Weather forecasting becomes a smartphone affair

Posted by Nermin Hajdarbegovic

Although high resolution screens, elaborate application processors and cameras tend to grab all the smartphone headlines, another change is starting to take shape under the bonnet of our favourite toys.

Smartphone makers are cramming an increasing number of sensors into their new designs, allowing developers to come up with increasingly, ahem, smart apps for them.

UK based OpenSignal has just launched a crowdsourced meteorological platform, designed to take advantage of sensor packed phones like Samsung’s new Galaxy S4, reports New Scientist. The S4 has the largest sensor suite of any smartphone, which makes it ideally suited for sensor tinkerers. The fact that Samsung tends to sell millions of its flagship phones also helps. 

The S4 features a barometer, a thermometer, hygrometer and a magnetometer, in addition to a light sensor, which is the only sensor visible to users. By tapping the sensors, OpenSignal’s weather app, dubbed WeatherSignal, can deliver a relatively accurate assessment of local weather conditions, but it cannot work out whether any precipitation is on the way. We’ll just have to rely on our knackered old bones for that. 

The other question is temperature. Although the S4 has a temperature sensor like all other smartphones, it is used to monitor the temperature of the lithium battery, so your phone wouldn’t pull a Dreamliner in your pocket. It can be used to obtain the ambient temperature, but the readings aren’t very accurate. However, if multiple devices are used, a fairly accurate average could be worked out.

WeatherSignal is already available and it’s free, but a Samsung GS4 isn’t.