IBM recently doubled down on weather data at CES and announced GRAF: Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System, which aspires to provide the most accurate weather for literally anywhere in the world. It runs every hour and crunches a whopping 10 TB of data per day so that you can get accurate weather within a three-kilometer (just under 2 miles) range.
This is a crucial idea beyond simply the confines of tech: Remember, 60%+ of the world’s population relies on agriculture, with 2.1M farms in America alone. If population growth estimates hold, we need to produce 70% more food by 2050. That’s going to be impossible without some convergence of tech and agriculture, and that convergence needs to reside at an intersection involving weather. Weather is the biggest disrupter to agriculture by a wide margin (“It’s the Uber of agriculture,” just kidding, that was a bad joke), and IBM CEO Ginny Rometty even acknowledged the global implications in her CES remarks, noting that it would impact “farmers in Kenya and Kansas.”
Other potential end users of the data, as noted at CES: Airlines to better predict when a plane might encounter turbulence or other patterns that could affect a flight; insurance companies managing recovery operations and claims around natural disasters; and utility companies monitoring for faults or preparing for severe weather strains on their systems.
The Weather Channel app has 100M users, and if you factor in places like Weather.com and Weather Underground where the data is also used, you’re up to 300M monthly users. IBM promises the data will be used “with consent,” as much data sourced from businesses will be coming from customers that are both partners and end users of the data.
“As we work on these technologies, all that data that we talked about, that ownership, they belong to the user, and with their permission, we use that,” Rometty said at CES, adding, “These technologies also need to be open and explainable.”
The Weather Channel app was the most-downloaded weather app in India last year, which is an important fact to understand what IBM is trying to do here. First, this play is something you will increasingly see: even if an app was born in the United States and has great mobile engagement there, eventually the market will saturate.
Close to 59 percent of the global population is on the Asian landmass. Your business needs to turn global, and if you can’t reach an Indian/Chinese middle class, go to a larger chunk of the populace: those who rely on successful agriculture for their livelihood. They absolutely need hyper-local weather. Now the Weather Channel digital assets are pointed globally and can deliver more long-term returns for IBM. The strategy is coming together.
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