IBM is about to combine real clouds with cloud computing. This week, the US giant announced that it will purchase the majority of assets owned by The Weather Company, though excluding The Weather Channel TV network. IBM says it will combine it with its artificial intelligence business called Watson, using the huge data archives of The Weather Company, in a deal said to be worth around $2 billion.
The Weather Company brands include weather.com, wunderground.com, and intellicast.com, as well as a business to business enterprise. The company collects weather data from over 40 million phones and 50,000 flights each day. The data is used by The Weather Company’s apps as well as billions of third party requests. Once the acquisition is completed, the companies will combine the huge amounts of data that’d held with Watson to enable users to make better decisions.
“We see the next wave of improved forecasting coming from the intersection of atmospheric science, computer science, and analytics”, said David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company.
The data could be used to analyse weather forecasts combined with social media and transport information, allowing retailers to anticipate the need for certain kinds of goods at particular times. Another example is airlines, which would be able to optimise fuel consumption or get forewarning of expected airport delays. The majority of the employees that IBM will take on work in computers and data rather than meteorology.
At this time, it’s not certain what will happen to The Weather Channel, which has in recent times found it hard to create the right mix of forecasts, commentary and entertainment based programming. Nielsen data says that its average number of prime time viewers fell 22% from 2011 to 2014, down to 225,000. In 2013, the TV channel also had a public fight with DirecTV regarding carriage fees, and Verizon FiOS dropped the channel earlier in 2015.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.