Invest in Weather Forecasting; The Drones Are Coming; Buy a Chauffeur With Your Car.

Chaos Manor View Tuesday, March 31, 2015


It is a little past 1600, and Time Warner Internet has stopped working. This is traditional here. Daily, a bit after 1600 PST, my internal nets and Wi-Fi work, but I am not connected to the Internet. This goes on for about an hour, then fixes itself. It started just after the FCC announced it would regulate the Internet in the name of net neutrality. I don’t know how large a region these blackouts cover, and by the time I get past the robots on the telephone it is gone and Time Warner doesn’t acknowledge that they are aware of it. It may not have anything to do with the FCC, but it certainly is possible.

1635 : I just tried the Internet, and it works. So it goes.


I had physical therapy today, and I learned things; but it does take up time. I was going to do an essay on how the new financial attention to weather—all from private capital—is likely to affect climate models; but I don’t have time. Below there are some links to places where you may learn more about where the money is going. It’s worth attention.

Meanwhile, another segment from Another Step Farther Out, a collection of essays and columns from many years ago, alas many still relevant; I had hoped we’d be long past the need of some of the investments I advocated 25 years ago.


The 1982 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science featured as keynote speaker Dr. George A. Keyworth, Science Advisor to then President Reagan.

Much of what Dr. Keyworth said made sense. We must, he said, cut back; be selective. The days of “As long as you’re up, get me a grant” are over. We shall rigorously pursue excellence—

I’d have been more impressed if he hadn’t, in the same speech, made it pretty clear that they’re cutting back the planetary exploration program. If you want excellence, what’s better?

He did announce that they’ve no intention of saving money by turning off the Deep Space Net; they’ll be listening to Voyager when it gets to Uranus. The rest of the planetary program, however, is in trouble.

So is space investment. The Citizen’s Advisory Council has shown that every year for a decade we have seriously underestimated the requirements for capability to put payloads in orbit. This includes all requirements: civil, scientific, environmental (such as weather and pollution monitoring), and communications. Yet with all the evidence staring them in the face, the administration has not made any commitment to great expansion of our space access capability.

That’s the space front. And if anything, in the last ten years, it has gotten worse. We’re not doing so much on the rest of the high technology front, either. Why?

One problem, I think, is that we have so many economists pretending they know something. Perhaps one or two do. Perhaps. But no two of them seem to make the same recommendations, and most of them ignore what seems so obvious that I suppose you have to earn a Ph.D. before you can’t see it.

I once heard John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur Laffer, the champions of liberal and conservative economics, debate for a full two hours on the subject of why the ’60s were so good and the ’70s so bad; and in all that time, neither mentioned the words “research,” “development,” “space,” or “technology.”

Yet it seems clear: if you’ve got to spend more than you make, you’d better do some investing, and fast. You might also want to gamble.

If a family can see that over the next five years they’ve no choice but to spend money that won’t be coming in, they’ve got some decisions to make. Perhaps a second job, or a new source of income; but suppose there aren’t any.

Sell something? But if there’s nothing to sell? Cut expenses? Perhaps, although if the expenses are taxes that’s not going to work either. And governments, it seems, can’t cut expenses. Reagan’s “cuts” were only a slowdown of increases; the 1983 budget was considerably larger (in real dollars) than was the 1982 budget. So while we talk of budget cuts, we don’t mean it, and I don’t suppose we ever will.

Then what’s left? In the case of a family, it’s obvious. Speculative investments. If you’re going to go broke anyway, take a high flyer and the worst that happens is you’re bankrupt sooner; at best you make enough to keep going.

Return now the U.S.: we have an aging work force. It is absolutely predictable that in a few years there are going to be more people retired and fewer able to work; and somebody’s got to support the retired. They’re voters, you know, and they’ll be organized.

Project this scenario ahead twenty years and you can scare yourself; yet I think of no single institution, none whatever, that can and will do anything about it. All parts of our government operate on a much shorter time frame. If we had one hereditary house in Congress—heresy as it is to say—we’d at least have an institution that worried about the next decade, since its members know they’d still be there to face the problems. They might also be concerned about their children.

