Many people wonder if weather data should be free for everyone to use. Out of all the digital data that we receive via our computers and smartphones, weather data is the most direly needed. So should all weather data providers make it free and open for access to everyone?
There are many government agencies like NOAA and Environment Canada that provide a lot of valuable weather data for free. But does that mean that a company that has developed infrastructure based on artificial intelligence and machine learning offers all its data for free?
Many people think that these weather APIs are standardized, and companies simply repack the data obtained from government sources. That is not entirely true. Many businesses develop their infrastructure and algorithms so that they can get accurate data from several sources other than the government ones. Therefore it does not make sense that they have to do all that hard work for free.
Business Uses of Weather Data
APIs are the modern building blocks for all types of applications and software. APIs can collect different kinds of data so that developers can use it to create apps. For example, if a team of data scientists wants to build a weather app, it won’t be possible for them to place weather monitoring devices all over the area that they wish to cover. So they will use a weather API to get all the required information so that their app can get all the weather-related information.
In our opinion, weather data providers should make their APIs freemium. That means they should provide some data for free but charge for some advanced forms of weather information. Many businesses need weather data to earn revenues, so it only makes sense that they pay a certain amount of money to get the premium data. Some examples of the business users of weather data are:
- Aviation industry
- Transportation companies
- Agricultural industry
- Healthcare industry
- Construction companies
- Insurance agencies
- Supply chains
- Lawn maintenance companies
On the other hand, many individuals also need weather data for personal use. That means they are not earning any profit from the information. Some examples of such individuals are:
- Drone flyers
- Kite flyers
- Cycling enthusiasts
- Leisure sailors
- People allergic to pollen
- Asthmatic people
Since no one owns the weather, it is only fair that such people have access to accurate weather monitoring data. That is why many professional companies make several features free of charge to use, while they charge for the ones that might be needed by businesses.
Let us take the example of a company called ClimaCell. They provide a lot of options for free but charge the more advanced users. They understand that several types of people use APIs to access weather data. People who need it for personal use can access the free weather API by ClimaCell to get data from the core layers.
The free plan also offers samples of some of their proprietary layers, such as air quality and pollen distribution. That means if a weather enthusiast wants to develop an app for their personal use, they can access these features without paying any price. However, data scientists or businesses that wish to have full access to all of their features must pay the cost for it.
So why is it justified for them to charge a price for the weather data that they acquire from other places themselves? The reason for that lies in the proprietary method of data collection and analysis. Unlike most weather APIs, they do not repackage the data collected from government or other free sources.
They have developed an advanced form of technology that gathers weather-related information from many sources. These sources can be traffic cameras, mobile network towers, satellites, vehicles on the road, and any other electronic device that is connected to the internet.
According to the company, the technology works in interesting ways. For example, a traffic camera that can see rain or fog relays that data to the servers. Or when a car connected to the internet switches on the windshield wipers, the technology gets the information. It correlates these data with the others received from nearby locations and predicts the course of the weather.
It is just one example of how the technology works. However, since technology can gather data from any source connected to the internet, it can gather a tremendous amount of data, which makes it one of the most accurate systems available for use. Therefore since the company has invested so much in the development of the technology, it seems fair that they charge the advanced users who wish to use the API data for their business use.