Weather tends to make people passionate – and not least while driving a car or choosing your optimal mobility solution. The Finnish company Foreca is in the forefront of developing weather services for road users. The future seems shiny.
Do you know Pekka Pouta, the famous Finnish meteorologist? If you are a Finn, you certainly do. Mr. Pouta (the surname meaning fair weather) is one of the Foreca employees producing services for media, power companies, farmers and road maintenance firms, to name a few customer groups. With 20 years of business behind, Foreca is now one of the leading weather data providers with global service coverage. Millions of people might see the name Foreca daily on their Windows desktops, thanks to a long-term partnership with one of Foreca´s key accounts Microsoft.
Weather information is crucial for anyone driving wheeled vehicles. Foreca has understood it has quite unique know-how: the company knows exactly what happens on the road surfaces all around the world. This observation has made the firm a top-player when talking about weather forecasts and mobility. We met with Petri Marjava, Sales Director of Foreca, to discuss how the company entered smart mobility business.
What kinds of solutions do you offer for future smart mobility?
“We focus on digital and location-based weather data which we tailor for automotive and navigational use. Our road weather services go beyond traditional forecasting: we let drivers know not only what happens in the air but also what happens under the car wheels wherever they are driving.
We have for long provided municipalities, cities and other authorities with weather data that helps them in timing and planning the road maintenance activities. Passenger cars are now getting on-line, and some years ago we started to explore the possibilities of bringing this data to drivers of connected cars. In October 2015, we launched connected car weather services in over 40 countries across four continents together with BMW Group. Another nice example is our partner TomTom that uses our data as a basis for schedule estimates and route optimisation in their navigation software.”
What practical problems does your smart mobility solution solve, and whose daily life does it facilitate?
“Up-to-date, high-quality and valid road weather data make driving safer. In Europe, about a third of all traffic accidents are at least partly caused by rough weather conditions. We wish to help save lives and avoid injuries and unnecessary costs. In addition, road weather data avails people to optimise their use of time and to keep to their schedules.”
How far are you now with the development of your smart mobility solution?
“We already provide a European-wide road weather service. Foreca is now developing new ways to collect real-time weather data from cars’ sensors. We wish to combine this data with the information we collect from other sources such as weather stations, radars and satellites. This would enable us to have ‘mobile weather observation points’ on the road and provide our end-users with extremely accurate forecasts. Many more cars with sophisticated sensors are, however, still needed from automakers to develop this further. This will probably still take a couple of years to be reality in the large scale. We are ready to go and collaborate with the automotive industry.”
What plans do you have for the future and regarding internationalisation?
“We want to be the leading road weather service provider globally – we are able to supply accurate weather data for any location in the world. Foreca has since the beginning had clients on all continents. With the road weather service the likely next step will be to head to the North-American market. The future will also see the rise of electrical cars and autonomous driving. Both will greatly benefit from road weather data.”
Is Finland a good country for developing smart mobility solutions? Why?
”Finland is a neutral country when it comes to trade policy. This is a good starting point for successful business – and weather services as such are politically neutral as well. Finland also possesses plenty of IT know-how, and we are lucky to have some of the most skilled tech professionals in our team. In addition, in a country with four seasons we have first-hand experience on all kinds of weather conditions. This gives an advantage compared to other weather providers, indeed.”
Technology already offers lots of possibilities but the challenge often lies in getting people to use the new solutions. How do you think we could encourage people to use smart mobility solutions?
“User experience should always be the key, not technology. People want to have intuitive user interfaces.
Drivers should also simply know what clever things their cars are capable of doing – quite often the driver is not aware of all the digital services and applications integrated in the car. Companies which sell or maintain cars should probably better introduce these services to the driver.
Content needs to be of premium quality, too. The sheer multitude of services and apps does not replace quality and contextual relevance. Providing digital weather services for connected car use is a demanding, even a merciless task. If it is raining outside although your car says it should be shining, both the car producer and we would take a serious hit in our brand image and trustworthiness.”
- Internationalisation services for Finnish companies: www.exportfinland.fi
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- Discover business opportunities in the Helsinki region:www.helsinkibusinesshub.fi/focus/smart-mobility/.