Being a meteorologist is like being an umpire: People only notice your work when you’re wrong.
Yet we’re all obsessed with the weather. Well, according to the people behind a new weather app called Sunshine, anyway. But are they wrong? Checking the weather is the first thing many people do each day, but Sunshine CEO and co-founder Katerina Stroponiati says 73 percent of the population doesn’t trust the reports.
Even if weather reports are spot-on, there’s another problem: They’re usually drawn from satellite imagery and data from weather instruments at airports. That’s not the most granular of data to work with when trying to decide whether to bring an umbrella on that 10-block walk.
With a free app for iOS, Sunshine wants to be the gold standard for weather accuracy. It hopes to achieve this ambitious goal by using altogether different meteorological instruments: People, iPhones, algorithms, and the draw of community and gamification. The app needs your location to work correctly, but the tradeoff is receiving hyper-local weather reports—Sunshine calls them “Nowcasts”—and becoming part of the data-aggregation process.WeatherSignal and Dark Sky also tap into that sensor for weather reports, although the user experience is quite different than it is with Sunshine. WeatherSignal presents the current barometric pressure front and center as sort of a dashboard. Dark Sky is beautiful and also dashboard-based—and it also costs $3.99.
Using Sunshine feels more like using a location-based app like Foursquare. A localized map is the most prominent part of the app, and you can see avatars of other users in the locations they last reported. The animations are a fun, light touch as well: Scrubbing the timeline at the bottom of the app shows you weather predictions for each hour, along with cloud movements and rain falling from your birds’ eye perspective above a location.
If Sunshine has a weak spot, it might be the lack of a standard hour-by-hour list of reports—especially ones tailored to your commute. You need to see that info by scrubbing through the timeline or reading a written summary of the next few hours above the map. Stroponiati says additional features will depend on user feedback, but she wants to make sure Sunshine stays community-focused and clean.
And it’s not just a bigger pool of users that will make the app more powerful in the future. As phone hardware evolves, Sunshine could become even more capable.
“Our vision is to go further as more sensors are coming in,” Stroponiati says. “People are suffering from pollen and air pollution everywhere in the world. With air pollution, allergy, humidity sensors, Sunshine will not only be able to create forecasts with great accuracy but also to make everyone aware of the environment they live in.”Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.