I had a recent opportunity to try out Weatherbug Professional’s GIS Data Services. I had seen the Weatherbug booth at the 2007 Developer Summit and hear a little bit about it back then, but I never had an opportunity to stop by and see what was going on. Most people know who Weatherbug is and what they provide, but I had no idea they had a whole professional division (they should do a better job of advertising their own service as their business model for the consumer side is about brand awareness).
Anyway, the GIS data service that Weatherbug Professional provides is built upon ESRI’s server software, specifically ArcIMS. I know many folks aren’t too high on ArcIMS these days, but the map service was pretty fast compared to most ArcIMS services we are used to seeing. They offer up a image service as you’d expect, but if you require a feature service they can provide that also (I only sampled the image service so I can’t comment on the speed of the feature service). I did ask about WMS/WFS and they do not offer them, but they did say they would work with anyone so I’m sure if WMS was a requirement, they’d offer of the service.
What you get is at least a ton of weather reporting options (click to see a partial list) that you might expect. The professional product integrates into the consumer station network (so you get access to 8000+ Weatherbug stations) and they work with their professional users to add to that network to fill in gaps (such as county public safety organizations that want 100% coverage of their county) which in turn gets added back into the consumer product.
From an ESRI centric perspective, this service works really well integrating into ESRI’s desktop clients. Those who cannot consume ArcIMS services will be left out from the service currently. The future includes some “geoprocessing” tools to help those of us who are not climatologists perform analysis on weather data. I’ve dabbled with some of the “free” WMS weather services out there and Weatherbug Professional is far beyond what any of them offer (though obviously at a cost). The service is offered as a yearly subscription.
I like how we see a consumer product being marketed to professionals. We are beginning to see tons of data available to GIS users that wasn’t accessible even a year ago. It sounds from talking with the Weatherbug Professional folks that they are pretty successful in this endeavor so maybe we’ll start seeing more and more from them in the future. These GIS data services are expensive for a lot of people so maybe in addition to the new analysis tools, we’ll see some low end services for folks who want access to some weather data (if just for the GIS pro who wants to plan for his winter ski trip).
DISCLOSURE – Weatherbug Professional GIS Data Services was provided to me by Weatherbug Professional for evaluation.