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The Weather Company: Creating Consumer Apps That Leverage Its Big Data

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The Weather Company: Creating Consumer Apps that Leverage its Big Data

Sarah Michaud

INFO 6250


The Weather Company (TWC), who is the parent company of The Weather Channel, is the most popular weather company around. TWC was introduced in 1982 and is owned by NBC Universal, The Blackstone Group, and Bain Capital. The company has a TV section, a digital section which contains website and mobile applications, and a professional services section which sells products to many different clients.

Not only were they popular on television, their website weather.com generated the most visitors in the past years. 51% of users went to TWC’s website over other websites in 2013. TWC’s weather data came from the National Weather Service and privately-owned weather stations. TWC’s meteorologists came up with astonishingly accurate forecasts from the data they analyzed, which put above the other weather competitors. TWC’s competitors included the National Weather Service, Accuweather, and Custom Weather.

A few years ago, there was big change towards the use of mobile devices for weather instead of watching it on television. It got to the point that DIRECTV was no longer airing TWC, which put a huge dent in the company. There was already running apps that people used, but there wasn’t a running app that provided information on weather and how it affected your run and finishing time. The company decided to introduce Outsider that would have this type of information.

Outsider was going to reach the younger generation known as millennials, who are known for constantly using their smartphones. This new app provided data on wind speed, temperature, cloud cover, air quality, humidity, and precipitation. These features made up what was known as the Run Weather Index (RWI). Based on a number from 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, the app would let you whether or not it was a good day for a run. Not only does it provide you with the weather, it lets you better plan what time of the day you should run, which clothes you should wear, and how to properly hydrate. Performance from your runs and heart rate information are two things that could be viewed and saved to the app.  Another cool feature was the background picture on the app would look like where you were located. For example, a runner in Florida might see the beach as the background. With this new app being introduced, weather was going to transition fast from television to cell phones.

In order to adjust to the change towards mobile apps, TWC had to figure how to better the company’s big data in order to become even more successful. TWC had been dealing with big data before it was even a well-known term; they handled 20 terabytes of weather data a day, which they only assumed would grow in the future. Weather data included temperature, wind speeds, snow, rain, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, barometric pressure, wave height, and more. Volume, variety, and velocity were the three types of big data. Since the weather data was a part of each of these types, new technology was needed in order to store this amount of data. TWC decided to use cloud infrastructure-as-a-service-model. TWC implemented NoSQL databases in order to be able to process images and videos along with weather statistics.

TWC had two major streams when it came to bringing in their revenue. The first stream they used was advertising. They make sure to put advertisements on television, website, and mobile app. By doing this, TWC didn’t have to spend money on agencies to put their ads out there for them. The second method was the way the meteorologists analyzed the weather data and promoted to its corporate clients. The corporate clients were able to better predict how the weather would influence their company’s net income.

When it comes to TWC’s Outsider app, there are some features that I would like to see continued. I do like the fact that the Outside app is free because I don’t think I have ever paid for an app on my phone. The second feature I enjoy and want to be kept is the song playlist. Who doesn’t want to listen to music while they run in the hot weather? This component puts Outsider above many of the other apps since most of them do not have this feature. Another popular feature among the running apps is detailed running stats, which is helpful for all runners trying to keep up with their fitness goals. Fitness trackers and heart sensors have been very popular with Fitbit watches, so I think having this creates a new spin on the craze. I feel like this part really attracts the older generation that is more concerned with their health. The feature that TWC relies on putting them on top is the current weather and detailed forecasts, which is a very different approach to your typical running apps. I think they can add other features besides the weather to make the app more appealing to consumers.

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