Smartphone temperatures forecast the weather

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

bad weather
Sometimes the weatherman does’t see the rain coming, and you’re left without an umbrella!

I really don’t like it when the weatherman on the news channel gets the forecast wrong! A “nice sunny day” turns out to be a cold frigid morning while a “cold frost” the following day leaves me sweating in the sweltering sun. I find myself checking my smartphone for hourly weather updates on the internet instead of turning on the morning news channel. Heck, I bet the smartphone itself could tell the weather better. Well, thanks to an app  called OpenSignal, developed by James Robinson, it can!

OpenSignal uses smartphones to track where there is wifi in the area. Robinson figured that if he used the app to tap into thermometers found inside cellphones – which are typically used to measure phone battery temperatures – he could track the weather in ways the weatherman only dreams about. So, he tried it! “It was amazing how easily the [weather similarities] sort of popped out,” said Robinson. “We didn’t do any handpicking of data – it sort of just emerged.”

In other words, when he used the app to determine the weather, its data was very close to the information the weatherman gave on TV! There were only a couple degrees of separation. This could merely have been the natural heat differences between phones. Let’s say it’s 75 degrees outside. One person could have their phone inside a cold, nicely air-conditioned building, while another is stuck inside a hot and sticky bus. Small changes in the immediate environment around a phone could affect the accuracy of this app.

Robinson and his team are still working on ways to improve the app for precise weather-predicting abilities, so it’s not perfect. He does want to gather more data from a great quantity of people, so if you’re interested in contributing to the success of his app, you should check it out!