Smartphones Could Improve Weather Forecasts

John Lister's picture

Android phones could help make weather forecasts more accurate under a new project. The problem is its hard to see much incentive for people to take part.

Although some high-end smartphones have sensors for temperature or air pressures, they aren't needed for this project. Instead its all about the signal strength and satellite navigation data.

The project, dubbed Camaliot, is the work of the European Space Agency, though it's looking for participants from all over the world as this will make the results more useful. (Source:

Water Vapor The Key

The idea is to collect data from phones which use satellite navigation tools (also called GPS) and receive signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System. The researchers behind the project say these signals are slightly modified by water vapor in the atmosphere. Reverse-engineering this effect could mean analyzing signals to figure out the water vapor levels.

While one phone on its own won't tell you much, the researchers believe combining the data from a large number of phones could help make for more accurate weather forecasting, particularly the likelihood or level of rainfall.

The researchers also think the technique could help predict conditions in space, particularly solar flares. Those could affect communications such as radio waves and satellites, and in extreme circumstances could affect power grids. (Source:

Hands On Approach

The project is a big ask for participants however. Users not only need to install the Camaliot app on an Android 7 or later handset with satellite navigation function, but also need to manually carry out the logging.

The user will need to click a button to start the logging, click another button to stop when they are done, then upload the data from the session. There'll be a leader board to show who has carried out the most logging and prizes on offer, though it's not clear yet if these will be for leader board toppers or randomly awarded.

This is in contrast to similar projects on desktop computers which use spare processing power in the background for tasks such as analyzing medical images or searching space telescope images for undiscovered stars.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you take part in this? Could it have genuine useful practical benefits? Can you think of other ways to benefit society by combining smartphone data from a large user base?

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