Can blockchain improve weather forecasts? WeatherXM thinks so

Accurate weather forecasts are crucial for sectors such as agriculture, and they are also important to help prevent and limit damage from bad weather conditions or natural disasters. But it is extremely difficult to make correct predictions. That's why the founders of WeatherXM have spent the past 12 years looking for ways to make weather forecasts more accurate.

In 2012, Manolis Nikiforakis, Stratos Theodorou and Nikos Tsiligaridis launched an app that allowed community members to provide basic weather updates. They then worked as consultants for corporate clients, such as Athens Airport, in weather-sensitive industries. Now they're building WeatherXM, a network of community-controlled weather stations that collect and share local weather data through systems built on the blockchain.

Nikiforakis, CEO of WeatherXM, told JS that the startup has already deployed 5,000 of its own weather stations in more than 80 countries. These stations collect local weather information on the ground and are monitored by volunteers who are compensated with WeatherXM's proprietary crypto token, $WXM. All data collected is accessible to everyone and free for personal use with paid offers for companies that want to use it commercially.

“We are strong supporters of open source,” said Nikiforakis. “We believe [WeatherXM’s mission] is not goal-oriented without collaboration with multiple different sides of people and expertise. We make all this data openly available to everyone. You can see in real time what each weather station reports.”

The startup just raised a $7.7 million Series A round led by Faction, an early-stage blockchain-focused fund affiliated with Lightspeed, with participation from VCs including Borderless Capital, Alumni Ventures and Red Beard Ventures , in addition to more VCs and other types of investors. The startup will use the capital to expand its team and set itself up to monetize its commercial users.

Tim Khoury, a partner at Faction, said he was attracted to investing in the company because it offered an attractive use case for a community-driven blockchain project that had both the supply of people willing to join the community to match the demand for what the company wanted. was producing. The potential TAM for more accurate weather data didn't hurt either.

“The loss of many deep networks is the demand side,” says Khoury. “In this case, if there is no demand for what is actually generated or produced, you cannot maintain the network in the long term.”

As someone with a basement that has flooded several times during storms that were not accurately forecast, this deal immediately piqued my interest. But the blockchain and crypto-token aspect of WeatherXM's strategy initially confused me.

Nikiforakis told me that the crypto incentive structure is the only way this local weather network could work. Paying every person to oversee a weather station would make the idea too expensive and complicated to scale to the size the network needs to reach to be effective. He said they discovered through their first app that people were willing to provide free weather data, so WeatherXM's structure is designed to incentivize users just a little bit more.

“[Using crypto] also helps coordinate this [weather stations] are deployed in the areas we care about most, developing and rural countries,” said Nikiforakis. “The crypto rewards work as a coordination tool. In many ways this is a community project, and therefore crypto acts as a governance tool. This token allows people to vote on decisions that affect the operation of the project.”

While I must admit that I am not optimistic when it comes to blockchain or crypto, the use of that structure here makes a lot of sense. It also complements the startup's focus on making its data open source, which requires blockchain technology to actually be effective.

I moderated a panel earlier this week that focused on how communities can prepare for climate emergencies and disasters. One thing that came up several times was that this type of data should be open source so that public and private entities could communicate more easily. work together to plan for and better respond to climate disasters.

Open sourcing all of WeatherXM's data, especially from its stations in underserved or rural areas, could benefit communities combating the growing threat and damage of climate events without requiring a large budget or resources.

The mission here is easy to achieve, but we'll see if bringing weather to the blockchain gains enough demand to really make a difference.

“We need to create an ecosystem around our technology and ideas so that the industry can move forward and improve meteorology in general,” Nikiforakis said. “We don't like the old way of doing things in silos and not giving access to anyone who has the login details or payment. We go against the flow. We open the data to everyone.”

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