We've often talked about how much scientists covet your cell phone as a tool for gathering data. Crowdsourcing information through millions of cell phones equipped with sensors is a brilliant way to get information that would otherwise be inaccessible or expensive to collect. The possibilities of such data collection are practically endless, but one app is making it happen to provide better weather predictions.
PressureNet is an Android-powered app that measures atmospheric pressure, and provides those measurements to scientists who in turn use it to better understand what is going on with the weather.MIT Technology Review writes, "Atmospheric pressure sensors are unique to Android, though not all Android phones have them. Google added the ability to measure pressure to its operating system because the data can help improve location finding. While PressureNet isn’t the only Android app that displays pressure information for users, its creators think it’s the only one that collects the data and shares it. It turns out that this pressure data from ordinary phone users could be scientifically useful."
The app gives users a pop-up that tells them what is being collected and how it will be used. Users can then decide if they want to participate. The goal of the app's creators is to launch a website that will let forcasters use the collected data (for a fee, of course). Already, interested parties include a researcher in Germany working on how atmospheric pressure affects soil moisture, and a meteorologist with a news station that wants to provide better weather predictions to viewers.
If you have an Android phone, you might be interested in taking part. The app needs thousands of users to participate if the collected data is to be worthwhile. Features of the app include an interactive Google Map highlighting barometer readings submitted by users, graphs that show your submissions to the project, and even a data visualization map so you can see the global data set.