WeatherBug, the national weather reporting service, and Send Word Now, a service that provides urgent contact information to companies, announced June 12 that they are joining forces in a new service called the Smart Weather Notification Service.
The service will alert managers to critical weather events at their location. The companies also announced that their first major customer will be Wal-Mart.
WeatherBug has a network of over 8,000 weather stations located in neighborhoods across the United States and other countries.
These weather stations are located in schools, government offices and media offices. The company uses the stations to provide real-time neighborhood-level weather readings.
Send Word Now provides a real-time urgent message service for global users. The SWN notification service provides alerts to wireless devices, and can use location data from properly equipped devices to customize the messages.
Currently, the company can only receive location information from Sprint and Nextel devices that have GPS chips. However, the design of the notification is such that it will work for devices without GPS by determining which wireless tower is receiving the signal.
The next vendor that will work with the WeatherBug/SWN alerting system will be Verizon, which the WeatherBug says should happen in July.
"Managers will have real-time informed decision making capability they dont currently have," said Jim Anderson, Director of Business Development for WeatherBug.
"We wanted a product that would take the notification and push it out to facilities based on location," said Jason Jackson, Wal-Marts director of emergency management.
Jackson said that the 2005 hurricanes demonstrated to the company that letting its managers know as quickly as possible when bad weather threatened their stores or personnel was crucial.
He said that managers use weather alerts to trigger continuity of operations plans, reassignment of staff (such as bringing cart pushers in from the parking lot), and even alerting customers to what is about to happen.
According to the company, Wal-Mart will be "going live" with the new service at the beginning of August, 2006.
The Broward County schools in Florida are also using the new WeatherBug/Send Word Now service. SWN Chief Strategy Officer Michael Sher said that the company has a number of high-profile customers including the U.S. Postal Service, GE and IBM, and he said he expects some of them to adopt the weather alerting service as well.
Sher also said that while automatic location-based reports depend on the GPS chip inside mobile phones for the time being, users without such phones can enter their location manually.
Sher said that users can also list up to ten alternate locations, and the emergency alerts can contact each of them. He also mentioned that emergency alerts are auditable, so that managers can see who was actually reached and who was not.