After reading about WeatherSignal, a new project from London startup OpenSignal which makes use of the latest sensors in smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 to crowdsource weather information, I was reminded that I recently caught wind of Shaka, an Estonian startup that has built a wind meter accessory for iOS.
Due to start shipping next month, the battery-free Shaka Wind Meter plugs into an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad’s headphone socket, and combined with the existing onboard sensors of Apple’s hardware and the startup’s own app/service, measures, records and displays wind-specific weather data such as current and average wind speed, maximum wind gust, ambient temperature, and wind direction — all mapped to a location via GPS.
The device’s inspiration and intended use-case was to enable people who take part in wind-related sports, such as windsurfers and kitesurfers, to find good wind conditions. “Forecasts are often inaccurate and the coverage with stationary and connected stations is not good enough,” says Shaka co-founder Raigo Raamat. “We wanted to simplify the process of sharing good wind conditions inside the community.”
But when he and his two other co-founders — Jens Kasemets and Mihkel Güsson — embarked on the project as far back as 2011 they soon realised “many more communities” could benefit from a device that enabled a smartphone or tablet to be transformed into a “connected weather station” for either private use or for contributing to and accessing real-time crowdsourced weather data. These range from academia, agriculture, emergency services, to golfers and motor sports. “The problem for all these use cases differ, but all need local weather measurements as input,” says Raamat.
To that end, Shaka has gustier ambitions beyond just a wind meter. Longer term, the startup and graduate of the harware-focused accelerator HAXLR8R (which also provided seed funding), plans to build what Raamat’s calling a platform for the world’s smallest weather station. “We’ll add barometric pressure and humidity sensors to achieve that and also support Android devices,” he says. The startup’s ultimate target is expensive and non-connected legacy handheld weather stations.
Today the company is monetizing on the hardware only — the accompanying app is free — but in the future it will offer additional paid-for services, along with opening up the platform to partners who want to develop apps on top of Shaka that target various weather-related communities.