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About this blog: I write about technology companies, trends and events in and around Mountain View. Where else can you find startups nurtured by Y-Combinator and 500 Startups working alongside multi-billion corporations like Google, Symantec and I...  (More)

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Don't Get Struck By Lightning, Stuck In The Snow Or Caught In The Rain - WeatherSphere Will Alert You

Uploaded: Nov 5, 2013
Robert Moore's flower shop is no longer at 881 Castro Street. Instead of bouquets in the window, a computer display shows a map of hazardous weather. Now it is the home of WeatherSphere.

WeatherSphere founder Raghav Gupta, formerly at eBay, believes smartphones can save lives by alerting people to hazards like tornadoes, storms and lightning strikes. Farmers, drivers, outdoor sports enthusiasts, emergency personnel and air travelers all need to know when there's going to be inclement weather.

Storm season has started. Soon Route 80 will close in a snowstorm. WeatherSphere displays the snow forecast from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in its NOAA Snow Forecast app. WeatherSphere offers its NOAA Hi-Def Radar app on both Android and Apple devices. It covers radar over both land and sea, which makes it easy to show the path of storms and hurricanes.

WeatherSphere's newest app is its $1.99 Radar Cast Elite that currently supports Apple devices –iPhones and iPads. It's not quite as easy to use as my trusty weather app, Weather Bug. Radar Cast uses many sources and has many more features – possibly too many – sometimes more is less. You can buy extra features – like aviation ($9.99), best fishing times ($1.99), truck stops ($.99) and trip information ($.99 – campsites, rest stops, beaches, points of interest). If you're only interested in fishing weather then try WeatherSphere's Fishing Spots, an app that tells you where and when to fish, complete with a 5-day forecast and tide chart.

Weather map layers in Radar Cast show dangers like lightning strikes, hurricanes and storm paths. I have a geology map of California app, Geograph CA that also uses layers. The layers design is fussy for the user and time-consuming to set up. Once it is set up though it can provide exactly the information you need. For each town. Radar Cast, can show the temperature, humidity, visibility, barometric pressure, wind speed & direction, sunrise/sunset times and dewpoint temperature, as well as a forecast.

Radar Cast can show a lightning strike on a map within a minute of it happening. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE), about 150 fires in the state, each year, are caused by lightning. So the app could help detect fires before they spread out of control. The app also shows maps of wildfires with the latest updates.

Radar Cast tells you when rain is imminent – useful if you are out biking. The map scrolls worldwide, but doesn't show weather in all countries. For globetrotters, I'd like to see an app that seamlessly incorporates weather from other countries, for example that from Environment Canada. It's annoying to have to switch websites or apps just because you've crossed a border.
Users can share their weather photos. I searched for Californian pictures among over 2000 available. Our ideal weather showed bucolic sheep on the hills above Morgan Hill, blue sea in Santa Cruz and fall trees in Mountain View. In August, a user posted a horrible sandstorm near Barstow, between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. You can see thunderclouds in New York, sunny beaches in Florida and picturesque sunsets in Oregon.

WeatherSphere faces plenty of competition from other weather apps. Weather Kitty is a free app, but you pay to add cat pictures to your weather forecast. It is the second Top Grossing app in Apple's app store, behind a professional aviation weather package ForeFlight Mobile (Pro version is $149.99/yr). WeatherSphere's Hi-Def Radar ranks 7th on the Top Grossing list for weather apps. A prettier, simpler app, launched recently, is Perfect Weather ($2.99) which shows NOAA Radar, developed by Texan David Barnard and a freelance team.

The strength of WeatherSphere is that it brings together masses of information quickly, puts it on a map and presents it on a small screen. Check it out.

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