Weather going wireless

News
May 24, 2013
by WLJ

The North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN) has begun offering near real-time data that can be viewed from any webbrowsing device, including smartphones.

This service is available at 19 of NDAWN’s 72 stations. The service eventually will be available from all of the stations across North Dakota and the border regions of surrounding states.

Providing this information through computers and smartphones replaces the system that allowed access to the data through a landline or basic cell phone call. The phone call option will be available at the other 53 stations until the technology is upgraded.

“Growers quickly learned the value of that earlier service,” says Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist and assistant professor in the School of Natural Resource Sciences at North Dakota State University. “Today, NDAWN is working to accommodate changing technology to provide the best service to growers and our ever-growing NDAWN user base.”

The 19 stations are providing updated data on the web every 10 minutes at ndawn. ndsu.nodak.edu/ten-minutedata-summary.html. The data includes the day’s maximum and minimum temperatures, air temperature from the previous 10 minutes, wind direction, average and maximum wind speed, relative humidity, dew point and bare-soil temperature. Also, the average wind chill temperature will be available from Nov. 1 through March 31, and total rainfall is available from April 1 through Oct. 31.

For information on how to link an NDAWN station’s 10-minute data page to smartphone or Android device home screens, visit ndawn.ndsu. nodak.edu/help-smartphone. html.

A wireless network is secure, reliable and fast, according to Akyuz.

“Downloading data from a wireless modem takes a fraction of a second, and we can download data from multiple stations simultaneously,” he says. “Plus, near real-time data can be viewed simultaneously by multiple users around the world, and downloading data is free, while you have to pay a long-distance charge to call a station.”

The new technology also means NDAWN will have more options for where it places new weather stations because the location won’t be dependent on whether a landline connection is nearby.

However, the service has some disadvantages. One of them is that some producers still use basic cell phones, and people without internet access in the field will not have access to the near real-time data.

“We are looking into possibilities of text-to-voice capability to accommodate those who do not have web access,” Akyuz says.

“The biggest disadvantage that we are striving to overcome is power usage,” he notes. “The cell modems use more power. Therefore, we must limit the online 10-minute data to daylight hours, at least for the time being.”

From April through October, data will be available from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT. The winter schedule from November through March is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.

“These scheduled windows are still in a testing phase,” Akyuz says. “We are optimistic that the windows can be opened further at some point.” — WLJ

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