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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

New APIs from Exelis for Weather Forecasters and Others

April 23rd, 2015 by Susan Smith

I’ve often thought that weather prediction was the only profession where the professionals could be wrong 90% of the time and still get paid a good salary. Perhaps the new application program interfaces from Exelis will change all that for the future of weather and meteorology.

Helios in Amarillo

GISCafe Voice spoke with Brian Bell, Exelis Helios product manager last week about Exelis’ release of three new application program interfaces (API) for weather forecasters, product managers and enterprise logistics operations managers. The APIs make it easy and convenient to access information products from the Helios™ platform and are delivered directly into their applications and systems.

Herndon Ashburn Helios Feb 26 2015 1

“I’ve working with meterology for almost a decade applying geospatial perspectives to it,” said Bell. “The biggest things when it comes to weather observations is that it’s just not enough. 2011 was a year when everything that could go bad did go bad. 14-15 severe storms occurred, each with economic damages that totaled over $1 billion. At that point the weather enterprise looked at itself and said we’ve invested billions of dollars in all kinds of observation assets and we have a plethora of observation assets, why is this still happening? People in weather enterprise need more eyeballs on the ground. The citizenry of our country has always been concerned about weather. Originally their interest was for agriculture, but now the interest extends to the new types of concerns we face.”

Helios provides information products for companies and organizations that need accurate and timely weather conditions for validation, incorporation into commercial offerings, or as actionable information for real-time decision-making within their enterprises.

Herndon Ashburn Helios Feb 26 2015 2

“We’ve aggregated 30,000 plus cameras, primarily from the Departments of Transportation (DOTs) but all in the public sector,” noted Bell. “We’ve actually used an Exelis core competency that is image science or analytics, so now we take those image frames to detect weather conditions, things like, is the visibility poor, is it changing, are the roads wet, is it raining, and we’re looking at snow and ice on the roads too.”

According to company materials, Helios4Forecast, Helios4Apps and Helios4Enterprise allow developers, programmers and integrators direct interface with the Helios Digital Platform to access multiple information products to develop their own weather applications or add value to their existing products. Helios4Forecast provides detected conditions including rain, wet roads, and visibility for improved accuracy for near-term, local forecasts. Helios4Apps offers product managers, who work for companies that develop weather apps, original and relevant content to differentiate their applications. Helios4Enterprise helps logistics managers by providing critical weather updates that can help improve operational efficiency, delivery time and safety.

Helios data is part of a data set that the weather enterprise can actually use, that complements the existing three sources of data–-Radar, satellite and fixed assets located at airports. With this new data, they can actually provide new products and services.

Herndon Ashburn Helios Feb 26 2015 3
Among Helios’ customers are those who are trading weather forecasts. “They use our data to provide them with auxiliary data to what they have to improve forecast accuracy and also developing their current forecasts,” said Bell. “The second group is application developers. If I’m going to serve the San Francisco market I’m going to have a visibility – a fog, smog report for all travelers around the area. This developer would create an application that would go on a mobile phone. Commuters and travelers in the San Francisco area who are subscribers to that service would use our data to provide that user experience. The third are companies that need to get things from point A to point B. All the companies that offer logistics and shipping want real time conditions because they’ve been hit really hard the last four winters with unpredictable information Getting products to where they need to be on time has been difficult. If they don’t get it there on time, potentially they could lose a whole year’s contract because they’ve missed a delivery or two. It’s really important for logistics and shipping companies to get that product to the warehouse or to the retail store on time.”

Helios is not a forecasting tool, but it does provide observations that would initialize forecast models, for those customers in the forecasting business.

Specific geospatial data accessed in Helios are imagery, latitude and longitude of their observations and direction that observation is being taken at the time.

Bell predicts that some day these types of assets will actually be on vehicles, so they will become as important as sensors and third party apps in cars, potentially with  cameras mounted on the cars. “We will be able to track vehicles and track the observations at the same time, giving you almost three of the four dimensions of spatial data.”

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Categories: Big Data, cloud, cloud network analytics, Exelis, geospatial, GIS

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