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Singapore to get weather updates on mobile

08 September 2009

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A new weather service developed by Singapore's National Environment Agency will provide information on changing weather patterns and pollution levels. The data will be displayed in graphic form on web-enabled phones.

Scaleability was the key challenge when Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) designed the country’s first mobile weather service.

Image credits: Future Gov/ Singapore's weather information system

With a 120% mobile phone penetration rate, NEA has developed a new mobile application that allows residents to get real-time weather information and forecast using their web-enabled phones.

The new service, ‘Weather@SG’, provides current updates on rain fall, temperature, air pollution, all overlaid on a customisable map of Singapore.

According to Tham Chien Wan, Head R&D, NEA’s Meteorological Services, as with all services delivered through the phone, it is crucial for the server to bear most of the processing responsibility, so that data can be received with speed and viewed with ease.

"The system divides the map into approximately 1000 tiles and generates an updated image of each tile every five minutes"

“In order to deliver such rich graphics quickly, the system divides the map into approximately 1000 tiles and generates an updated image of each tile every five minutes,” explained Tham.

A key challenge for weather information systems is their ability to handle peak traffic. Tan-Koh Yang Get, CIO of NEA recounted a system failure a few years ago during a serious haze period because too many people logged in to check the pollution level. NEA is currently working with the Singapore Government Data Centre to make sure they can handle peak load.

“At the moment, the system can comfortably manage up to 100 concurrent users,” said Tan-Koh.

The lessons learnt from Weather@SG would be interesting for governments looking to launch similar mobile services.

Both Philippines and Malaysian Meteorological Departments provide weather information on their web sites which can be accessed via web-enabled phones, but the pages are not specially designed with easy mobile access in mind.

According to Joel Jesusa, Weather Division of Department of Science and Technology in Philippines, they are working with Smart Communications, one of the country’s leading wireless services provider with 36.9 million GSM subscribers, on providing weather information via the mobile phone.

In the meantime, NEA has bigger plans for this new mobile service. They are in discussion with the Youth Olympics 2010 committee to explore how Weather@SG can be used by the public and participants of the event. This might include overlaying venue of games with the current map and weather information.

Source : Future Gov

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