On a new wavelength with weather data
Major flood events are happening with increasing frequency worldwide, making access to more precise weather information an absolute necessity. Today’s weather technologies simply do not provide the time and spatial accuracy that is needed, so innovators at Ericsson and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) have been leveraging microwave data to solve the problem.
Ericsson ONE is a global community of thinkers and doers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs, brought together by a shared mission to create easy to use innovations that scale, last and solve real problems that people care about. Ericsson ONE is where we incubate new businesses and make bold innovation come to life. The Weather Data incubation project is part of the Ericsson ONE initiative, proving that microwave data can produce life-changing weather information.
If we could see microwave energy, we would see a tightly interwoven mesh of narrow beams criss-crossing the sky over our heads. Until now, these beams have been part of the nervous system of our networks, continuously transmitting communication data. But now, thanks to an algorithm created to detect the cause of signal loss in microwave links, it can be used to measure exactly how much rain has fallen between two points on a microwave network.
In combination with existing rainfall measurement technologies, Ericsson Weather Data enables vastly greater accuracy in real-time rain measurement, and therefore provides more detailed rain modelling information. This has wide-reaching applications in helping municipal authorities manage water resources, measure impact on sewage, and anticipate run-off and traffic disruption, as well as enabling more accurate micro-insurance in developing world agriculture, and fighting malaria outbreaks, to name just a few.
Microwave networks can be found all over the world, with around four million individual links providing connections to mobile base stations. This is a vastly greater number than the amount of traditional rain gauges, and covers a much greater area a lot closer to the ground than weather radar networks.
The innovation project has been initiated together with SMHI. It involves developing an algorithm that analyses microwave signal loss patterns to detect rainfall, presenting weather observers with a detailed real-time map of where the rain is falling as the weather front moves across the network.
In addition to capturing better rain data than has been possible before, the solution can also identify other causes of signal loss, including disruptions caused by construction and swaying masts. This reduces the time and financial cost associated with operators sending engineering teams to investigate the cause of a signal loss – it's all clear to see in the microwave data.
In rural communities across the world, adverse weather can have an impact on everything from agricultural yield to the spread of disease. These countries may not have an extensive weather radar network to measure and counter this negative impact, but they will have a microwave network. The collaborative project with SMHI demonstrates that existing microwave data can be processed in a new way, providing life-changing information from existing infrastructure.
The first countrywide roll-out of Ericsson Weather Data will happen in Rwanda later in 2018, providing farmers and aid workers with an unprecedented level of foresight and early warning over flood events and crop insurance data.