Hurricanes in the Carribean, typhoons in Thailand, wildfires in Australia, or constant rain causing floods in Europe. During all these natural disasters, people don’t look at the sky with concern, instead they look for a weather forecast be as accurate as possible on the Internet or on their phone. The Windy app from Czech developers is used up to million people a day. Windy.com has become the main source of information for both the media and emergency teams during the Hurricane Irma crisis, it may have helped save human lives.
Windy company doesn’t have small ambitions: Just one goal; one purpose. Build the best weather forecast in the world.
“We want to become number one among the weather forecast for users including private companies,” says Michal Koldinsky, project manager of this small Czech company.
Why should Windy be the one to make it?
“Windy app has numerous functions, its filters of attributes are easy to understand; users can set their preferred colours. Such a range of possibilities makes you want to explore and wonder about the circumstances as well as understand how things work. Windy is meant for those who are interested in detailed and accurate information, for professionals who are not satisfied with an icon of a sun behind a cloud,” says Koldinsky.
Apart from wind conditions, rain and temperature, Windy offers to symbolize carbon monoxide layers and emissions. Those are released into the air by combustion – in other words, Windy allows you to track the rise and spreading of wildfires.
Master of the Wind
“Hi, my name is Ivo and I love the wind! I am an addicted kiter, helicopter and jet pilot who seeks the wind, waves, METARs and powdered snow almost constantly. Since programming is my passion, I coded Windity (the original name of the app) in 2014 as my pet project,” as Ivo Lukačovič, the founder of windy.com and also the owner of the largest Czech search engine Seznam.cz, recalls the beginnings of his web and app.
It is not by coincidence that on the social media he is referred to as the Master of the Wind.
“They started calling me that in my business, I think it accurately captures someone who is crazy about ‘wind’ sports and who, if he can’t find a solution to his problems, makes a new one and releases it for free, and then employs many more people as the project grows bigger,” Michal Koldinsky explains the origin of windy.com and the motive of its creator.
Windy.com was originally designed for kiters and other recreational sportsmen who need to know the exact weather forecast, especially the wind conditions. As time went on the information has seen growing usage among the wider public, as well as professionals, sailors, pilots, firefighters and emergency teams during natural disasters.
The most accurate model
Originally, the project used an open-source, the visualization of weather across the whole world called Earth, made by Cameron Beccario. Today, Windy.com offers two global forecasts, users can switch between them and compare the results.
One of them is the commonly used GFS. It is a hydrostatic American forecast model, which is widely used, partly because its use is offered to weather forecast websites for free, although it is not very detailed, and is quite out-of-date. The second one is ECMWF; it is considered to be the best weather forecast model by the experts; numerous countries depend on it. Use of it comes at a cost; however, Windy has got the licence and web is among the very small number of servers that offer it for free (as well as for example yr.no). It puts the forecast into a whole new dimension and gives the user a choice to compare different models and get a better picture about the upcoming weather. According to the ARS Technica server, ECMWF has the fewer inaccuracies when compared to GFS. That is mainly because GFS uses data from numerous weather stations. It also compares elevation more precisely and also attempts to capture the physical attributes of different clouds. If we add the higher computing power of the ECMWF as well as larger number of simulations and computations in its approximations, it gives a much smoother final forecast.
“For the US, we use a more precise NAM model, for Europe we use NEMS,” Michal Koldinsky adds.
What will the future bring?
The windy.com and app Windy is daily used by an increasing number of people (300 000 – 700 000 a day). This number is steadily increasing, and so is the sophistication of Windy.com.
“You can view kiting, surfing and paragliding spots, as well as access nearby webcams. Right now we are working on a feature for ship captains – they will be able to view the tide’s conditions and what the highest and lowest point will be. You can set notifications for a specific place. So if you are a kiter, you will set your minimal wind speed and then you will get a phone notification or an e-mail,” Koldinsky says naming some of the app’s advantages.
As the number of users grows, so does the company. At the time it is looking for more staff who could help improve the app even further. It is self expanding through self-learning based on the discussions on Facebook and Twitter accounts Windy, but also on the forum community.windy.com, where up to 500 million people exchange their experience of the app’s functions.
It is a question whether windy.com will remain a “pet project”, or if Ivo Lukačovič, a fan of wind as well as a businessman, is going to monetize the project. This is his answer: “So far we have failed to find a sustainable business model.” Michal Koldinsky adds: “But we are trying to find a B2B solution.”