I had a chat with Jim Bacon G3YLA at Newark. He used to be one of the forecasters on TV back in the day. He now runs a company called WeatherQuest that provides real-time data to professional organisations. The data they use is the top quality professional stuff but the thing that caught my attention was the facility for real-time alerts sent to your phone (as an email). I suggested to him that this might have applications for SOTA activators - wind, rain and lightning seem like things we might need to see. Does anyone have any suggestions for additional functionality that I could pass to Jim for possible inclusion in his system?
I use the lighting maps org on me mobile can keep eye on approaching storms.
Thinking aloud (whilst a big compile runs…)
We know the position of the every SOTA summit so we can calculate a bounds box around each summit (say 25km radius). Then (maybe as a subscriber) I select the SOTA summit on the phone app/webpage, the bounds box is calculated and also how far in advance you want a warning and submitted to their system which sends me a warning/alert when it thinks rain etc. is expected at my location. With a forwards time, it could send the alert giving me enough time to packup or packup and descend etc. depending on how much notice I ask for.
From a personal perspective I would prefer alerts as sms messages as I get lots of emails and an alert email might well be overlooked.
It isn’t hard (from a programming point of view) to have the emails sent to a computer and have it extract the needed info and send that in an SMS. My US SMS server does that. The biggest issue is that sending an SMS costs something (it may not be much but somewhere someone is paying!). So that slightly complicates things because some kind of cost limiting/rate limiting is needed.
Recently I have had serious doubts about the accuracy of the BBC forecasts, finding the Met Office forecasts to be more accurate. Maybe I have just been in the right places at the right time to closely match the Met forecasts, but it does make me wonder whether the BBC got it right when they changed service provider.
Personally it matters little as activations are planned well in advance and it is generally a case of taking whatever weather comes along. As has been said, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”.
I already get weather warning alerts here in Germany from an Android App called “Mein Wetter” which is paid for by the Insuance company that I use - so that the App is free to me. Wetter.com have a similar facility but I find the Mein Wetter app and alerts to be the most accurate. This is only an App for Germany however and an equivalent where you set the location you are interested in and get any “orange or red” weather warnings as SMS messages would be good for the UK as well.
But aren’t there any walking/hiking apps that already do that??
Not that I know of - but there may well be. The point here is that Jim will be interested in finding out what we want.
Take the sea weed with me next time
I remember watching Jim doing the weather forecasts on the BBC many,many years ago. I had wondered if this was the same Jim Bacon!
Great if he can supply accurate data - I presumed that would be UK only, but could it be Europe wide I wonder?
Most cell providers offer email-to-SMS gateways.
Verizon, AT&T, Sprint offer this service for free however normal massage rates may apply depending on your cell plan. Many Internet pages have a list of the email address formats for various cell providers. Here is one such list: https://kb.sandisk.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/17056/~/list-of-mobile-carrier-gateway-addresses
Keep the messages short so that they fit in a single SMS text message.
Similar services for MMS also.
There are also online web tools that can lookup a cell number and list the cell provider for that number.
I currently use an email-to-SMS gateway together with HamAlert so I can receive selected Spots while Activating, assuming that my provider has cell coverage on the summit.
Addon’s/extensions in Thunderbird (a popular multi-OS email program) offer RegExp filtering, automatic email forwarding/redirect, custom audible notifications, Mailbox Alerts, etc.
These things take time to setup and test. They add functionality and save time in the long run. Especially useful for Chasers.
Email forwarding can be useful for delivering messages/Spots via APRS as well.
GL es 73/72,
Remember Bruce, most of the world does not pay to receive incoming calls and SMS. It’s mainly the US where the recipient pays. So email to SMS gateways are normally free to send to US numbers. Here in Europe (and many other parts of the world) the caller pays the full cost. So an email to SMS gateway has to pay the cost of sending an SMS and this is rarely free to European numbers.
Hi Andy. Good point about caller-paid SMS outside US/NA.
When sending messages to yourself, you become both caller and called. TANSTAFFL
Costs should be investigated and understood before using any service or gateway. Advance subscription to a gateway service may be needed.
I “select” interesting Spots in the Triggers that I have set at: HamAlert.org
Filter/forward with Thunderbird thus minimizing SMS and/or APRS messages.
APRS is an option where AFAIK, the initial equipment investment is the only operating cost. A 2m HT, cable, and SmartPhone with APRSdroid (or similar on iOS) makes for a usable UI. The 2 devices plus cable is a bit fiddly though.
An APRS capable HT is an option but I’ve yet to find one with a user-friendly UI. Yaesu HTs, as is typical for them, borders on user-hostile IMO.
APRS, as with cell coverage, is not ubiquitous. I’d suggest a much better antenna than the standard HT stubby rubber duck.
Getting this list back on topic … Hopefully. Weather alerting systems for the UK.
There is a company advertising in RadCom on page 85 this month a weather app that is described as being suitable for SOTA and this company were at the national Hamfest at Newark.
They are called wqradar.
This is a subscription service however and only the upper two options offer SMS alerting the lower two only email alerts.
Actually the MET Office have an Android App - free if you don’t mind adverts or £2.99 to get rid of the adverts.
* Receive weather alerts for the latest official UK National Severe Weather Warnings for your saved locations as soon as warnings are issued – including snow, strong winds, ice, fog and rain forecasts
I have the MET Office Android app and get the severe weather warnings. But it only warns of severe weather. Plus it’s quite a broad region - I get alerts for West Yorkshire and that can have very different weather over its area.
We are discussing the same organisation wqradar is a product of WeatherQuest (see original post).
Don’t forget the incredibly accurate (IMHO) Mountain Weather Information Service (http://www.mwis.org.uk/). Rather limited but covers the main mountain areas.
Hi Richard, you were on topic but Bruce and Andy drifted off onto SMS and APRS infrastructure related points.
I’ve been thinking about this on and off.
There is a lot of free weather info about. I gave up on the BBC weather when they dumbed down the presentation. I use, almost exclusively, the MetOffice forecasts. This last year, I think the MetOffice have been significantly more accurate with their forecasts than before. Also MWIS is checked to, as it’s specifically mountain based, but, it does seem a little more pessimistic than the MetOffice.
Overseas, Accuweather and WeatherUnderground seem to do a good enough job. Their websites are nightmare to ensure you don’t end up with a billion adverts slowing down your PC.
So whatever these nice people offer, it has to be more targeted and accurate if they want paying because mainly accurate and free is always going to win over super accurate and costs. Perhaps they need to offer some trial subscriptions so we can see how they work compared to the free services.
At this point the reality of trying to sell a service that is ostensibly available for free elsewhere really strikes home as how difficult that must be.
From a safety point of view, one resource I find very useful is the RASP website for soaring pilots:
There you can find out the daily CAPE index for your area:
The CAPE index is a good indicator of how likely a thunderstorm is to develop. The grid size used for the RASP forecasting system is 4km, so it is also far more accurate than the normal 50km grid used by the GFS generated forecasts that most media outlets use. If the CAPE is 200 to 500 j/kg, then I proceed with caution, if it is forecast to rise over 500, I make sure I am on my way down before then. That’s just my rule of thumb (I take no responsibilty for mistakes arising from it), others should read up on the subject and exercise caution when interpreting values like CAPE. I always like the Met Office mountain forecast; you still can’t beat having a real person interpret what the machines churn out.
73 de OE6FEG / M0FEU