Ratan Tata, former chairman of Mumbai-based Tata Group, is an early investor
Cambridge, Mass., April 5, 2017—Every day, companies and organizations all over the world make multi-billion dollar business decisions based on the weather. But their decisions are only as good as a forecast, and most of today’s weather forecasting models rely on data from 20th century radar tracking systems and/or expensive satellite technology. ClimaCell, a new weather data collection company that launches this week, seeks to change that. The Boston-based startup is pioneering the use of wireless communication networks as weather sensors to improve the precision of forecasts.
“Most of today's weather observation instruments were introduced more than 50 years ago and since then, the technologies have experienced evolution in terms of improvements, but certainly no revolution,” says Rei Goffer, the company’s CSO and Co-Founder. “At ClimaCell, we are introducing an entirely new monitoring method that we believe will revolutionize weather forecasting.”
ClimaCell integrates several tiers of data from wireless networks, satellites, radars, and other sensors to create high-definition maps. These maps, which have a spatial resolution of hundreds of meters—twice the granularity of current solutions, provide up-to-the-minute, street-level weather forecasts.
“When it comes to forecasting the weather, accuracy and timing are everything,” says Shimon Elkabetz, CEO and Co-Founder of the company. “But current weather forecasts are not reliable enough, and so for organizations that need to make weather-based decisions—What impact will a drought have on crop production? How much insurance is needed for an office building in a flood-prone area? Or how will a prolonged heat wave affect retail sales?—this presents a real challenge.”
Itai Zlotnik, the company’s CTO and Co-Founder, adds, “Our novel technology, which analyzes a range of wireless communications, serves as an additional layer of data that vastly increases the accuracy of forecasts. As a result, companies and governments will be able to make better decisions and of course, save lives.”
The idea for ClimaCell was born out of the founders’ experiences in the military. (Goffer and Elkabetz served in the Israeli Air Force, while Zlotnik served in an elite commando unit of the Israeli Defense Forces.)
“Weather-related near-death experiences are a common occurrence in the military,” says Elkabetz. “In the air and on the ground, you often encounter unexpected fog or rain, which hamper visibility and can even cancel a mission. We knew there must be a better way to track and forecast weather and so the three of us started to look for solutions.”
Zlotnik had previously worked with Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron at Tel Aviv University, researching the possibility of using cellular networks to monitor weather patterns. The group set out to develop and license the technology into a viable commercial product, recruiting three PhDs to the mission.
Zlotnik is an MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management; Goffer is a dual MBA/MPA candidate at MIT Sloan and Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and Elkabetz attends Harvard Business School.
“The education provides helpful frameworks,” says Goffer. “And the faculty here at MIT Sloan have been so supportive—from helping us brainstorm use cases to opening doors to investment opportunities.”
Among others, Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Group, the Mumbai-based operating conglomerate, recently made a significant seed investment in the company. ClimaCell plans to expand to India in June.
“We see a great deal of promise for ClimaCell in India and the developing world,” says Goffer. “Because there’s no need to install additional hardware, it’s possible to implement our software immediately and achieve extremely accurate results. We see the potential for farmers to better monitor and predict rainfall to plan their next steps and improve their yields. An average of 3,400 people lose their lives every year due to flash floods in India. We dream of dramatically reducing that number with more accurate alerts and longer lead-times.”
As of today, ClimaCell’s maps are available to customers in a controlled release via web-based software on a subscription basis or as an API for those who have systems in place and would like to use the granular data.
“We want to be the most accurate weather data company in both developed and developing world,” says Elkabetz. “Our goal is to fundamentally transform meteorology.”
ClimaCell, Inc. is a Boston-based company that provides high-definition weather forecasting tools to businesses and governments worldwide. ClimaCell pioneered the commercial use of wireless communication networks as weather sensors. The technology provides updates every minute, spatial resolution of 300-500 meters, and twice the accuracy of weather radars. The company was founded in 2015 by a team from the MIT Sloan School of Business and the Harvard Business School. Ratan Naval Tata of the Tata Group backed the company with a seed investment in 2016, as did Project 11 Ventures. For more information, visit www.climacell.co.
About the MIT Sloan School of Management
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