Blog Post

WeatherBug Eyes the Smart Grid Buzz

The last time you encountered WeatherBug — the brand name of a company that has 8,000 weather tracking stations across the U.S. and sells various weather-based services — could have been when you were trying in vain to uninstall an early version of its ad-based desktop application. Microsoft’s Windows once mistakenly classified it as spyware. Oops. Nowadays, though, the 18-year-old Germantown, Md.-based WeatherBug, a brand of AWS Convergence Technologies, has been selling weather services into the utility and energy markets and it’s eagerly looking to grab ahold of the increasingly booming smart grid market.

John Bosse, Director of WeatherBug Professional Solutions, explained to us in an interview this week that while utilities and the power industry currently make up less than 10 percent of WeatherBug’s sales, the sector has shown “double-digit year-upon-year growth for the past several years.”

Here’s how it works: WeatherBug’s weather tracking stations collect 27 different climate variables around the country, including pressure, temperature, wind speed, wind direction and precipitation. The weather data is then used in various third-party applications and services, as well as the company’s own applications. All those applications have led to WeatherBug data being used by 21.5 million consumers, more than 100 state and local government agencies, 8,000 schools, and over 100 TV broadcast stations. The company has been a pioneer in what I have described as using weather data to provide a platform for next generation services and applications (see my article How Weather Data Could Be the Next Location Data).

Like the companies I mentioned in that article (WeatherBill, EcoFactor, IBM (s IBM)), WeatherBug is increasingly using weather data to provide an ecosystem for energy efficiency services, with much of it falling under the realm of the smart grid. WeatherBug has been selling weather services to utilities to help them better predict storms and outages, as well as helping them to more efficiently manage their assets and power loads. The more utilities know about the environment just outside their wires, the more easily they’ll be able to predict how much power consumers will use. WeatherBug data is also being used to make weather prediction services, like IBM’s Deep Thunder, more accurate.

Consumer-facing third party smart grid companies — like the firms developing home energy management tools — have also been talking to WeatherBug about incorporating real time weather data into their products to enable consumers to see the link between weather conditions and heating and cooling energy consumption, said Bosse. While Bosse declined to name any potential partnerships he said WeatherBug had been talking to companies like OPower. I could imagine a home energy management dashboard alerting home owners to their energy use in relation to daily, weekly and monthly temperatures.

The really interesting part about weather data will be how it will be used automatically in power systems without any manual or human involvement (see New Opportunities in the Smart Grid on GigaOM Pro, subscription required). Smart thermostat software startup EcoFactor is already using real-time weather data to automatically adjust homeowners’ connected thermostats and EcoFactor CEO John Steinberg said during our smart grid bunker event that the majority of consumers don’t need to — or even want to — interact with their energy consumption.

Related GigaOM Pro content:
New Opportunities in the Smart Grid
Report: IT and Networking Issues for the Electric Vehicle Market
Home Energy Management: Consumer Attitudes and Preferences