SkyEcho: Tracking weather change through highly accurate rainfall data
The weather is an unpredictable thing – and especially so in the Netherlands. From sun and clear skies in one moment, to clouds, wind and rain only minutes later, short-term weather change has been difficult to pinpoint with the technology currently out there. Yet, that may not be the case for much longer.
SkyEcho, led by co-founders Yann Dufournet, Igor Stepanov and Tobias Otto, is on a mission to make rainfall- and storm monitoring more accurate and timely. A lot more accurate and timely, that is.
Bringing nowcasting to the city of Rotterdam
The idea came about a few years back, when Yann was Assistant Professor at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), and worked on a project that monitored urban rainfall at very high resolutions. “The technology to do such monitoring was already up and running, but it was mainly used for scientific purposes,” he says. “What I wanted to do was explore its societal and commercial applications.”
SkyEcho, now a team of four (with Albert Oude Nijhuis), is looking to go to market with a weather surveillance system that can monitor and visualize precipitation – from different types of rain, to hail and snow – on a very short-term, very local scale. The goal is to employ the technology, alongside a user-friendly app, as a service to cities, and the first stop is Rotterdam.
“This is the first time the system has been placed in a city in Europe, and there’s a lot of interest,” Igor says. “We’ve been contracted by the municipality of Rotterdam to provide them with precipitation data at a very high resolution.” The system’s unique selling point is its ability to provide such high-resolution data on a minute-by-minute basis for the upcoming half hour in complement with the standard two-hour forecasting, also called nowcasting.
The team has also received a grant from CityLab010 to further develop the SkyEcho app. The system and application are to be launched by mid-2018.
From managing traffic to handling port logistics
The benefits of such a system for the city are unprecedented. It is not only able to generate and process data in near-real time, but also account for very high levels of accuracy, at the street level. “Most weather forecasting platforms have a resolution of 1x1km, while we can do 100x100m,” Yann says. “That’s hundred times more detail for the covered area.”
The applications of the technology are numerous, too. The municipality of Rotterdam, for instance, is looking to use the system for managing their sewage system, but also for flood safety reasons. Being able to foresee heavy rain- or snowfall can also help manage traffic and keep roads safe and clean.
Logistics is another area that holds great potential for the startup’s technology. Think of the Port of Rotterdam: There’s containers being loaded and unloaded all throughout the day, and heavy rain can pose risks. At the same time, the port is tens of kilometers long, so other activities in their supply chain can also be affected. Very local, near-real time weather data can help make better decisions.
While SkyEcho’s system is particularly useful for municipalities, it also comes at the steep price. To spread the cost, the team is looking to have part of the system paid for by municipalities, part by in-app advertising, and the main chunk – by businesses that want to use the data.
And their proposition seems to be coming at just the right time.
“Recently, the Dutch government asked all municipalities to perform stress tests (‘Klimaat-stresstest’ in Dutch) and assess if their cities are climate resilient,” Yann says. “In that, they will also have to show that they’re able to monitor weather changes and their impact on urban areas. That’s where we come in, and it looks like we’re right on time to scale up.”
Want in on the action?
On January 18th we will share the results of our first year's Impact Report, from 18:00 to 19:00 during the Venture Café Thursday Gathering, followed by the official opening of our first 1.000m2 of new space by Vice Mayor Maarten Struijvenberg.
Subsequently, on March 15th we'll have an Open House Celebration for the full opening of our new space, with food and drinks.
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Photographer: Raymond de Vries photography
Copywriter: Mina Nacheva