You don’t need a weatherman…

WeatherBug’s strength lies in its vast network of data

There was a time when people believed the online WeatherBug monitor was spyware. That was never true, although the advertising that supported the consumer version could be annoying.

Unfortunately, that misperception keeps some people from trying the excellent products AWS Convergence Technologies provides. More important, WeatherBug and its global network of weather stations — and a new network of lightning-detection stations — can help save lives.

The two products I tested — WeatherBug Tracking Station and Professional Streamer — work together, but they can also function independently. The hardware part of the WeatherBug installation is a self-contained Tracking Station that measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, light levels and wind at your site.

The software component of WeatherBug, called Streamer, reports all of that data to the WeatherBug Network. You access the results via the Internet, along with extremely detailed, real-time information from the 8,000-plus weather stations operated by AWS and the National Weather Service.

WeatherBug stations send updates every two minutes, while NWS systems rely on hourly updates, which means that WeatherBug’s information is as close to real time as you are likely to get without standing outside.

AWS typically sends technicians to the customer’s site to install the Tracking Station in a suitable location. In my case, it was installed on a mast about 20 feet above the roof of my Washington, D.C.-area test facility.

A thin cable runs inside to the network interface box, then you attach an Ethernet cable that can talk to the outside world. You can also install a digital display that gives you an instant look at weather conditions.

Once the hardware is installed, the network interface box begins sending weather observations to AWS. A raw feed is available in Extensible Markup Language, but you have to create your own application to use it.

The other part of the process is installing Streamer, which is primarily a Web-based application. However, it only works with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer running on Windows-based PCs, and you have to lower your security settings to allow pop-up windows. You’ll have to reconcile those requirements with the concerns of your security staff.

Streamer loads maps and related data on your computer to speed processing, and it works with the WeatherBug Web site to provide the information and graphics you want. You can use the software to retrieve information from any weather station — similar to TV weather reports, most of which also rely on WeatherBug’s applications. Streamer can let you see the big picture, such as major weather systems and storms, and allow you to zoom down to the street level to see what’s going on in a specific area. During my test, I watched a hurricane cross Florida, storms move up the East Coast and severe weather pound upstate New York.

But in reality, WeatherBug’s capabilities go much deeper. It offers a nearly limitless combination of choices in the information you see and how you see it. And you can watch critical situations as they develop and take action in a timely manner.

What makes WeatherBug’s suite of products so good is the vast network of information that comes with it. The only thing missing is the ability to change the weather you don’t like.

Rash is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who has been covering technology since the late 1970s. He can be reached at wayne@rash.org.

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