Can blockchain improve weather forecasting? WeatherXM thinks so

Accurate weather forecasts are essential for industries such as agriculture, and are also important for preventing and mitigating damage from severe weather or natural disasters. But it is very difficult to achieve accurate forecasts. That’s why the founders of WeatherXM have been trying to make weather forecasts more accurate for 12 years.

In 2012, Manolis Nikiforakis, Stratos Theodorou and Nikos Tsiligaridis launched an app that allowed community members to provide updated local weather forecasts. They then worked as consultants for business clients, such as Athens Airport, in weather-sensitive industries. They are now building WeatherXM, a network of community-monitored weather stations that collect and share local weather data through systems built on the blockchain.

Nikiforakis, CEO of WeatherXM, told TechCrunch that the startup has already deployed 5,000 of its own weather stations in over 80 countries. These stations collect local weather data from the ground and are monitored by volunteers who are compensated with WeatherXM’s own crypto token, $WXM. All collected data is available to everyone for personal use free of charge with paid offers for companies that want to use it for commercial purposes.

«We are strong proponents of open source,» Nikiforakis said. “We believe that (WeatherXM’s mission) is not meaningful without the collaboration of many different people and expertise. We make all this data publicly available to everyone. You can see in real time what each weather station is reporting.”

The startup just raised $7.7 million in Series A led by Faction, an early-stage blockchain-focused fund affiliated with Lightspeed, with participation from VCs including Borderless Capital, Alumni Ventures and Red Beard Ventures, with more VCs and other types of investors. The startup will use the capital to expand its team and position itself to begin monetizing its commercial users.

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Tim Khoury, a partner at Faction, said he was drawn to invest in the company because it offered an attractive use case for a community-driven blockchain project that had both a supply of people willing to join the community and a demand for what the company was producing. A potential TAM for more accurate weather data didn’t hurt either.

«The decline of many deep networks is the demand side,» Khoury said. «If there’s no demand for what’s actually being created or produced, in this case you can’t sustain the network over time.»

As someone with a basement that has flooded on more than one occasion during storms that weren’t exactly predicted, this job immediately piqued my interest. But the blockchain and crypto token aspect of WeatherXM’s strategy confused me at first.

Nikiforakis told me that the crypto incentive structure is the only way this local weather network can work. Paying each person to monitor a weather station would make the idea too expensive and complicated to scale to the size the network needs to reach to be effective. He said they found through their first app that people were willing to give up weather data for free, so WeatherXM’s structure is meant to incentivize users just a little bit more.

“(Using crypto) also helps coordinate to put (weather stations) in the areas we care about the most, developing countries and rural nations,” Nikiforakis said. “Crypto rewards work as a coordination tool. In many ways this is a community project, so that cryptocurrency acts as a governance tool. People can vote using this token for decisions that affect how the project works.”

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While I admit to not being bullish when it comes to blockchain or crypto, using that structure here makes a lot of sense. It’s also complementary to the startup’s focus on creating open source data, which requires blockchain technology to really be effective.

I moderated a panel earlier this week that focused on how communities can prepare for climate emergencies and disasters, and one thing that came up repeatedly was that data like this needs to be open source so that public and private entities can easier to work together on climate disaster planning and better response to them.

WeatherXM making all data open source, especially from its stations in underserved or rural areas, could benefit communities grappling with the growing threat and damage from climate events without requiring large budgets or resources.

The mission here is easy to get behind, but we’ll see if bringing time to blockchain gets enough demand to really make a difference.

«We need to create an ecosystem around our technology and ideas to advance the industry, to improve meteorology in general,» Nikiforakis said. “We don’t like the old way of doing things in silos and not giving access to anyone with credentials or payment. We’re going against the flow. We open the data to everyone.»

#blockchain #improve #weather #forecasting #WeatherXM #thinks

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