WeatherSignal starts tracking pressure on iOS using the iPhone 6’s barometer

Apple may have stuck barometers in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to calculate how many sets of stairs you’ve climbed, but crowdsourced data startup OpenSignal is putting them to use as old-fashioned weather sensor. On Thursday OpenSignal released an iOS version of its weather-tracking app WeatherSignal.

While the app will download to any iPhone with iOS 8, you’ll need one of [company]Apple[/company]’s two newest handsets to start taking pressure readings, which Open Signal will plop into its crowdsourced weather map. Those readings combined with the barometric pressure measurements of its 50,000 active Android users can then be used to give an ever-updating look at the pressure changes in your area. The data is also being sent off to climatologists, such as the University of Washington’s Cliff Mass, who are exploring ways of incorporating crowdsourced smartphone readings into future meteorology models.

WeatherSignal barometer map

WeatherSignal has become particularly popular with climate geeks who own the Samsung Galaxy S4, given its wide array of sensors. The S4 is able to record temperature, ambient light, humidity and pressure; while even the most sensor-deprived Android phone can send OpenSignal temperature data by measuring relative differences in battery heat.

The iPhone has always been elusive to OpenSignal, though, since Apple won’t give crowdsourcing apps access to its sensor array. That changes with the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which uses a barometer to detect changes in air pressure to gauge the phone’s altitude. WeatherSignal will only be able to tap the barometer, not the iPhone’s other sensors, but hey, it’s a start.

StormTag's sensor fob links to an iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth (source: StormTag)

StormTag’s sensor fob links to an iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth (source: StormTag)

If you want to amp up your measurement contribution, though, OpenSignal is working with a Kickstarter project called StormTag to create a key chain weather station that will link to the iPhone through Bluetooth.