How can you assess how long a drive will take when you live in a place with unpredictable weather? Social GPS apps and weather apps have all made it easier for drivers to predict traffic, but Israeli app Nooly is attempting to go further by telling you the exact time and place that rain will start or end.
As opposed to some weather apps that provide hourly forecasts, Nooly, a micro-weather app developed in Israel, provides minute-by-minute forecasts localized to a 0.4 mile radius (0.6 km). So far their “nowcasting” technology has been applied to the US and Canada.
Herzliya to China and back
CEO Yaron Reich first conceived of Nooly after spending much time in Hong Kong and South-China. He says: “As an Israeli coming from this dry place where all of us know what the weather will be like today, tomorrow and next week, it was a shock for me to go into a world where you have no idea what the weather will be like in 10 minutes. You go to the subway, it’s a sunny day, you exit the subway and it’s pouring rain!”
“It was like somebody standing above me with buckets of water,” he adds.
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Understanding how clouds work
Reich explains that regular “hourly or daily weather forecasting use [numerical] models, which calculate the likelihood of a storm to form, with no relation to the actual cloud itself. They are built to say ‘somewhere in this area, there will be a condition for rain’, meaning that raindrops do not necessarily reach the ground.”
Nowcasting on the other hand uses observation radar satellites and “based on existing clouds or on the formation of new clouds that we can see. If I see a cloud, I don’t need to estimate, it is already there. The only thing I need to do is calculate its growth and growth potential, and what it will do in its expected lifetime.”
Moreover, Nooly “tracks the different areas within the cloud. The convective side of the cloud generates the energy and produces the thunderstorms and heavy rain and snow. Tornadoes come from this place; the outskirts of the cloud produce light rain.”
Reich adds that “in order to accurately predict where the thunderstorm cloud will move to, and what it will do on the way, you really need to understand what the cloud is going through.” This is an extremely complicated process and Reich cautiously says “we think, we hope, we know, what is going on inside a cloud.”
Knowledge that saves time and money
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Despite Reich’s humility Nooly already has 100,000 users in the US and Canada. He says “Nooly was not born as a web or mobile app but with the intention of giving users accurate micro-weather via the nearest screen.” Reich envisions a future in which Nooly is embedded in elevators, subways and coffee shops. The goal of Nooly is to be “seamlessly streamed to you because you need to know this data.”
Reich does not believe Nooly has a monopoly on vital weather information. For example, Reich suggests that Nooly could be incorporated into Waze or other GPS systems.
“If you are using Waze, why not tell you the weather at your destination. Or better yet, why not tell you the weather on the way there.”
Reich sees a twofold safety and environmental responsibility in applying Nooly to GPS systems. He recalls a “horrible accident a few months ago close to Virginia; 97 cars piled up due to fog.”
Furthermore, Reich submits that many of Nooly’s users are professional drivers that can navigate effectively without using a GPS. Their only obstacle is unpredictable weather, which could cost them time and money, he says. “For them every minute on the road costs them in gasoline. They know the way. The only problem is flooding, fog, heavy rain and snow.”
Reich also suggests that Nooly be applied to jogging and biking apps. Nooly is also currently being used by solar power plants as it can predict the amount of sunlight at any given moment and hail, which may damage solar panels.
No raining on this parade
Reich says he was recently invited to a secret party by well-known marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk’s in New York. “The rumour was that the party was going to be held in an empty parking lot. I checked Nooly and saw it’s going to rain five minutes before the party starts. So I tweeted Gary saying there will be a huge thunderstorm in 35 minutes and he changed the venue. Sure enough, it rained when I said it would.”
Photo: Business man hidden under umbrella by Bigstock