But we have no such institution in government, and now that the family has become relatively unimportant we don’t have many private ones to look that far ahead either.

Does this mean we’re doomed?

I don’t know. It’s sure a hell of a challenge.

How, then, can we prevent our children from cursing our memory?

The best way, it seems to me, is investment: to do what Keyworth said the administration wants to do, but do it in a big way. Look: we’re facing bankruptcy. They keep projecting federal deficits larger than the whole budget was during the Johnson administration. The remedy, some say, is to raise taxes, but we all know that’s asinine. All higher taxes do is stimulate people to spend effort on tax avoidance rather than wealth creation. Right now we have teams of the brightest people in the nation working for the IRS, and other equally competent teams working for their victims; the vector sum of their activity is zero. How is the Republic well served by this?

No: if we’re headed for bankruptcy, we’d as well be hung for sheeps as lambs. You’re going to have deficits? Pity; but if so, take some of it and invest. Back long shots. Like space industries. Lunar colonies. Heave money at the universities. Change tax laws to provide really heavy incentives for industry to do basic R&D.

What you’re praying for is a breakthrough: some way to change the very rules of the game. That’s happened often enough in history, although seldom in response to deliberate stimulation; but what the hell, we’re desperate, or should be.

And I mean that: we should be in a state of near panic just now. How can you look into the future and be anything but scared? The work force gets older. Our machines get older. Our taxes get higher, and our savings get lower. More and more people become concerned with “survival;” the underground economy is the only thing that’s booming (and what a marvelous thing that is! We get surgeons out painting their own houses, because it’s cheaper than hiring it done. A real accomplishment). We ought to be scared stiff.

Now maybe, just maybe my colleague Harry Stine is right: that without any government investments the capital for space development will be forthcoming from the private sector; the Third Industrial Revolution will proceed apace, without stimulation form Washington. Maybe. I hope so. But I don’t see many signs of it.

I see no real reasons to revise that in 2015.

Subject: Amazon DASH is Jeff Bezos’ latest “I want it now” convenience stratagem – a “Free” IoT “reorder anything” thingy

Amazon DASH is Jeff Bezos’ latest “I want it now” convenience stratagem! A Wi-Fi immediate order IoT Thingy! Free to Prime members by priority request. The FAA cannot delay THIS one….

: Richard Doherty


AT&T launches ultrafast Internet service in Cupertino (MN)

By Troy Wolverton

POSTED:   03/30/2015 11:26:25 AM PDT

CUPERTINO — AT&T on Monday announced that it has launched its new super-high-speed Internet service in Cupertino.

Residents in certain areas of the city can now sign up for the service, dubbed GigaPower, which can deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. That’s nearly seven times faster than the fastest broadband service Comcast offers in the area and more than 20 times faster than the speediest service AT&T commonly offered in the area previously.

“We’re thrilled to be the first city on the West Coast to get GigaPower,” Cupertino Mayor Rod Sinks said at a news conference here.

For Cupertino, the launch is something of a redemption. The city had hoped to be among the first communities to get the competing Google Fiber service, but its application was rejected by the search giant.

AT&T is offering GigaPower by installing fiber optic data cables directly to customers’ houses. Fiber optic cables have the capability to deliver far more bandwidth than either the copper cables used by AT&T and other phone companies to deliver traditional phone service and older DSL-based Internet service or the coaxial cables used to deliver Comcast’s broadband service.

With gigabit Internet service, AT&T estimates that consumers could download an HD movie in about 36 seconds.

But that service won’t come cheap. AT&T will charge $110 a month for stand-alone 1-gigabit Internet service. The company will charge $180 a month for triple-play service, with unlimited calling, pay TV service and 1-gigabit broadband. Those prices are only guaranteed for a year and two years, respectively, and may rise after that.

Even if they don’t, they arguably understate the actual cost of the service. As part of receiving the GigaPower service at those prices, customers must agree to allow AT&T to track their online activities for the purpose of marketing products to them, something they typically don’t have to agree to with other broadband service agreements. If customers choose to opt out of that tracking, they would pay additional $29 a month for each package of services.

