working in the aviation and energy markets for some time, and is now extending its offering to ground transportation. It recently launched an “Operations Dashboard for Ground Transportation”, a solution designed to help optimise workforce productivity and route selection for freight and logistics companies.

With 200,000 “personal weather sensors”, the Weather Company provides forecasts for 2.2 billion locations around the world every day, updating those every 15 minutes. With this network coverage the Weather Company says it can “provide real-time weather information along almost any road, anywhere. These hyper-local forecasts are now becoming available to municipal DOTs, trucking companies and other transportation management organisations, giving them a much clearer idea as to how the weather will impact them along their routes”.

Bosse acknowledged that the key to weather data becoming ubiquitous in transport planning is integration with existing planning and fleet monitoring applications, and The Weather Company is now having conversations with leading providers along those lines. With real-time weather data these applications could factor weather conditions into routes and driver hour calculations, for example. Integration would also enable relevant weather information to be pushed to drivers enroute when it impacts their journey or ETA.

The Weather Company also believes the IoT offers enormous potential to improve the information that is currently available on road conditions. Today regulatory agencies such as DOTs issue advisories on road conditions, but these are not based on real time data. Bosse believes this will change, “we are coming to an age where everything is connected,” he said, and the challenge is how to use vast amounts of data.

Bosse stressed that IBM’s Watson initiative is “not just taking all this data and putting it in a data lake”, but focused on real time connectivity that delivers value. As to weather the industry will embrace the initiative, Bosse was not able to name customers at this point, but said that with less than a year on the market the Weather Company’s Operations Dashboard is used by “well over a dozen national carriers”, including four in the US that operate over the North American continent, and top-20 logistics providers. Customers in the UK include a consumer goods company and a vehicle manufacturer. The Weather Company continues to develop the Dashboard, and is now looking at incorporating sensors that monitor road surface condition in real time, which is important in winter conditions.

The Weather Company has also been in discussion with railroads in North America, but Bosse sees this industry as a more difficult proposition. The railroads are heavily impacted by the weather in the northern US and Canada, but they still rely heavily on people talking about weather conditions over the phone. The IoT is not designed for this paradigm - “we are trying to automate”, he concluded.

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