ClimaCell bets on IoT for better weather forecasts

To accurately forecast the weather, you first need lots of data — not just to train your forecasting models but also to generate more precise and granular forecasts. Typically, this has been the domain of government agencies, thanks to their access to this data and the compute power to run the extremely complex models. Anybody can now buy compute power in the cloud, though, and as the Boston and Tel Aviv-based startup ClimaCell is setting out to prove, there are now also plenty of other ways to get climate data thanks to a variety of relatively non-traditional sensors that can help generate more precise local weather predictions.

Now you may say that others, like Dark Sky, for example, are already doing that with their hyperlocal forecasts. But ClimaCell’s approach is very different, and with that has attracted as clients airlines like Delta, JetBlue and United, sports teams like the New England Patriots and agtech companies like Netafim.

“The biggest problem is that to predict the weather, you need to have observations and you need to have models,” ClimaCell CEO Shimon Elkabetz told me. “The entire industry is basically repackaging the data and models of the government [agencies]. And the governments don’t create the relevant infrastructure everywhere in the world. Even in the U.S., there’s room for improvement.”

And that’s where ClimaCell’s main innovation comes in. Instead of relying on government sensors, it’s using the Internet of Things to gather more weather data from far more places than would otherwise be possible. This kind of sensing technology could turn millions of existing connected devices — like cell phones, connected vehicles, street cameras, airplanes and drones — into virtual weather stations. It’s easy enough to see how this would work. If a driver turns on a windshield wiper or fog lights, you know it’s probably raining or foggy. Often, these cars also relay temperature data. If a street camera sees rain, it’s raining.

What’s more complex is that ClimaCell has also developed the technology to gather data from how atmospheric conditions impact the signal propagation between cell phones and their base stations. And to take this one step further — and beyond the ground level — it has also figured out how to gather similar data from satellite-to-ground microwave signals.

“The idea is that everything is sensitive to weather and we can turn everything into a weather sensor,” said Elkabetz. “That’s why we call it the weather of things. It enables us to put in place virtual sensors everywhere.”

Using all this data, ClimaCell is providing its customers, like airlines, ridesharing companies and energy companies, with real-time weather data and forecasts.

Using all of this data the company also recently launched flood alerts for about 500 cities that can provide 24 to 48-hour warnings ahead of major flood events. To do this, the company combined its weather data with its own hydrological model.

For now, most of ClimaCell’s business model focuses on selling its data and predictions to other businesses. The company plans to launch a consumer app in May, though. I got a sneak peek of the app; while I can’t vouch for the forecasts, it’s a very well-designed application that you’ll probably want to look at, no matter whether you’re a weather geek or just want to see if you can get a quick bike ride in before the rain starts.

Why a consumer app? “We want to become the biggest weather technology company in the world,” Elkabetz said. To get to this point, the company has raised a total of $68 million to date from investors that include Clearvision Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Ford Smart Mobility,  Envision Ventures, Canaan Partners, Fontinalis Partners and Square Peg Capital.


Prophet: Forecasting our Metrics (or Predicting the Future)


In this blog post, we’ll look at how Prophet can forecast metrics.

Facebook recently released a forecasting tool called Prophet. Prophet can forecast a particular metric in which we have an interest. It works by fitting time-series data to get a prediction of how that metric will look in the future.

For example, it could be used to:

  • Predict how much HTTP traffic we will get, and scale accordingly when needed
  • See if a particular feature of our application will have success or if its usage will decline
  • Get an approximate date when our database server’s resources will be exhausted
  • Forecast new customer’s sign up and resize the staff accordingly
  • See what next year’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday will look like, and if we have the resources to handle them
  • Predict how many animals will enter a shelter in the coming years, as I did in a personal project I will show here

At its core, it uses a Generalized Additive Model. It is basically the merging of two models. First, a generalized linear model that, in the case of Prophet, can be a linear or logistic regression (depending on what we choose). Second, an additive model applied to that regression. The final graph represents the combination of those two. That is, the smoothed regression area of the variable to predict. For more technical details of how it works, check out Prophet’s paper.

Most of the previous points can be summarized in a simple concept, capacity planning. Let’s see how it works.

Usage Example

Prophet provides either a Python or R library. The following example will use the Python one. You can install it using:

pip install prophet

Prophet expects the metrics with a particular structure: a Pandas DataFrame with two columns, ds and y:

ds y
0 2013-10-01 34
1 2013-10-02 43
2 2013-10-03 20
3 2013-10-04 12
4 2013-10-05 46


The data I am going to use here is from Kaggle Competition Shelter Animal Outcomes. The idea is to find out how Austin Animal Center‘s workload will evolve in the future by trying to predict the number of animal outcomes per day for the next three years. I am using this dataset because it has enough data, shows a very simple trend and it is a non-technical metric (no previous knowledge on the topic is needed). The same method can be applied to most of the services or business metrics you could have.

At this point, we have the metric stored in a local variable, called “series” in this particular example. Now we only need to fit it into our model:

m = Prophet();

and define how far into the future we want to predict (three years in this case):

future = m.make_future_dataframe(periods=365*3)

Now, just plot the data:

plt.title("Outcomes forecast per Year",fontsize=20)
plt.ylabel("Number of outcomes",fontsize=20)


The graph shows a smoothed regression surface. We can see that the data provided covers from the last months 2013 to the first of 2016. From that point, those are the predictions.

We can already find some interesting data. Our data shows a large increase during the summer months and predicts it to continue in the future. But this representation also has some problems. As we can see, there are at least three outliers with values > 65. The fastest way to deal with outliers is to just remove them. ?


ds y
0 2014-07-12 129
1 2015-07-18 97
2 2015-07-19 81



Now the graph looks much better. Let’s also add a horizontal line that will help to see the trend:


From that forecast, Austin Animal Center should expect an increase in the next few years but not a large one. Therefore, the increase trend year-over-year won’t cause problems in the near future. But there could be a moment when we reach the shelter’s maximum capacity.


  • If we want to forecast a metric, we recommend you have at least one year of data to fit the model. If we have less data, we could miss some seasonal effects. In our model above, for example, the large increase of work during summer months.
  • In some cases, you might only want information about particular holidays (for example Black Fridays or Christmas). In that case, it is possible to create a model for those particular days. The documentation explains how to do this. But in summary, you need to create a new Pandas DataFrame that includes all previous Black Friday dates, and those from the future that you want to predict. Then, create the model as before, but specify that you are interested in a holiday effect:
    m = Prophet(holidays=holidays)
  • We recommend you use daily data. The graph could show strange results if we want daily forecasts from non-daily data. In case the metric shows monthly information, freq=’M’ can be used (as shown in the documentation).


When we want to predict the future of a particular metric, we can use Prophet to make that forecast, and then plan for it based on the information we get from the model. It can be used on very different types of problems, and it is very easy to use. Do you want to know how loaded your database will be in the future? Ask Prophet!


Aviso Aims To Take Guesswork Out Of Earnings Forecasts

Eye glasses on stock quote page in newspaper. Aviso came out of stealth mode today with the goal of helping companies provide more accurate earnings forecasts. K.V. Rao, co-founder and CEO at Aviso explained that the company has been working on the problem for two years and they hope to make earnings forecasting, which when wrong can cost companies millions in market cap, less about gut and instinct and more about data-driven decision… Read More

Powered by WordPress | Theme: Aeros 2.0 by