Boaties: Sped-up forecasts brilliant

20:47, Sep 17 2012

Kiwi maritime mapping and weather guide software PredictWind just got three times faster with a significant software investment putting its back-end in the Amazon Web Services cloud.

Boaties will be able to access real-time weather reports online and on a mobile application for wind speed and direction within a one-kilometre radius, in by-the-hour forecasts for the next 24 hours.

PredictWind started in 2007 by commercialising America's Cup wind forecast technology using satellite information with land, air and sea data. It now boasts more than 80,000 customers and has been used in the around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race.

Founder Jon Bilge said that now the app was powered by Amazon, its capacity had increased sixfold. It could now process the entire planet's weather patterns at once, providing detailed forecasts at high resolutions.

“We also have some sophisticated tools for weather routing so, if you're racing from Wellington to Fiji, it shows the fastest way along all possible paths the boat could take. It used to take 45 seconds to run, now it only takes about 15 seconds.”

Wellington Ocean Sports Centre senior sailing instructor Ryan "Rowdy" Leatham said it was “brilliant” the software would be even faster, possibly saving on mobile data costs when it was being accessed from the sea.


“The more information we can have, the more accurate and quicker - the better.

"We're probably looking through 15-20 maps at a time so you'd think 45 seconds isn't that long when you're thinking of one map but when you have quite a few in a session that's certainly a lot of time.”

Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club chief executive Dean Stanley said the improvement was good news for boaties.

“In terms of real time, knowing exactly what's happening with the wind is always nice. It's a fantastic piece of software and the modelling it does is really high resolution so in Wellington local clubs can use it for their own waters. Worser Bay can get a good measure of what's happening, as can Port Nicholson, which will have different winds.”

PredictWind's turnover was up 60 per cent from the previous year and it hopes to hit that target again this year. About 95 per cent of its turnover comes from overseas, with the United States, Europe and Australia the biggest markets.

Bilge said it took longer than expected to convert across to Amazon Web Services, the equivalent of one developer working about seven months fulltime.

"It's quite a complex system. The big thing for us is we're happy to be out of the hardware game to focus on forecasting software. Long term, it's working out to be a similar price [as owning its own servers] because we bought a whole lot computing equipment four years ago that is worth nothing now.

"We are buying the cheapest rate with Amazon, three years up front, which was quite a large cash injection.”

Contact Jazial Crossley
Twitter: @msbananapeel