Mary M Glackin is the VP for Weather Business Solutions for The Weather Company, IBM. In this role, she oversees forecasting science and operations, product development, and client relationships. Glackin also manages the company’s relationships with members of the national and global weather enterprise that includes national and international government agencies, academia, and other private sector providers including philanthropic activities. On her recent visit to India, we caught up with her for this interview.
1. With climate change, weather forecasting is one sector where business and social good are intricately married. What will be IBM’s approach and how will you balance the two?
The Weather Company, an IBM Business serves businesses directly by delivering solutions to make operations more efficient and effective and a consumer business that serves citizens directly through our globally famous apps, The Weather Channel and Weather Underground. With climate change, we are seeing more extreme weather including excessive rainfall and prolonged heat spells. Our solutions are targeted to ensure businesses and people are prepared to respond and take action. For example, we advise shipping companies of the most effective route to take such that goods arrive on time despite bad weather. For consumers, we provide detailed information on weather, air quality and additional utilities like allergies, mosquito index, umbrella index, pollen and mold in the air. We have also added a sub app for cricket players and runners to configure the key weather parameters for temperature, wind speed, humidity and precipitation, to provide live status of the best time to play from today to the next two days.
2. As head of The Weather Company’s business solutions, where do you see most of your revenue coming from? Will the traditional sectors lead the demand or do you see advanced technology creating new consumer segments?
In the Indian market, our business is coming from across our verticals, including Agriculture, Insurance, the Financial sector, and Disaster Management. Our traditional businesses on Energy, Aviation, Media, Advertising also appear promising, so we are confident of our growth in serving businesses in India.
3. You have previously talked about agriculture being a focus area for IBM. Do you see Indian agriculture as a critical market and can a small Indian farmer be a customer of The Weather Company?
With the launch of the IBM Decisions Platform for Agriculture, we are working directly with NITI Aayog and other supply and food companies in businesses such as fertilizers, wholesale merchants, seed manufacturers, medicine for pest and crop diseases, banks, insurers and reinsurers. Through these partnerships supported by the Decisions Platform, the Indian farmer will be equipped with the right advisory.
4. Hyperlocal is the next big thing in weather forecasting and IBM had launched a few products in this space. Has the market for hyperlocal forecasting evolved the way you anticipated? What were the biggest surprises faced during the rollout?
Our forecasts are hyperlocal today based on more than 160 different forecast models using dynamic machine learning. One thing that differentiates us is the use of the Internet of Things. For example, our solution leverages data from aircrafts and atmospheric pressure measurements off of smart phones. To be hyperlocal, you need observational data and IOT is key in this age.
In this trip of mine, clients always ask when we can get to the USA’s level of accuracy. I am very positive on the Government’s Interest in supporting players across the board and I am confident that this can prove to be the biggest change agent. The challenges, however remain - weather prediction cannot be a 100% to match Mother Earth’s magic, but we can definitely keep improving from where we are.
5. What are your views on the weather forecasting market in India and what are your plans for scaling up?
It is similar to the above I feel.