A New Look for Weather Reports


As the discussion about machines replacing humans has continued in the tech and business communities, I've come up with a key factor to consider: Does the machine offer a better or worse customer experience?

My extensive research (i.e., reflecting on my personal experiences and observations) shows that automation of public-facing functions for the purpose of cost savings alone seldom, if ever, results in a better customer experience.

An example of improved customer service paired with cost savings could be the self check-in kiosks at the airport. More kiosks than human agents mean shorter lines, and I can read and press screen icons faster than an agent can talk and type. The airline and I both win, at least until I get stuck in a middle seat on a 7-hour flight.

This morning I saw a Twitter post that highlighted a new opportunity to improve customer service in a very different field. Have you heard about Dark Sky? It's a graphical website (with an available app) that allows you to get hyperlocal weather reports. The system utilizes the same type of publicly available data that your local TV weather person uses, but it also uses machine learning to improve accuracy.

On the website you can plug in your town, even neighborhood, and view a variety of weather conditions, such as current and forecast temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and wind gusts for the timeframe that you select.

Its accuracy? You probably would have to do a couple of months worth of comparison with TV and The Weather Channel forecasts to evaluate Dark Sky's accuracy rate. Or you could try it for a while, and if you get rained on when it says you should get sun, forget that I told you about it.

Where Dark Sky wins, however, is in what I will lump under the customer service umbrella.

In contrast with The Weather Channel, Dark Sky isn't smacking you in the face with headlines declaring yet another "Storm of the Century!" or cutesy names like Zacharia for minor snow falls setting up 2,000 miles away.

TV meteorologists yack for two thirds of any half hour news show, and most of what they tell us is what we had for weather today. A forecast that says, "Nice tomorrow with a chance of showers in some locations north of the city" doesn't cut it.

Plus, the TV version of hyperlocal is to tell you what the temperature is right now in a half dozen communities scattered around a metropolitan area, seldom your own. Rather than listen to that for a growing portion of your life, step outside; the world doesn't bite.

With Dark Sky, you click, zoom if you'd like, and check out the conditions that you care about for the timeframe you care about. Rain tomorrow, bring an umbrella. Forty MPH winds plus gusts, watch the patio furniture. You quickly learn that lots of little arrows pointing left mean wind from the east, and that the blue sections on the precipitation map mean you will get wet, but not as wet as the red sections.

Finally, with a feature like Dark Sky, weather information is available when you want it, not when broadcast TV chooses to feed it to you. My only question is what other type of job would be appropriate for all those TV weather reporters.

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: Cloudy with a chance of cussing
  • 10/20/2016 2:50:52 AM
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Duterte is currently in China and he said that our relations with the US were of little benefit to us. If Trump wins, I can see the two of them cursing each other like mad. I pity the next US ambassador to the Philippines.

In other news (now weather-related, LOL), PR Newswire has an interesting piece on weather education: www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/understory-inc-launches-weather-is-cool-program-to-advance-weather-education-300347460.html

Re: Hyperlocal weather
  • 10/16/2016 9:47:36 PM
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..

Jim writes


When a weather site or broadcast report says there is a 20% chance of rain today. I've never understood whether they mean there is a 20% chance that it will rain all day, or 20% chance that it will rain at one point in the day. 


Our local weather anchor ("chief metrorologist" or something) here in Central Texas often explains, when providing that percentage-precipitation figure, that it means "there's a X percent chance it will rain where you are" today, or tomorrow, or for whatever is the target time period.

I will say that human interpretation (which he also provides) of potential weather conditions affords a lot more insight than just the numerical predictions.

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Re: Hyperlocal weather
  • 10/16/2016 5:47:11 PM
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@Jamescon     I can relate to your frustration regarding weather people. It is especially frustrating in California when most days are the same, can't we use this time better during newscasts ?  I am sure these weather people can be repurposed for Sports or something.

Or maybe they can use these people to provide research on important topics that affect the locals or nationally.   Wouldn't that be something.

Check In Times and New Variables
  • 10/16/2016 5:40:24 PM
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"...An example of improved customer service paired with cost savings could be the self check-in kiosks at the airport."

 

While I agree that automation can improve the boarding process of mass transportation. I don't know if it can really speed up the process with new variables being introduced - for instance the Samsung Note 7 which is now banned from all flights.

Accounting for instances like this will slow the process again regardless of automation.

Re: Cloudy with a chance of cussing
  • 10/11/2016 9:08:28 AM
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Cursing the clergy, eh? That's both sad and hilarious. That would probably cross a line here in the USA, a country founded by highly intolerant religious fundamentalists. Time to put the polite back in the politicians.

Re: Cloudy with a chance of cussing
  • 10/11/2016 1:19:43 AM
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@Terry my husband points out that if these politicians keep on talking trash, there'll come a time that the shock effect they're after won't happen anymore. I hope we only become numb to their stunts but not to cussing as a whole. It's sad but some people here have thrown propriety out of the window because of their "leader."

The latest news is that Duterte cursed Catholic bishops and priests. My reaction was just, "oh, surprise, surprise. And it's not like the clergy aren't used to government opposition." He's just 100 days in office and we're already weathered.

Re: Cloudy with a chance of cussing
  • 10/11/2016 1:07:14 AM
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@PC far be it for me to judge whole nations morally, but such verbal filth is garbage no matter what the context.

Re: Hyperlocal weather
  • 10/10/2016 9:23:37 AM
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@kq4ym. One of my pet peeves: A TV weather person and spouts the obvious, "It sure was cold today" or "It was just a beautiful day weatherwise". It makes me think they went to college to tell us what we already know?

Re: Hyperlocal weather
  • 10/9/2016 4:53:09 PM
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..

Jim writes


@SaneIT. Your approach of just stepping outside to see what the weather is doing sounds a lot like what 19th or early 20th century farmers did to understand what was going to happen to their crops. It can work.


 

Apparently a lot of farmers also used the venerable Farmers' Almanac, which deployed amazing occult algorithms which to my knowledge have never been revealed ...

 

Re: Cloudy with a chance of cussing
  • 10/8/2016 7:55:08 PM
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<Seems like many politicians around the globe are being hit with this same verbal weather pattern: Shoot your mouth off, worry about the consequences later (if at all).>

@Terry  too true! And we see that here, too, as @tomsg says.

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