My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Ja REEACH 36 Portable Weather Stations helps MSJ, RADA and NIC prevent Drought by 2020

Friday, March 25, 2016

How Ja REEACH 36 Portable Weather Stations helps MSJ, RADA and NIC prevent Drought by 2020

Jamaica is going to get Hyper-local Weather forecasting.

This as some 500 farmers are being given some JA$18 million worth of 36 portable weather station equiptment to more precisely track weather across the island as reported in the article  “Farmers to Benefit from Weather Stations”, published March 24, 2016 By Douglas McIntosh, The Jamaica Information Service.

The announcement was made during a forum marking World Meteorological Day, on March 23, under the theme: ‘Hotter, Drier, Wetter. Face the Future’, at the Knustford Court Hotel, in New Kingston. At that forum, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) who were providing the portable weather stations under the Ja REEACH II (Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change).

Signing the MoU were:

1.      Acting MSJ Director, Jacqueline Spence
2.      Chief Executive Officer of RADA Lenworth Fulton
3.      Chief Executive Officer of NIC – Dr. Mark Richards

In case you've been under the weather, Ja REEACH is an initiative focused on improving climate and weather forecast data for local and national weather forecasting. installation and maintenance of the weather stations will be undertaken by the following Government agencies:

1.      MSJ (Meteorological Service of Jamaica)
2.      RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority)
3.      NIC (National Irrigation Commission)

So how does this network of portable Weather stations work exactly?

How the portable Weather Stations will work - Hyperlocal Weather for better use of Rainwater Resources

Most likely, these portable weather stations consist of your standard weather equiptment to measure the following variables:

1.      Atmospheric pressure
2.      Dust particulate levels
3.      Humidity
4.      Rainfall
5.      Solar Radiation
6.      Sunrise and sunset
7.      Temperature
8.      Wind speed

These weather stations log this data into their onboard memory store, which can be retrieved either manually via a visit with a data reader, which can be a smartphone, or OTA (Over the Air) via a Telecom Provider Network. I'm willing to bet it will be the latter, but initially it may be the former, being as Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz was present at the signing of the MoU.

Still, whichever way the data is collected initially, it'll almost certainly involve some sending of data over a Telecom Network, mostly using GPRS (Global Packet Radio Service). This is because the data logged by the instruments is discrete bits of data and not massive amounts of audio or video that would require 3G or 4G Data.

This basically make the weather stations an example of the IoT (Internet of Things) in Jamaica, should Ja REECH choose to go this route.

This may mark Jamaica's foray into hyperlocal weather, this crazy idea that you can measure local weather more accurately down to a few hundred square kilometers in real time. On the face of it, it reminds me of Swedish startup Vaavud plans to interlink smartphones users of its portable wind meter or anemometer to predict the weather in their locations as explained in my blog article entitled “How Vaavud plans to introduce the first hyperlocal weather forecasts by 2016”.

To achieve this, the Ja REEACH would have to have a portable weather station in all 66 constituencies in order to make the weather so accurate, that you could tell the weather within your parish. Then this data could be sold to farmers, who would access it via a smartphone app whose database would be maintained by the MSJ.

Premium data could be sold to third party weather companies, local entrepreneurs and academia who would pay via subscription to this app, possibly via using mobile money as a payment option.

Most importantly, having access to hyper-accurate weather would allow the 500 farmers to accurately determine levels of rainfall and drought and help agencies such as NIC and RADA coordinate drought relief as well as farmer plan what crops to grow.

Combined with the Rainwater Bill as noted in my blog article entitled “How Rainwater Harvesting Bill means Rainwater Net Billing to end NWC's Water monopoly”, better use can be made of our Groundwater and Rainwater Resources, making Drought a thing of the past.

So fancy having the weather at your fingertips? It may be coming soon if this Ja REECH is expanded to reach all across Jamaica to make hyperlocal Weather a reality by 2020!  

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