App can help banish those barbecue blues

Published: 28 July 2017 at 14:00

Screenshot from the Hyperlocal rainfall app

‘Hyperlocal Rainfall’ can help spell the end for sodden sausages this summer

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An ingenious free app that provides detailed “hyperlocal” weather forecasts could prove a blessing for anyone planning a barbecue during the temperamental British summer.

Hyperlocal Rainfall, which is now available across the whole of the UK on both Android and iOS platforms, is the result of an academic-industrial collaboration funded by Innovate UK.

Initially developed as a tool to provide accurate weather predictions to encourage more people to walk and cycle in urban areas, the app has a number of other potential benefits – including showing the best time to fire up the barbecue.

The core platform behind the Hyperlocal Rainfall app is a system called the Meniscus Analytics Platform (MAP). The highly-accurate rainfall predictions are achieved through the application of ground-truthing algorithms that utilise high altitude weather forecasts and other environmental datasets to calculate the likelihood of rain within a given area.

A team at Anglia Ruskin University, led by Dr Jeannette Chin and Dr George Wilson, used machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence algorithms to develop a personalisation engine, which is the “brain” for generating personalised information within the app.

To help with the task of planning routes and timings for walkers and cyclists, the personalisation engine analyses a combination of real-time data sources including user profile data, environmental data and location data, to provide the user with a unique route recommendation.

Dr Chin, Senior Lecturer in Computer Networking at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“Poor weather conditions are cited as one of the major reasons people give for not walking and cycling more in urban cities. 

“By focusing on this issue, our Hyperlocal Rainfall project has delivered a working demonstration of how accurate rainfall predictions, as well as personalised route recommendations, can be incorporated to benefit local residents by informing them about the likelihood of rain during their planned trip.

“We began this project by focusing on Cambridgeshire, but it has now been extended to provide data for the whole of the UK.  As well as hopefully encouraging more people to travel under their own steam it also provides an incredibly accurate rainfall forecast, personalised down to street level, which is useful for anyone planning any outdoor activity – including a summer barbecue.” 

The Hyperlocal Rainfall project, funded by Innovate UK, involved experts from Anglia Ruskin University, Loughborough University, Peterborough Environment City Trust and Meniscus Systems Ltd.