By contrast, Comcast charges $115 for its 150-megabit per second Internet service, but only $50 a month for its 105-megabit per second one. Comcast charges a promotional rate of about $140 a month for a triple-play bundle including 105 megabit per second broadband.

It’s also unclear just who in Cupertino will be able to receive the GigaPower service. At launch, the service is available at “several thousand” homes in the city, said Terry Stenzel, vice president and general manager of the Northern California and Reno region for AT&T. But Stenzel declined to give an exact number or to say what percentage of homes or what areas in the city have access to the service, citing competitive reasons. According to the 2010 census, Cupertino had about 20,000 households.

“They’re unwilling to tell anybody. Not even me,” said Mayor Sinks.

Cupertino doesn’t have any commitment from AT&T to offer service to all areas of the city or to bring service to government buildings, schools or hospitals, Sinks said.

“They’ve stopped short of any commitment on that,” he said.

AT&T plans to expand the service in the city “every week,” said Stenzel. But he added that the timing of when the company will offer service to additional residents depends on customer demand, the time it takes to get permits for the work and other factors.

While AT&T is exploring offering GigaPower in other Bay Area cities, the company hasn’t announced plans in any particular one. The timing depends in part on the permitting process, which can vary from city to city, said Ken McNeely, president of AT&T’s California operations.

Picture of the future? How many years before we all have it? In 1990 you had to be near the backbone to get high speed access, and that last 1000 feet was expensive, This is 2015. If we are here in 15 years…


Crop forecasting (to predict the futures market) is big business.  Satellites changed that profession enormously, from the early days of Earthsat (SF writer Charles Sheffield, Ph.D. VP Technology)  to the present.  Now here come the drones:

How DroneDeploy’s app is about to make farming more efficient (WP)

By Matt McFarland March 31 at 7:30 AM

DroneDeploy, a start-up poised to make farms and other businesses significantly more efficient, launched its mobile app Tuesday and announced it will be compatible with one of the world’s most popular drones.

DroneDeploy’s software, which automates drone flights, crunches the data and quickly provides it in a useful manner, will work on DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision +. DroneDeploy’s secret sauce is its ability to take the pain and hassle out of operating a drone for commercial use.

“Farmers can fly the field at 11 o’clock in the morning, and after lunch be applying chemicals with pinpoint accuracy,” said Bret Chilcott, founder of AgEagle, which makes drones for the agricultural industry. “What that does is it saves the farmer a ton of money. Chemicals are really expensive.”

He’s been testing DroneDeploy’s software on his drones for about 10 months ahead of Tuesday’s official release, and says he’s found nothing that measures up to it. Chilcott believes DroneDeploy’s dominance could be on a Google or Microsoft type level.

With DroneDeploy a drone can be easily told to fly on autopilot over a farmer’s fields. Shortly after the drone lands a farmer will already be able to review the maps and data gathered by the drone. With NDVI data, a farmer can what portions of his fields are healthy, and what portions aren’t.

He can then download a geotagged image out of DroneDeploy and upload that into his usual farming software to apply a dose of fertilizer to only the area of his field that is in need.

A farmer will be able to enjoy the utility drones offer without having to learn to fly one, or hire a drone pilot. The only required skill is a familiarity with operating a smartphone or tablet app. DroneDeploy automatically processes in the cloud the data gathered to provide less work to farmers.

“Previously people knew there’s tons of potential with drones, they can do lots of things. But they’re just really hard to start using because they’re so complicated,” said DroneDeploy chief executive Mike Winn. “Anyone knows how to push a button on a screen. With our product you don’t need to use multiple devices and multiple pieces of software.”

DroneDeploy says its app will be available for $99 a month. Its audience is strictly commercial. For farmers look to cut down on their chemical or water bills, that $99 could go a long way.

Winn sees the biggest opportunity for DroneDeploy now in agriculture, but other potential uses could include monitoring quarries and construction sites and taking real estate photography videos.

DroneDeploy also announced Tuesday it has raised $9 million in Series A funding, which was led by Emergence Capital. Kevin Spain will be joining its board of directors. Winn wanted to work with Emergence Capital because of its experience with enterprise cloud companies.

