Though they predate the Internet of Things by decades, in some ways weather stations are the nodes of the original sensor network. Every time you check the forecast, you’re drawing on data that’s been collected, aggregated, analyzed and shared by a variety of sensing equipment spread across your city, region or nation.
But that’s not to say IoT sensor networks don’t have anything to add. In fact, emerging technologies are making it possible to create weather sensor networks that are cheaper, collect a wider variety of data, and provide denser and more granular coverage than ever before.
Understory is a weather data startup that’s taking advantage of these trends to provide an unusually deep and detailed picture of local weather events. Its compact solar-powered weather stations, calledRTi’s (“Arties”), are installed on the roofs of buildings or the sides of cell phone towers and other infrastructure. Inside each RTi are sensors to measure the three-dimensional forces acting on the equipment, as well as basic weather data like temperature, atmospheric pressure and sunlight.
Those 3-D sensors make thousands of measurements per second, amounting to a hyper-detailed snapshot of hyper-local weather conditions. Understory says it can detect the size, and speed and impact angle of hailstones; the rate and distribution of falling raindrops; and the rapid buffeting of up- and down-draft winds during turbulent storms. That’s way more than most of us need to know about the weather, but it has uses in fields like property insurance, emergency preparedness and scientific research.
Understory has already rolled out high-coverage networks in Kansas City and Dallas, with RTi’s installed every few miles across each city. It’s looking to expand all over the Midwest, with future developments planned in major cities from Detroit to Denver and from Minneapolis to Houston. RTi’s can’t be purchased, but property owners can volunteer to host one in exchange for access to Understory’s data. Academic researchers can use the platform and API for free.
In 2013 Understory joined the Boston-area Bolt hardware portfolio, and subsequently raised nearly $2 million in seed funding. In addition to its Midwest deployments, the company is partnering with the city of Somerville, Mass., to provide municipal weather data, including a publically accessible live feed.
Learn more in the video below.