WeatherBug Maps Changes – Why The Changes Were Needed

There should be an image here!Recently many WeatherBug users have noticed that the WeatherBug maps have been undergoing some fairly heavy visual changes. And in the WeatherBug forums, we have made sure everyone understood that the changes taking place are still in motion. So if there is something missing, there is a strong chance that WeatherBug can get it back on track asap. Just make sure to use the forums to share this with WeatherBug.

Below is the full explanation as to why the map changes were needed in the first place, as you will plainly see, it was not a decision taken lightly. It was overdue and the changes actually mean good things for WeatherBug users in the months to come.

So why the switch?

First off the system we had was over 6 years old built on SGI technology. It crashed several times a day and was becoming impossible to support given that the hardware is no longer supported. I guess people never noticed but there would be times when our radars would be 20-30 minutes old. With the current system, our update rates are well under 6 minutes at all times.

Secondly, our old system was built for broadcast TV graphics. The only way we got it to work was by running a bunch of timed scripts which generated the images. The images looked nice because they were similar to what you would see on TV, but the BIG down-side is that there is a limit to how many images we can generate every 6 minutes. Because of that limit, you cannot generate an image that is personal for every location.

Our ultimate goal here (which is beginning to be realized by our new mobile web and WAP sites) is to have a radar for every visitor that is centered exactly on their zip code. We tried working with our old provider of radars to get that kind of system and they could just not provide it for us. http://dev.m.weatherbug.com/ is the new site that has maps centered on zip. We serve thousands of radar images per second and so we are currently working on and measuring performance of the system before we get it rolled out to our web site and our desktop application.

So were new technology changes a driving force for the switch?

The new maps are tied into a new technology we have developed that we call our “real time GIS” system. This system allows us to ingest any GIS data and present it on a map quite easily and is very scalable. Our ultimate goal is to be able to provide weather data for every point on the earth in as much detail as possible. This new system has improved timeliness of data because it is event triggered when new data arrives. For example, a new radar image coming in, fires a trigger to process that data, load it into one of our real time GIS systems and then notify the GIS viewer to update it on the web so that we get radar data to our end users very quickly.

Then it is safe to say that this changing of the maps is actually going to mean that WeatherBug can provide even more control over appearance and functionality?

Most important, this change puts us in the driver’s seat with respect to updating and improving the system. Before we were at the mercy of our provider to make changes and improvements (which they weren’t). We can actually act on all the feedback we are getting.

Will there be eventual integration with the WeatherBug API?

Eventually the calls for any of our GIS data will become an API that we can allow other developers to use. In fact, we already have some partners using that data.

And there you have it. The actual thought behind the change in the maps and how WeatherBug came to the conclusion that a switch was badly needed. If you have any questions on the maps, feel free to hit the forums link above to share your thoughts.