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Business deals

SoftBank buys stake in hyper-accurate US weather service

Potential demand for real-time forecasts seen in airline and insurance sectors

Demand is high for ClimaCell's detailed microweather forecasts in the agriculture sector. (Photo courtesy of ClimaCell)

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group has invested $7 million in ClimaCell, a U.S. weather startup that uses cellular signals in making detailed weather forecasting.

The Japanese group aims to work with the startup to harness the cellular technology for a variety of industries. The investment was done through wholly owned unit SB Energy, and SoftBank could decided to boost its stake down the road.

ClimaCell was founded by former members of the Israeli air force in 2015. Its technology uses artificial intelligence to forecast the weather in 100-sq.-meter plots every 10 minutes based on data gathered from devices like cellphone signals. For example, its technology is able to detect high humidity in the air from slower wireless communication speeds.

The service is growing rapidly because it can make more granular forecasts than existing products by IBM and other companies that make use of weather satellites and observation equipment.

ClimaCell is also building a system that analyzes weather data in real-time. Rainfall, for instance, could be measured from windshield wiper data. The startup is working to partner with communications providers, automakers and other potential information sources while cultivating a client base in industries that require accurate weather data, such as aviation and insurance.

"Weather forecasts using artificial intelligence will have such a high impact that they should be called the 'weather of things,'"said Shigeki Miwa, CEO of SB Energy.

Accurate weather information is useful in many fields, including the renewable energy, agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. SoftBank plans to establish regional joint ventures with ClimaCell to improve the profitability of these new weather forecasting services.

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