pressureNET 4.0 Beta: testing new methods of crowdsourcing weather data

Yesterday, Cumulonimbus launched pressureNET 4.0 Beta. The update has a lot of new features like regional graphs, location search, and a host of new options and preferences. We’ve added new units, as well, and support for addition sensors beyond the barometer, such as the hygrometer and thermometer aboard the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Primary map view pressureNET 4 beta Device graph in pressureNET 4 beta Regional graph in pressureNET 4 betaSettings in pressureNET 4 beta

We’re testing more than just a new version of our app; we’re testing a new paradigm in smartphone sensor data collection. Our open source pressureNET SDK is a simple library project that Android developers can add to their apps: when started with a simple Android Intent, it will automatically collect and send sensor readings to our (and your) servers. It has minimal impact on battery life and the data is sent directly to atmospheric science researchers who are working with us to improve severe weather forecasting.

If you’d like to help out (and also be a part of this cutting-edge live atmosphere data collection), I appreciate everyone who can help, both in testing pressureNET 4 beta (join this Google+ community, or download directly here) and in testing our SDK – if you’re an Android developer and you’re curious about integrating pressureNET into your apps, check out the project and send me an email. Thanks!


Imagining Success for Today’s Startups

Imagine 20 to 30 years out and pretend your favourite startups today have been wildly successful. What kind of world will they have created? Google seems to be on a quest to develop AI and provide it to everyone for free. SpaceX is aiming for a thriving Martian colony by using rapidly and completely reusable rockets and spaceships. Tesla is working towards most ground transportation being fast, electric and solar. Planetary Resources will mine asteroids for rocket fuel to build deep space gas stations, and for precious metals to return to Earth for manufacturing.

If each of these endeavours is successful, the 2030s are going to be an incredible time: commonplace AI, spaceships, renewable energy and cheap, clean transportation. What kind of society will we be? Will those technological changes shape humanity as a group?

I took a pretty narrow focus in picking the examples above; what startups do you imagine 20 years out, and what happens when they succeed?

SpaceX’s Grasshopper Test Altitudes Graphed

SpaceX is experimenting with building a completely and rapidly reusable rocket called Grasshopper. There have been five tests so far, each to a higher altitude, and the most recent test was a very large leap above the previous. Here’s a quick graph:SpaceXGrasshopperTests

It’s very tempting to draw out an extrapolated exponential curve into the coming months and years. What faults could hold the altitudes down in the short term? Perhaps a large slowdown after reaching LEO, or even for middle-atmosphere tests? Are they on track to land robots on Mars by ~2018? I think they are. I imagine a future Dragon packed with instruments, sensors, food, water and fuel sitting on Mars in 2020, waiting for a human mission in the early 2020s.

Of course, anyone who lands on Mars will have to be careful of planetary-scale duststorms. I’ll try to scale pressureNET out to Mars to help out.