Innovative Weather app aims to serve UWM campus and community
Inside UW-Milwaukee's alumni house on 3230 E. Kenwood Blvd., around eight students and four full-time staff members of Innovative Weather are aiming to deliver a campus-centered weather forecast that's unmatched.
Not only does the fully functional weather service program aim to provide professional experience for meteorology students, it has also jumped into the mobile game with the help of UWM's App Brewery to create an app that's tailored specifically for the UWM campus and the surrounding Milwaukee community.
"This app was sort of born out of a desire to create something that we're calling campus centric forecasting," Mike Westendorf, director of Innovative Weather, said.
"We wanted to create something for UWM to kind of go along with service that we're already providing for them, but to create more of a general user, a lot of the stuff we do is more technical. This gave us a little nicer way to tell the weather story, but try to base it more from the perspective of somebody who has more of an interest or lives around campus."
Innovative Weather cannot compete with television stations because their reach is limited compared to the reach of those media. One thing that they can do, however, is focus on the weather from a hyperlocal perspective.
According to Westendorf, the app gives Innovative Weather an interesting space in the market place in terms of creating a forecast that is specific to a campus area and communicating it as if they're looking at the whole situation through the eyes of someone who's on that campus.
Although the app is tailored for UWM students, staff and those who live and work around campus, the forecast is valid for southeastern Wisconsin so anyone can download the app, which is now available for free download and it will give them pinpointed weather information directly on their mobile device.
Be aware, though, that Innovative Weather developed two separate apps: a client-based one for paying customers that requires a login, and a free one for the general public.
Before the app, Innovative Weather emailed its services out to clients. What made Innovative Weather push its way into integrating technology with its services involves the Milwaukee Brewers. A failed bid to land the Brewers as a business client over a year ago made the team realize that its services at the time were not yet technologically there.
"The Brewers went with a different provider even though we were in their backyard," said Westendorf. "It was at that point when I said that we're not able to contain an excellent internship if we can't jump right into this."
That failure pushed Westendorf and Innovative Weather to develop the app to take advantage of today's smart phone boom and the demand for instant information. The old approach of supplying services via email simply didn't match demand.
The process began when UWM created its own app, which was also developed by the App Brewery. This gave Innovative Weather a shot at being included.
"As they were developing it, there were a number of delays and a number of improvements that wanted to hold it back so it kept getting pushed back and pushed back. Well, we got the idea probably a year ago or so saying, 'Well, can we create one that's a stand alone, Innovative Weather app?'
"The ideas sort of split out of that and so we began talking with the App Brewery folks about what they're doing and if this was something that would be feasible and so they took a look at how we're generating the forecast files and the forecast data and we've been closely working with their developers," Westendorf continued. "It's been about a year process."
Like Innovative Weather, UWM's App Brewery, which is now operating inside of the former Columbia St. Mary's Hospital, now known on campus as the Northwest Quadrant, gives students the opportunity to gain professional experience in a field related to the students' professional interests.
Rather than forecasting the weather, students and full-time staff members in the App Brewery design and build mobile apps using what they've learned in the classroom and applying it towards a project with real world clients and deadlines.
Since its start in January of last year, the App Brewery has developed an app for the LGBT Chamber of Commerce for Wisconsin, a GPS tracking system app that was in collaboration with the Milwaukee County Transit System and UWM's mobile app.
"We wanted to provide within the UWM mobile app a kind of utility tool for students," Quinn Madson, manager and co-founder of the App Brewery said.
"They can log into it and get their class list. A map will show them where they are, where their class is, so it helps students kind of orient themselves when they're on campus if they're freshmen or first year students.
"We also wanted to add in weather because we still have some students that commute from the father reaches of Milwaukee County," Madson continued. "They could be coming from Muskego or from Racine or areas that are far away from our east side campus. Weather can be very different on the east side than it is in Mequon or in other places."
Among Innovative Weather's clients is WUWM, which airs an MP3 file of the forecast on an hourly basis, according to Madson.
"In addition to that, they're creating an on campus forecast that we're putting inside of our app," Madson said. "So students can stream a brief minute or two minute discussion on what's going on with the weather."
The audio component is actually one of the outstanding features on the app. Instead of reading the information, a recorded voice will tell you the day's forecast. For Innovative Weather's lead forecaster Corey Mueller, it's the one feature that especially makes the app its own unique creation.
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