Data Sandbox

Turning Weather Adversity into Opportunity

  • 1.  Turning Weather Adversity into Opportunity

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 06-07-2019 20:18

    In an expanding global economy, the world has never been more diverse yet more connected, and if there is one thing all 7.5B people have in common, it's the fact that we're all influenced by something totally out of our control – Mother Nature. Whether through catastrophic disasters or daily patterns, weather shapes the way we feel, behave, communicate, and even how we manage our finances. It's the common scapegoat for cancelling a barbecue, it's the excuse we need to buy an iced drink on a hot summer day, and it's the corroborating evidence for filing an insurance claim. Everyone gets that weather happens, but only a few understand how widespread its impacts are on the professional world.

    The average Joe is not to blame for this lack of understanding. How can we expect him to truly fathom something so dynamic and variable without a meteorology degree? Sure, he can read up on the latest trends and science, but meteorology is full of industry jargon and atmospheric equations. Learning this subject will require more attention and effort than our average Joe can likely afford, and, in no time, Joe's eyes will return to a familiar state - glossed over staring at the local radar on the news or at a weather app on his phone. This will serve Joe just fine as all he really needs is enough guidance to plan accordingly for the next few days. But what if our average Joe is more than average professionally? What if he runs a business where he makes critical decisions based on the current state of his customers, assets, and personnel? If so, then this general understanding will not suffice.

    Leading organizations address challenging weather situations head on by utilizing the most up to date weather information as it relates to their business. While they realize controlling Mother Nature is out of the question, they take both proactive and reactive measures to limit its impact. The best organizations even welcome disruptive weather as a means to stimulate growth while their competition runs damage control. If all of this is true, then why aren't more businesses taking advantage of weather? In short, turning weather information into usable weather data - at the enterprise level - is really, really hard.

    At its core, weather information has 3 key components: 1.) A spatial relationship - all weather varies as geography and climate varies; 2.) A temporal relationship – weather is constantly changing; and 3.) Magnitude – all weather events carry an impact we can measure with units such as wind speed in MPH, precipitation rate in inches/hour, temperature in Fahrenheit, etc. It has taken centuries to build out technology robust enough to capture all 3 of these components simultaneously. We went to the moon and created the internet before mankind could conceive what we now know as Pulse-Doppler Radar (or at least in trustworthy forms). Doppler, along with newer techniques for precision weather detection such as cell towers and micro-sensors, will only improve as infrastructure and technology continues to push forward. This, however, does not make consuming weather information any easier.

    A web map streaming weather radar - as you might find online or on your TV - is showing merely an image of what is happening or about to happen. It paints a very nice picture, but it's not data in a format that supports manipulation, queries, or any sort of spatial analytics. Average Joe can likely eye-ball his home on the map and take away the appropriate message, but retail business leader Joe cannot possibly eyeball the location of his 75,000 customers and what each individual impact means for them; VP of Property & Casualty Underwriting Joe cannot discern which of his 2M policyholders may be at risk; and Chief Loan Officer Joe cannot recognize which of his refinance clients will take a hit to their collateral value. Professional Joe needs some serious automation and precision in order to deploy an effective weather strategy that accounts for space, time, and millions of unique locations.

    An enterprise solution that solves for the requirements above needs to capture the core complexities of weather while delivering on the modern demands of business technology. It should have a user friendly, self-service interface; it should provide an on-demand answer when and where it's applicable to the end user; and it should come in the form of cleansed, organized data which can immediately blend with business data for operational use. In a perfect world, the business user should be able to submit a list of locations, a time frame of interest, and perils of interest. In just a few minutes, the solution should return the list of locations with all relevant weather impact attached including a date/time. Simple as that.

    While it is not very simple, nor is it a perfect world, I am proud to be a part of an innovative team working tirelessly to turn this vision into a reality. A lot has been learned about weather, handling real-time data, business technology, and the intersection of it all. It is inspiring to hear what business leaders could accomplish if this service existed, and in some cases, it is more than just money on the line. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to bridge the gap between Mother Nature and the modern organization.

    How would your business benefit from a live weather service?



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    Bryan Bonack
    Data Product Manager
    Pitney Bowes
    Boulder, CO
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