DroneDeploy currently has 12 employees and that figure should grow. Its three founders are South African, and two have PhDs in machine learning.

The app can be downloaded on iOS and Android devices.

Needless to say, crop forecasting is now much more efficient…


All this attention to weather should affect “climate” models:

IBM Scores Weather Data Deal and Starts Internet of Things Unit    nyt

By Steve Lohr

March 31, 2015 12:01 am March 31, 2015 12:01 am

Data partnerships are a key ingredient in IBM’s long-term strategy, and the company is announcing a big one on Tuesday with the Weather Company.

For IBM, the deal represents another close link with a leading data supplier for special access and joint development. Last fall, it forged a similar arrangement with Twitter, the social network, whose tweets of 140 characters or fewer are a global wellspring of consumer sentiment.

IBM also said that it planned to invest $3 billion in the next four years to build up an Internet of Things business group. The two announcements are related since so much of the new data that corporations want to analyze to spot ways to increase sales and cut costs will increasingly come from Internet-connected devices, from smartphones to sensors.

The Weather Company is best known for its media properties like the Weather Channel and, but it is also a data heavyweight, gulping up 20 terabytes daily from weather stations, radar, satellites and small sensors. Its data powers the weather apps for Apple, Google, Microsoft and others. It also sells its weather data to thousands of companies, including airlines, retailers and insurers, and the unit that sells that information, WSI, is the company’s fastest-growing business.

“Google mapped the earth and we map the atmosphere,” said David Kenny, chief executive of the Weather Company.

To IBM, weather data is an indispensable asset. But it is a raw material to be fed through Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence engine, and the company’s other analysis tools. The goal, said Robert Picciano, senior vice president for analytics, is to deliver a “new service for business, detailed weather information and insights for decision-making.”

The IBM-Weather Company announcement, said Frank Gens, chief analyst at the research firm IDC, is part of a larger trend of major tech companies trying to enhance their cloud-based technology with data for businesses and developers. “Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and others are all trying to pull in as many interesting data sources as they can,” Mr. Gens said.

In this deal, IBM got a win for its cloud business. The Weather Company had relied mainly on Amazon Web Services for its cloud computing, but for its business data service it will use IBM’s SoftLayer cloud technology.

To date, the Weather Company has sold its data mostly to companies, though it has jointly developed applications for specific industries, notably commercial airlines. For the airline industry, Mr. Kenny said, the company focused on using real-time weather data and sensor data on aircraft to help reduce turbulence in flights by as much as 70 percent. Beyond passenger comfort and satisfaction, turbulence consumes extra fuel and adds to wear and tear on planes, adding to downtime on the ground.

With real-time data, flight paths can often be altered to reduce turbulence. Mr. Kenny pointed to that as an example of the kind of improvement that weather data can make when combined with other information. The partnership with IBM, he said, should add more “science to what we can do. We’re going from data to decisions.”

One likely application, IBM said, was in auto insurance. Insurers pay more than $1 billion in claims in the United States for cars and trucks damaged by hail. Adding Watson analysis to WSI’s weather data, the company said, could enable insurers to send text-message alerts to policyholders, warning them of an imminent hailstorm and advising them of safe locations nearby. Such a service, IBM calculates, has the potential to save insurers up to $25 per policyholder in hail-prone regions, or millions of dollars a year.

How IBM and The Weather Channel’s new deal can save you money (Fortune)

It’s all about helping businesses make smarter decisions

IBM and The Weather Channel are partnering to help businesses make better decisions around weather patterns, the companies announced Tuesday. The move signals a commitment by IBM to broaden its offerings as it focuses on new projects, especially after a year with rocky financials and a “disappointing” outlook for 2015.

“Weather is perhaps the single largest external swing factor in business performance – responsible for an annual economic impact of nearly half a trillion dollars in the U.S. alone,” according to IBM. The company said that it will be able to use cloud computing to process data collected data from “more than 100,000 weather sensors and aircraft, millions of smartphones, buildings and even moving vehicles.”

