By adaptive - October 12th, 2015
Everyone talks about the weather and now someone is trying to make more accurate, personalized weather forecasts. The Sunshine app recently launched in the US and crowdsources weather data to offer localized, “smart” predictions. Co-founder/CEO Katerina Stroponiati discussed the company’s outlook with OMM’s Robert Gray.
OMM: What differentiates Sunshine from other weather apps?
Stroponiati: All the weather apps out there present weather in a clinical way. More numbers doesn't mean better accuracy. Weather is something different for each one of us. I feel cold below 70 F but you might not. Its real map simulations of the sky conditions show you exactly what it looks like outside. It's weather based on your comfort zone, for the places you care about such as your home and office.
Sunshine combines the data collected (passively) from the sensors of your smartphone with government data in order to create weather predictions for the next 24 hours. On top of that, users can submit conditions actively, correcting or validating Sunshine's predictions and improving the forecasting models even more. The more people and devices, the better the weather predictions.
Every time we generate forecasts for a location, we take into account all the previous data our users/models have generated in order to improve the local accuracy. Our main difference from all the other weather companies out there is that Sunshine built its technology with crowdsourcing as a base while all the other companies are trying to add the crowdsourcing factor on top of their traditional models.
OMM: How did windsurfing inspire the app?
Stroponiati: Windsurfing helped both my co-founder and me realize how inaccurate the forecasts are. But false predictions are a problem that millions of people face on a daily basis. Sunshine is for people who check weather on their smartphone every morning so they can plan their day. It's for those who are seeking reliable forecasts for the next 20 hours presented in a simple, personal and beautiful way.
OMM: What inspired you to create a weather app?
Stroponiati: Besides windsurfing, I used to work in the bioclimatic design industry – how climate and design affects our indoor and outdoor well being. I attended UC Berkeley to extend my knowledge in this field but I dropped out when my co-founder and I realized how inaccurate the weather forecasts are and that we could actually create a company in Silicon Valley that could solve this problem!
OMM: What is your biggest hurdle—getting people to try a new weather app, even if it’s a free one?
Stroponiati: Weather is one of your five default apps on everyone's smartphone but even so it's still outdated. Our mission is to redefine the weather experience on your smartphone. And weather is the start. It's part of our environment. As more sensors are available (air quality, pollen), our vision is to make everyone aware of the environment they live in.
OMM: Is there one thing we should know about weather apps that most folks don’t?
Stroponiati: Besides being totally confusing and generic, weather maps represent weather predictions that are generated using various but limited data sources. In the Bay Area, the weather that you see on your smartphone comes from only two official weather stations: the San Francisco and Oakland airports. This is why you get such generic and inaccurate predictions. From this, we can all easily understand why their technology is hard to scale. Sunshine is a network of thousands, or millions, of devices on the ground.
OMM: How do you account for, or weed out jokers who say it’s 20 degrees when it’s 85?
Stroponiati: No single user can change the weather out of the blue. We take into account all the users in the area, the forecasts we generate are based on a weighted algorithm where we can filter out the outliers. Actually, our users influence weather based on their experience, activity within the app and community status - it’s like a game.
OMM: How deep is your moat--can copycats duplicate the app very easily?
Stroponiati: Competition is welcome, but making the best weather experience in the world is hard. It's not just about making a pretty app or collecting sensors’ data. It's about creating the appropriate technology (from the models to the community) and bringing this value to the consumer in the best possible way.
For all the latest mobile trends, check out The Open Mobile Summit 2015 on November, 9-10, San Francisco.