IMD plans to offer weather updates on mobile phones

IMD plans to offer weather updates on mobile phones

New Delhi: The India Meteorological Department (IMD), the country’s official weather forecaster, plans to offer updates on temperature and rainfall and warnings about disturbances in weather on mobile phones.

It has invited bids from telecom companies and service organizations to put the service in place nationwide, assistant director general A.K. Bhatnagar said.

“There is a lot of data that is already available on our website, but given IMD’s mission of invigorating its weather dissemination services, this is a key initiative of ours to send out data to a large mass of people," he said.

Some private weather forecasters, such as Skymet, already offer customized weather analysis and predictions on mobile phones, but they rely on data and analyses from foreign weather agencies.

IMD provides information on temperature, soil moisture and rainfall forecasts to around 75,000 farmers via mobile phones with the help of state-run telecom operators.

The new scheme aims to benefit more farmers as well as users in towns and cities, where Bhatnagar expects an interest in such services to “tremendously increase" in the future.

IMD is banking on its immense meteorological database—more than 150 years of ocean and atmospheric measurements—and newly installed weather infrastructure that includes weather radars and automatic weather stations to provide accurate, short-term forecasts.

“A few private agencies do provide such information, but like everything else, users would expect a certain credibility from the source. So that’s where we expect our services to be useful," Bhatnagar said.

The initial plan is to launch pilot projects that will offer free information, but IMD expects agencies to later have a tariff plan for various kinds of information.

IMD has made unsuccessful attempts to widely disseminate its weather data in the past. Last year, it abandoned a plan to launch a weather channel with private sector participation after the two sides couldn’t agree on issues such as data exclusivity.