The Weather Company partners with IBM to distribute alerts over mesh networks

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/FrankRamspott)

The Weather Company is partnering with IBM’s researchers to deliver emergency alerts to citizens without access to a mobile or WiFi network. Today’s weather apps can provide alerts of severe weather conditions, but current iterations are dependent on constant internet connectivity.

By utilising a mesh network, one device with access to connectivity is able to receive the latest information and distribute it to others nearby, who can then pass it onwards as soon as others are within their vicinity. With the proliferation of smartphones today, information can be passed over long distances without a direct internet connection.

“The combination of the innovative Mesh Network Alerts and global reach of The Weather Channel mobile app can help deliver a new level of emergency awareness to underserved populations,” said Bijan Davari, IBM Fellow and vice president, next generation computing systems and technology, IBM Research. “We’re proud to be able to quickly offer a critical and potentially lifesaving capability to hundreds of millions of people around the world.”

One current app which demonstrates this is chat app FireChat which uses its own WiFi network and Bluetooth to connect with others without an Internet connection or cellular phone coverage. While traditional networks suffer the more congested they become, a mesh network such as FireChat becomes more capable.

Information can be passed over long distances without a direct internet connection.

The mesh networking update will first roll-out to The Weather Company users in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Users in these regions are being targeted first as it’s where mobile networks are in most danger of becoming unusable from congestion during an emergency. A full list of the countries is available here.

“IBM once again shows its leadership in edge computing capabilities, and this next important milestone will help bring the value of edge compute to life. Mesh Network Alerts extend the ability to receive a potentially lifesaving alert to a global audience, even with limited connectivity,” said Cameron Clayton, general manager and CEO of The Weather Company. “With IBM collaboration, investment and research, we can now reach users in previously underserved areas and better deliver the information they need.”

The most prolific ‘thing’ in the world today is the smartphone. IBM and The Weather Channel acknowledge companies such as Facebook and Google have ambitious initiatives such as balloons and drones to deliver full internet connectivity to people in emerging markets, but utilising what many already people have in their pocket allows for a quick and potentially life-saving deployment.

What are your thoughts on the use of mesh networking for alerts? Let us know in the comments.

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