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Summary:

Startup BloomSky is making personal weather stations that link to a larger crowdsourced climate network. It hopes one day to tell you temperature and rainfall on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level.

BloomSky Weather station outdoors
photo: BloomSky

If you want to know the weather, you certainly have a lot of options these days. There are 24-hour cable weather stations. Local TV stations of make their love Doppler radar feeds available online or over a separate broadcast channel. Detailed weather stats and forecasts for any city in the world are only the tap of a mobile app or the typing of a URL away.

But an interesting new Bay Area startup called BloomSky wants to give you the most personalized weather report of all – one from your home. The company has designed a consumer weather probe that you can mount in your yard or on your roof. It tracks temperature, barometric pressure, rain, humidity and even ultraviolet light levels. It also has a high-definition camera that can record and share real-time images and time-lapse photography of the sky above your roof. It connects to your home network through a Wi-Fi radio, and can also connect to your smartphone.

BloomSky wants to sell its stations to consumers and businesses in hopes of creating a gigantic crowdsourced weather monitoring and prediction network. The concept of personal weather stations is certainly nothing new. Members of the Citizen Weather Observer Program have long collected data from personal weather stations and submitted to the National Weather Service using specialized sensor rigs. The Weather Underground also aggregates observational data from amateur meteorologists.

But BloomSky wants to take a time-intensive — and expensive — hobby, and make it accessible and useful to the general public, according to company founder and CEO J.T. Xiao. BloomSky wants to build a meteorological network around its probes that will it report local weather conditions down to the neighborhood level and allow its members to share their “personal weather” information on the internet and social networks.

BloomSky weather module comes with five sensors, an HD camera, and a Wi-Fi radio, and can be powered with a solar panel. (Source: BloomSky)

BloomSky weather module comes with five sensors, an HD camera, and a Wi-Fi radio, and can be powered with a solar panel. (Source: BloomSky)

BloomSky is funding the initial manufacture of its modules through a Kickstarter campaign, but it plans next year to start selling them retail for $170. Next month, BloomSky plans to launch a consumer beta program in the San Francisco in which it will place a station in 80 Bay Area neighborhoods. Data and images collected from those beta probes will be used to generate a real time map of the San Francisco’s different microclimates, Xiao said.

Instead of just providing a general temperature figure for the entire peninsula, BloomSky wants to show that while it’s raining in the Mission it might only be foggy in Parkside.

All of BloomSky’s probes will contribute general data to the network — which will be accessible to the general public through an app — but individual probe owners can choose weather to share specific location data (so you can track conditions and see images at the address level). Individual probe owners can also choose to share a snapshot of their local weather conditions as well as photos with anyone via social networking tools, BloomSky said.

It’s definitely a fascinating concept, but I’m still skeptical if ordinary consumers are interested in tracking and sharing the climate around their homes, or at least interested enough to pay $170 for a probe (though the Kickstarter campaign is offering pre-order devices at steep discounts). But only one or two people in any given neighborhood have to own a weather station for the network to be effective. Also, BloomSky is hoping businesses will pick up any consumer slack.

Any business which factors climate conditions into its business model could use the BloomSky module as a handy tool for planning and marketing purposes, Xiao and his team said. A surf shop could show its customers the height of the current waves, for example, while a bed & breakfast could post real-time temperature and rain data on its website.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014
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