How Your Android Phone Can Help Improve Weather Forecasts

Android users now have the opportunity to turn their smartphones into a scientific tool to help improve global satellite weather forecasting.

The European Space Agency has launched a new project that lets Android phone users contribute location data to help improve satellite weather forecasting research using the app. In the past few years, multiple studies targeting smartphones have been conducted, researching everything from their direct and indirect psychological impact to their body parts such as the bones in the wrist area after prolonged use.

Lately, scientists have been trying to leverage the sensors fitted inside a smartphone as a medical analysis tool. For example, the Google Fit app relies on a phone’s selfie camera to assess heart and respiratory rates. Google is also working on algorithms that identify a wide range of skin conditions using a few photos clicked with a phone’s cameras. However, scientists are now upping the ante for smartphone participation in projects of even larger scale, such as improving global satellite weather forecasts.

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That’s where the Camaliot project finds a leave a mark. Funded by the European Space Agency, the Camaliot app sources data collection from phones to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts. Once the app is installed on a phone, it collects GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) data, which encodes location and time data from satellites. Smartphones come armed with GNSS receivers, and they rely on GPS data. In the case of Camaliot, the data collected by the app includes signal strength and distance observed. Once the data has been collected and uploaded to the servers, machine learning algorithms that predict atmospheric conditions use them as training data sets.


Help Scientists, Get Rewarded


UI of Camaliot app.

The GNSS data uploaded by phones will help study variations in atmospheric vapor content, which is known to affect the state of Earth’s ionosphere and troposphere. Scientists are hoping that quantifying the water vapor-related information and feeding it to the numerical models can help improve the accuracy of satellite weather forecasting. The team behind the project is able to learn from massive heterogeneous datasets that capture ionosphere-related variations and other relevant Sun-Earth interactions to achieve the objective.

The Camaliot app, which is currently compatible with phones running Android 7 or later versions, does not collect any personally identifiable information such as usernames or email addresses. In addition, the app also offers the option to download all the location data collected by the app in RINEX3 format, and it will soon be available on a dedicated online portal as well. Crowd-sourcing of GNSS data from phones using the Camaliot app Android phones, Amazon vouchers up to 200 Euros in value, and ESA merchandise.


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Source: Camaliot, Google Play Store, Geo-Wiki.org/YouTube

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