Technology from many of the vendors stations rely on to keep viewers informed of changing weather conditions is being used to provide commuters with relevant traffic data on their mobile devices and TVs.
Reporting on traffic conditions shares two important characteristics with weather: both are data-driven and both have evolved dramatically in today’s digital world.
Before the today’s data-driven digital world, traffic reports relied on resources like helicopters and planes, reporters driving congested roads and scanning police radio traffic.
Today, however, data collected from mobile technology has given rise to a variety of data services that are feeding products from many of the same vendors that provide weather systems, including AccuWeather, ChyronHego, The Weather Company, Vizrt and, next year, Baron Services.
This digital evolution hasn’t entirely done away with all of the traditional approaches to gathering traffic data but rather has enhanced them to give viewers a more complete picture of what they will face as they hit the road.
For example, AccuWeather is combining different data sets, including those that pertain to traffic flow and those that relate to weather conditions, to give stations a means to convey more accurately the entire picture of what motorists will encounter on the roads, not simply construction and accident-related delays, says Bill Boss, the company’s director of product development.
Like meteorologists, traffic reporters — especially those who work the morning shift — have frequent reports and hits they must present on-air, online and via social media. To make managing the data that drives those reports easier, The Weather Company has taken steps to automate wherever possible, says Jim Brihan, leader for the company’s media offerings for media systems.
The company, which introduced augmented reality-based weather and traffic graphics two years ago, is now beginning to automate on-air updates to traffic conditions.
Today, when a traffic presenter clicks on an accident icon, information about the accident is revealed, such as whether it involves an overturned vehicle or multiple cars and how it is affecting traffic. In the fall, that information will be updated as it occurs, Brihan says.
“Weather and traffic are probably the No. 1 and No. 2 things stations put out,” says James Monroe, Vizrt’s manager of weather sales.
The company is leveraging its existing graphics technology and integrating data from third parties like Total Traffic Network to provide stations with the tools to deliver weather and traffic alerts.
“We are bringing all of that together into one easy-to-use platform and integrating all of these data types, including social media,” he says.
Beyond the big screen, stations are also relying on many of these same vendors to push data-driven traffic reports out to the mobile apps viewers use as they commute.
In the case of The Weather Company, automated alerts generated by its Engage engine are being enhanced by IBM’s Watson supercomputer and artificial intelligence. The technology is being used to target the right traffic and weather conditions to commuters in affected areas who have enabled geo-targeting on their station’s mobile app, Brihan says.