IBM Wants to Use Your Smartphone to Better Predict the Weather


The company wants to explore untapped sensors in phones to take barometric readings.

Many people use an app on their smartphones to check the weather forecast for the day. It turns out IBM will also be looking at your smartphone to do the weather forecasting.

The Weather Company, a subsidiary of IBM, is working on a new system to boost the accuracy of weather forecasting entitled the Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting system, or GRAF. IBM announced this on Tuesday at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

This new system will require data collection from traditional sources such as weather stations and aircraft but also from a new source: the pressure sensors built into smartphones. IBM said users will be able to opt-in to sharing this barometric information. 

All of this data will then be analyzed by an IBM POWER9-based supercomputer, the same kind that is used by the Energy Department.

What will all this data provide? IBM says that it will result in a more finely tuned a weather forecast that can be updated hourly.

The use of people's smartphones means there will likely be privacy concerns, even if it is an opt-in system. Engadget reported last week that the city of Los Angeles recently sued the Weather Company for not disclosing exactly how user's location data would be used.

IBM said it will be rolling out the system globally in 2019.