Among the firms that IBM says could benefit from the new Weather Channel partnership are insurance companies, which could use Big Blue’s data to save money by halting operations or change their offerings based on weather forecasts. Here’s IBM’s release:

Insurers pay more than $1 billion in claims every year for vehicles damaged by hail. WSI’s Weather Alert service, together with IBM Analytics, enables insurance providers to send policyholders text messages that alert them to impending hailstorms – and safe locations – so vehicles can be moved before damage occurs. These insights have the potential to save insurers up to $25 per policyholder per year in hail-prone areas, or millions of dollars annually.

The move comes as IBM also announced a $3 billion investment in a new Internet of Things unit, Fortune reported.

In January, IBM reported fourth-quarter earnings of $5.81 per share, which exceeded analysts’ expectations. That figure, however, was down 6% from the previous year.

The cloud for clouds: IBM and The Weather Company work on big data weather forecasts (ZD)

Summary:Big data and Internet of Things to improve weather forecasting.

By Colin Barker | March 31, 2015 — 13:48 GMT (06:48 PDT)

IBM and The Weather Company want to use big data, the cloud, and the Internet of Things to improve weather forecasting for businesses.

As part of a new deal between the companies, The Weather Company will shift its massive weather data services platform to the IBM Cloud and integrate its data with IBM analytics and cloud services.

The deal reflects how competition in the cloud market is heating up too: The Weather Company is a close partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Bryson Koehler, the CIO/CTO for The Weather Company, told ZDNet: “I believe in the multi-cloud story and believe that any serious cloud-based business or application needs to be built in a cloud-agnostic way.”

The Weather Company, he said, “has been on that journey for the last three years and that’s what has enabled us to deploy our Data Services Platform onto IBM SoftLayer so we can power our business and strategic opportunities with IBM beyond what we could do with AWS alone”.

As IBM points out, weather is the single largest external variable in business performance – responsible for “an annual economic impact of nearly half a trillion dollars in the US alone”.

But one of the big issues, according to IBM, is that while weather prediction is getting more precise and granular all the time – thanks to bigger and better computers and better software – business systems “generally assume every day is the same”. The result is that knowledge of impending extreme weather disruptions “don’t always trigger operational responses”.

IBM and The Weather Company think the combination of traditional business data, such as weather information, and what the companies call the “unprecedented number of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled systems and devices” is going to transform enterprise decision-making in a fundamental way.

The IBM/The Weather Channel partnership is part of a $3 billion investment IBM is making in the IoT and cloud services as a whole, the company said in a statement.

A multitude of sensors

The combination of the IoT and cloud computing will enable more than 100,000 weather sensors and aircraft along will “millions of smartphones, buildings and even moving vehicles” to combine information. WSI, The Weather Company’s parent, will process data from thousands of sources, the companies said, resulting in approximately 2.2 billion unique forecast points worldwide. The WSI “averages more than 10 billion forecasts a day on active weather days”.

By migrating its weather data platform to IBM Cloud, WSI hopes to be able to speed the growth of what is believes is “one of the largest cloud-based applications in the world”.

IBM and WSI/The Weather Company will aims to deliver cloud services in three areas:

Watson Analytics for Weather: IBM and WSI aims to enable the integration of historical and real-time weather data in business operations and decision making with IBM analytics platforms such as Watson Analytics. The companies said they will jointly develop industry solutions for insurance, energy & utilities, retail and logistics.

Cloud and Mobile App Developer Tools: Entrepreneurs and software developers will be able to build mobile and web apps that use WSI data combined with data from operational systems, connected devices and sensors using advanced analytics through IBM’s cloud application development platform, Bluemix.

Business and Operational Weather Expertise: Consultants from IBM Global Business Services will be trained to combine WSI data with other sources to help interpret “industry pain points”, the companies said, and provide new insights to help solve business problems.

The aim is to combine IBM’s cloud computing, consulting, and analytics experience with WSI’s weather data and forecasts so that industries can hopefully have better weather prediction, the companies said.

Some of the examples IBM and and WSI use include:

Insurance: A simple weather issue like hail carries a fairly hefty cost. Insurers pay more than $1 billion in claims every year for vehicles damaged by hail but WSI’s Weather Alert service, together with IBM Analytics, can help insurance providers by enabling them to send policyholders text messages that alert them to impending hailstorms – and safe locations – so vehicles can be moved before damage occurs. These insights have the potential to save insurers up to $25 per policyholder per year in hail-prone areas, which adds up to millions of dollars annually, IBM said in a statement.

