WeatherBug Buzzes Into the Smart Grid

Most people remember WeatherBug — the brand name of a company that has 8,000 weather tracking stations across the U.S. — as an ad-based desktop application that was once pretty hard to uninstall. Microsoft’s Windows even mistakenly classified it as spyware. But as I reported earlier this year, the 18-year-old Germantown, Md.-based WeatherBug, a brand of AWS Convergence Technologies, has been trying to figure out how to sell its weather services to the smart grid industry, and this morning officially announced its smart grid products.

WeatherBug has been selling weather data services to the power industry for years, but this is the first articulation of smart grid specific products, which it is announcing this week at the GridWeek conference in Washington DC. WeatherBug’s products for utilities include: weather information around critical assets (substations etc to keep them running smoothly), weather data for forecasting demand (if it’s cold or hot in areas, people use more HVAC power), a next-generation demand response system based around real-time weather data, a consumer-facing weather and energy portal, and weather data to prevent blackouts.

Incorporating weather data into overall grid management can help utilities optimize the grid, save money, and avoid blackouts. As I wrote earlier this year I really think weather data could one day act as a platform, in much the way that location data acts today, for buildings and energy efficiency. The National Weather Service, developed by the U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been one of the key driving factors behind making weather information in the U.S. publicly available and free. Combine the National Weather Service data with Google and the open Internet ecosystem, and you have the makings of a platform for web 2.0 style services, not unlike how innovators are building applications off of mapping and location data.

Here’s how WeatherBug’s system works: its 8,000 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. As of February of this year, all of 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.

It will be really interesting to see how weather data 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). For example smart thermostat software startup EcoFactor is already using real-time weather data to automatically adjust homeowners’ connected thermostats. WeatherBug’s data is being incorporated into 3rd party consumer-facing gadgets and websites, as well as WeatherBug’s own portal, announced today.

Of course WeatherBug isn’t the only weather data outfit in town. Internet companies can just work directly with the NWS, and IBM (s IBM) sells a weather prediction service called Deep Thunder.

For more research on electric vehicles and energy management check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):