In 1990, the average 72-hour hurricane forecast by the National Hurricane Center was off by about 300 nautical miles. Today, the NHC’s 48-hour forecast is actually more accurate than the 24-hour forecasts of 27 years ago, at an average track error of just over 50 miles.
Much of these gains are being driven by exponential improvements in computing.
But even the most powerful supercomputer is subject to the GIGO factor: garbage in, garbage out. These computer models are only as good as the data they crunch. They need accurate data to process, and they need lots of them.
Much of the data is supplied by satellite and radar. However, there’s no substitute for on-site data collection, which is why Hurricane Hunter aircraft of the U.S. Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron make frequent flights over these dangerous storms.
The Hurricane Hunters not only take direct readings as they fly over and through hurricanes, but they also drop sensor packages deep into the storms.
Dropsondes released by the aircraft return measurements of wind speed, air pressure, humidity and much more as they plunge from cloud tops to the sea. GPS coordinates localize the data, and for more persistent surface measurements, the aircraft also drop floating buoys.
These smart, remote sensor devices are credited with improving forecast accuracy anywhere from 20–40%, helping improve disaster response and planning.
The Hurricane Hunters have been flying for decades, making their dropsondes and ocean buoys early forerunners of something that has become one of the biggest trends in technology: the internet of things.
The internet of things is a description for a huge network of computing devices embedded in everyday items. It’s bringing the kind of intelligence we consider part of traditional computers to everything we use, improving our capacity for managing everything we own and interacting with our environment — from hurricanes to automobiles to our own health.
Estimates and predictions about how big the internet of things will become vary, they share one thing in common: They’re generally huge. Cisco famously calls the phenomenon “The Internet of Everything” and predicts that it will become a $19 trillion market over the next decade. GE, which is building a data and analytics platform for the internet of things, goes even further, saying this market will be worth $60 trillion in just 15 years.
Information services company IHS predicts we will have an installed base of 75.4 billion devices in 2025. This explosion in IoT devices will create huge fortunes, as have past waves of technology.
To put this large number into perspective, the growth of internet of things devices will dwarf the personal computer and smartphone revolutions. Only 63 million PCs will be sold in 2017, as well as 1.5 billion smartphones. The IoT will produce sales orders of greater magnitude.
But billions of small interconnected devices still need better technology. They not only need fast wireless connectivity and powerful processing capabilities, but they also need to be more energy efficient. And this is where the IoT becomes important to you as an investor. Companies moving to make data sharing and storage even more efficient are going to lead the way for us into the future. And based on the projections previously mentioned, the sheer amount of earning potential is uncanny.
We’re on the verge of some amazing new advances, and as things develop you can be sure I’ll be right back here to tell you all about the next amazing innovations coming out of this space.
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