Retail: Each winter, retailers in snowy areas see patterns in which storm forecasts drive spikes in sales of goods and tools such as groceries, shovels, sand, salt and cold-weather gear. At the same time as the retailers are laying out for extra sales, these same events typically hamper retail sales as consumers stay inside. The differences can be profound – during the January 2014 polar vortex in the US, areas with greater than 10°F/12.2C drops in temperature saw sales fall 15.5 percent while areas with a less than 10°F/12.2C drop saw sales fall only 2.9 percent. The ability to better understand and predict the impact of such weather events allows retailers to adjust staffing and supply chain strategies as needed – regionally and nationwide.

Utilities: Utility companies in the US feel the impact of an increase in temperature and relative humidity dramatically in air conditioning use and power consumption. The difference between 90 and 95 degrees in Texas, for example, can equate to $24 million more in electricity spending per day. With IBM and WSI, utilities should be able to more accurately predict power consumption so they can avoid overproducing power, reduce service interruptions and better serve customers, the companies said.

David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, claimed that the agreement between The Weather Company and IBM was, “a watershed moment for businesses that have long been impacted by weather but haven’t had the rich data or enhanced decision-making ability to drive positive business outcomes”.

IBM creates Internet of things division, lands Weather Company cloud deal (ZD)

Summary:IBM formalizes its focus on the Internet of things as it faces competition from traditional tech rivals as well as companies such as General Electric.

By Larry Dignan for Between the Lines | March 31, 2015 — 04:01 GMT (21:01 PDT)

IBM on Tuesday said that it will create a new Internet of things unit and invest $3 billion over four years to build it out.

The move formalizes IBM’s existing Internet of things efforts. IBM’s smarter planet and smarter cities businesses are connected to the Internet of things trend. The rough idea behind the Internet of things is that sensors will be embedded in everything and networked to create data. This flow of data could improve operations.

For IBM, the formation of the Internet of things unit follows a familiar playbook. IBM targets a high value growth area, invests at least a $1 billion to get the effort rolling and throws its hardware, software and consultants at the issue. In this respect, the formation of the Internet of things unit rhymes with what IBM did with e-commerce, analytics, cloud and cognitive computing.

IBM faces a fierce battle for enterprise Internet of things (IoT) business. Cisco has targeted IoT as has almost every tech vendor.

Meanwhile, non-traditional IBM rivals have strong IoT efforts. For instance, General Electric, which happens to make many of the things that will be networked, has an IoT platform called Predix. GE has invested $1 billion in industrial software development. Although GE calls the Internet of things the industrial Internet, the concept of networking things and layering analytics on top is the same.

For IBM’s part, the company said it will have more than 2,000 consultants, researchers and developers aimed at IoT and the analytics that goes with it. IBM said the unit will include:

A cloud platform for industries aimed at verticals. IBM will offer dynamic pricing models and cloud delivery to various verticals.

Bluemix IoT platform as a service so developers can create and deploy applications for asset tracking, facilities management and engineering tools.

An ecosystem of partners ranging from AT&T to ARM to The Weather Company.

Separately, IBM announced a partnership with the business-to-business division of The Weather Company, owner of The Weather Channel. The partnership will deliver micro weather forecasts using sensors from aircraft, drones, buildings and smartphones.

The Weather Company will also move its data services platform to IBM’s cloud platform and integrate Big Blue’s analytics tools such as Watson Analytics. The Weather Company had been an Amazon Web Services reference customer. It’s unclear whether The Weather Company will still use AWS given the IBM pact.

Based on The Weather Company’s cloud architecture it’s possible that IBM will be one additional cloud in addition to AWS, Google and Verizon’s Terremark.

Here’s that architecture from an AWS re:Invent presentation.

To be sure, IBM has a bevy of IoT projects underway with customers. The new unit will hone and focus those efforts while bringing in IBM’s expertise in analytics.



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