Smartphone apps are a godsend for obsessive weather watchers, offering constantly updating forecasts wherever there’s signal. But the next step is transforming these apps from passive data receivers into active data gatherers, utilizing our phones’ sensors to generate accurate, hyperlocal forecasts. Popular iOS-only weather seer Dark Sky is the latest app to join this trend, with a major new version of the software released last week adding a “report” feature to let users contribute data from their smartphones.
“Up until now, we’ve relied mostly on government-run weather stations to provide ‘ground truth’ to validate our forecasts,” said the app’s maker in a blog post. “But there are relatively few stations world-wide, and they don’t always provide timely updates when we need them. By recruiting our wonderful users to help us, we can greatly increase the on-the-ground data that we need most.”
DARK SKY CAN NOW COLLECT DATA FROM THE BAROMETERS IN THE IPHONE 6 AND 6 PLUS
While the concept of crowdsourced weather data isn’t new (Android and iOS app WeatherSignal has been doing it since 2013), Dark Sky‘s decision is notable simply because of the app’s popularity and critical acclaim. Dark Sky users who download the update can submit manual reports just by saying whether the weather near them is cloudy, sunny, or rainy, etc. Or, if they have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, they can turn on automatic data gathering from the new iPhones’ built-in barometers.
It’s this information that has the potential “to revolutionize weather forecasting,” say the Dark Sky’s makers. They haven’t said when this crowdsourced data will be integrated into the app’s actual weather reports, but add that they’ll “hopefully have lots more to say about this in the coming months.” The update also adds a range of new features, including custom alerts for any given weather criteria, daily weather summaries delivered each morning, and alerts for “impending adverse weather such as thunderstorms, hail, hurricanes, flooding.”