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IBM to Acquire the Weather Company

IBM hopes it has a new use for Watson, its artificial intelligence business.

The company announced on Wednesday that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire most of the assets of the Weather Company, including its website, a large number of weather data collection points, consumer and business applications and a staff of over 900 people.

IBM would not say how much it was paying for the business, but an earlier report in The Wall Street Journal put the deal at over $2 billion. The Weather Channel, a cable television outlet, was not part of the deal, but it would license weather forecast data from IBM.

David Kenny, the Weather Company's chief executive, said his company's data had many corporate uses. "Airlines use it to manage turbulence," he said. "Insurance companies use it to judge risk. Agricultural companies use it to manage crops."

If combined with Watson, a computing system skilled at parsing unusual types of data and making statistically based decisions across a range of industries, the data could be more valuable, he added.

IBM calls what Watson does "cognitive computing," heralding an age of machines that supposedly think. What the company has not figured out is how to make this into an engine of growth.

It will be picking up more talent in the deal. The Weather Company has many atmospheric scientists, but Mr. Kenny said that three-quarters of its scientists worked in computers and data.

Much of that weather data is derived from publicly available sources, but the company has supplemented this with information from 147,000 small weather stations it has distributed to people around the country, which receive local forecasts in exchange.

The company also has a popular mobile app, which Mr. Kenny said collected barometric pressure from its users' phone sensors. Millions of locations are turning in information 96 times a day.

[Source: By Quentin Hardy, The New York Times, 28Oct15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 16Nov15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.