Space has a new weather satellite

This week, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) released the first images from its new weather satellite, GEOS-16. With more than 4,000 man-made satellites in orbit, one more might seem like a mundane news, but this particular satellite has significant implications for travel. Its presence is also a perfect example of the growing importance of connected intelligence as a technological necessity for virtually every industry.

From a tech perspective, the new satellite is like upgrading from a black and white flip phone to the latest iPhone. The “Advanced Baseline Imager” – the main instrument in the new satellite – is capable of capturing at least 60 times more data per day than its predecessor, and that's not the only data the satellite is gathering.

The ABI is just one of six onboard instruments, together containing a wide array of sensors, measuring everything from lightning patterns to geomagnetic fields.

Near real-time, highly-detailed monitoring of a host of environmental factors has the potential to radically improve the accuracy of weather forecasts, making them more location-specific as well as more reliable farther out. Improved prediction of severe weather events and storm paths is great news for every industry affected by the weather and is mission critical for airline operations.

What is connected intelligence?

Weather forecasting is perhaps the most accessible example of “connected intelligence” in action. All of the new data from GEOS-16 would be of limited value without sophisticated computer algorithms to help make sense of the information.

If “connected intelligence” is not a term on the tip of your tongue, you’re not alone. Searching Google News, it appears in less than 3,000 results. Compare that to related terms like “artificial intelligence” (1.05 million), machine learning (400,000), “big data” (2.3 million) and “Internet of things” (800,000).

But connected intelligence is a concept we really like in Sabre Labs—we flagged it as one of our three megatrends for 2017—because it describes the bringing together of different aspects of technology into a useful service.

We live amidst a rapidly growing lattice of connected sensors and devices, invisibly gathering data from every sphere of life, fueling the development of connected intelligence. Intelligent algorithms are capable of taking the wealth of data being generated by sensors connected to the Internet, analyzing the data, acting on analysis to enact change, and gathering outcome data to iterate continued improvement.

Intelligent forecasting

We’ve had weather forecasts for thousands of years, from joints that ache when the pressure changes to the Farmers’ Almanac to The Weather Channel, but predictions are only as accurate as the data they are based on.

We have countless sensors showing live data about temperature, humidity, wind speed, moisture, pressure, etc., as well as historical data about the same factors over the past minutes, hours, days, months and years.

GEOS-16 and its three planned companion satellites represent a significant new source of high-detail, high-orbit data that can be combined with the existing low-orbit and ground-based weather sensors for deeper insights into the world around us.

This NOAA image shows how the GEOS-16 ABI captures 16 different channels of information--two visible to the human eye, four near-infrared and 10 infrared channels. According to NOAA, "these channels help forecasters distinguish between differences in the atmosphere like clouds, water vapor, smoke, ice and volcanic ash." Previous generations of GEOS satellites had only 5 channels of information.

This NOAA image shows how the GEOS-16 ABI captures 16 different channels of information--two visible to the human eye, four near-infrared and 10 infrared channels. According to NOAA, "these channels help forecasters distinguish between differences in the atmosphere like clouds, water vapor, smoke, ice and volcanic ash." Previous generations of GEOS satellites had only 5 channels of information.

With ever-increasing data streams, it’s not possible for humans to parse the data ourselves; we rely on sophisticated programmed algorithms to compare historical trends to current data to make predictions. And all global weather is connected, so the broader the data set, the better the chances of having the information necessary to accurately predict the weather in a particular place and time.

Connected intelligence and travel

Having better weather data and understanding it isn’t an end unto itself—the goal of connected intelligence is to be able to act on the information to positively affect a domain.

Connected intelligence becomes more powerful the more different parts of a system can be brought together. For airlines, predicting the path of a storm can determine flight and crew deployment, helping to proactively reroute flights and rebook passengers, minimizing disruption and making travel safer for everyone.

Hotels, cruise lines, rental car agencies, car services, train operators and tour operators can utilize the same improved weather data in different ways. Each can use real-time data to inform staffing and minimize downtime. This creates a "nimble now," anticipating travel demand and travelers’ needs proactively.

Connected intelligence has the potential to start from one pool of data—like weather information—and adapt the usefulness of that data to the specific challenges that may be faced by each segment of the travel industry.

For a traveler, connected intelligence can be a benefit before they ever leave home. Taking the same streams of local weather data your smart thermostat uses to help optimize your comfort, a smart home could become part of the emergency warning system when severe weather is on the way, watching both storms and traffic to let you know when—and the best way—to travel to a safe location.

Applying this trend to your business

Of course, weather forecasting is just one domain in which we’ll see connected intelligence affect travel. To help guide businesses in how to understand and plan for the impact of connected intelligence, Sabre Labs released the Emerging Technology in Travel 2017 Report (free to download).

The detailed report discusses connected intelligence in depth, along with two other technology megatrends already impacting the travel industry. The EmTech report also breaks out segment specific recommendations for airlines, hoteliers, agencies and travelers.

We encourage you to take a look at the report to learn more. We also welcome you to reach out to our Sabre Labs team if you want to discuss the future of travel. We love to chat!

(images in this article courtesy of NOAA/NASA)