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Up-to-the-minute Cape Weather from Online Real-Time WeatherWatch
Publication: CI Press Release Issued: Date: 2000-06-05 Reporter: CI Systems

CI Press Release


Cape Town-based CI Systems, a developer of mission-critical real-time systems, is demonstrating its expertise with an online, real-time weather monitoring facility on its corporate website.

The CI Systems Real-Time WeatherWatch displays up-to-the-minute weather conditions, such as wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, temperature, wind chill factor and humidity. In addition to this data, a real-time image (the WeatherWindow) provides a visual take on the weather conditions at each station.

The WeatherWatch is a boon for keen surfers, divers, fishermen and sailors who can utilise the information to plan their sea-side excursions.

Each Real-Time WeatherWatch remote station consists of weather instrumentation (anemometer, wind vane, barometer and thermometer) and a web camera connected to a PC. Some sites will also have a rain collector to measure rainfall.

Software on each weather station PC captures weather data and images every 10 minutes. The weather data is written to a database (which can be used for further analysis) while the most recent images are kept to provide a weather history.

When a software timer is triggered, the data is downloaded from the remote site to the Real-Time WeatherWatch server (located at CI Systems offices in Kenilworth) via a 33,6k modem. The timers are configurable and are currently set for hourly weather data and image downloads during daylight hours. The video resolution is 320 x 240 pixels.

The webserver receives the information from the weather stations and sorts the data into Internet accessible directories where it is made available to the general public. Remote sites located outside the Cape Town exchange area may be connected by normal dial-up telephone lines. Weather data is updated every hour on the hour. Local sites located within the Cape Town exchange area may be connected by leased lines or a local area network. Viewers can manually refresh their browsers if they wish to view the most recent data and image, although the page will update itself automatically every two minutes.

WeatherWatch currently has weather stations at Kenilworth, Struis Bay and Sunset Beach and depending on the public response, will add Kommetjie, Bloubergstrand, Camps Bay and Muizenberg sometime in the future. The existing stations will also be upgraded during the year to provide a graphical barometric pressure history, graphical wind speed and direction history and short video clips instead of a still image. The video clips will provide an indication of wave and swell conditions.

The WeatherWatch system is a dramatic departure from CI Systemss day-to-day business of providing real-time, network-based solutions for mission-critical military and industrial applications: it recently launched two locally designed, state-of-the-art, digital control systems for marine craft.

The first of these, the Platform Management System (PMS), is an integrated vessel control and monitoring system, providing centralised management of sub-systems by means of a computer network. Access to the functions of the PMS is via a sophisticated man-machine interface, using a graphical environment to effectively display information concerning the move and float functions of the ship.

The second, CI Systemss Information Management System (IMS), is a ship-borne network based on SAFENET (Survivable Adaptable Fibre Optic Embedded Network) that manages the transfer of time-critical command and control messages, multimedia streams and background file transfer from many sources to many destinations. The IMS effectively provides the logical integration function of the fight function of the ship.

The companys managing director, Richard Young, explains why he and his engineers developed WeatherWatch: "It is very difficult for businessmen to understand what it is that CI Systems does and how the expertise we use to develop military applications can be adapted for industrial and academic use. RTWW incorporates data and image capture, communications and information ("intelligence") in an integrated system thereby characterizing all of CI Systems capabilities of its corporate mission.

"Being a keen spearfisherman myself, I also understand why my fellow sportsmen need to minimise their time travelling between their favourite spots when it comes to spending time next to or on the sea. "WeatherWatch appears to be the answer: while it is by no means as complex as the military systems we have developed, it does provide a practical application which adds value in this instance for sportsmen, commercial fishermen and avid weather watchers."

RTWW can be used as a technology for many other applications i.e. real-time surveillance, monitoring and control. For example, we set up a system to monitor Constantiaberg overnight during Cape Towns week of fires. A picture was taken every 100 seconds between 5 pm and 9 am the next morning. The results have been made into a 25 second "movie" which can be viewed from the WeatherWatch website.

CI Systems has also recently (during January 2000) commissioned a "PollutionWatch" system for the Cape Metropolitan Councils Scientific Services Division. This allows them to collect high resolution images from a remote site using a modem. Analysis of these images allows them to quantitively measure the quality of the air around Cape Town and provide an indication of pollution levels. The PollutionWatch system automatically points the camera at various items of interest and will zoom in and out according to a predefined schedule.

WeatherWatch can be viewed on http://rtww.ccii.co.za and additional information requested from info@ccii.co.za.