WORLDWINDS, INC. NOMINATED FOR SBA 2014 TIBBETS AWARD

Company Background

Weather’s economic impact is pernicious and pervasive.  In the US, weather generates over $500 billion in annual economic impact.  Decreasing weather driven economic variability and building weather resilience depends on promoting greater weather understanding, readiness, and decision making.

Over the last 10 years, WorldWinds has worked to improve our weather readiness by working in partnership with university and government researchers with the goal of improving economic resilience and public safety.  The company has been accomplishing these goals by converting advanced satellite data and complex weather models into scientifically sound yet intuitive and actionable public graphics that promote weather readiness, better decisions and improved personal safety.  WorldWinds develops and delivers these products through close partnerships with federal agencies, research universities, and broadcast media suppliers.

To reliably provide these products 24/7/365, WorldWinds operates an advanced supercomputer cluster bunkered in a secure data center.  The WorldWinds supercomputer crunches terabytes of NOAA satellite and meteorological data and delivers a continuous stream of accurate and actionable information communicated daily on weather broadcasts around the country.

In developing effective weather graphics for public consumption, WorldWinds has formed a unique bridge between the broadcast media industry, research universities, and federal agencies including NASA, NOAA, and DOD.  Through the SBIR program, WorldWinds has been able to leverage our country’s enormous weather science and engineering investments and merge these advanced observational and forecasting technologies with the behavioral sciences required to develop rapid comprehension, effective planning, and appropriate public action.

WorldWinds, Inc. has offices at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and maintains its supercomputing capability in its office in Slidell Louisiana.  Founded in the year 2000, the company is minority woman owned and operated by Elizabeth Valenti who received her Electrical Engineering degree from Louisiana State University.

 Technical Innovation

WorldWinds, Inc. and its data distributor Baron Services, Inc. of Huntsville, AL, collaborated to bring NOAA satellite and model data to the general public through the development of a suite of weather products disseminated by US television broadcasters.  The WorldWinds’ SBIR Phase II project generated 17 new operational products for TV broadcast.  These products are now being provided to broadcast weather viewers in 40 media markets around the country.  The products developed include:

  1. Blended Total Precipitable Water (bTPW)
  2. Forecast Precipitable Water
  3. Low Level Precipitable Water
  4. 850mb-200mb Wind Shear
  5. Ocean Heat Content
  6. Baron Hurricane Index
  7. Satellite Derived Radar Reflectivity
  8. Dust Concentration
  9. Fire and Smoke Analysis
  10. Palmer Drought Severity Index
  11. Palmer Z-Index
  12. Keetch Byram Drought Index
  13. Percent of Normal Rainfall and Rainfall Deficit in Inches
  14. North American Snow and Ice Coverage
  15. High Resolution Surface Wind Analysis
  16. Ocean Currents
  17. Special Event MODIS Imagery

Developing and rapidly delivering these new products required overcoming significant technical challenges.  Development of these products required 2 years of close coordination with both NOAA scientists and TV station beta testers around the country.  Communications with these NOAA scientists enabled WorldWinds’ staff to understand the data server locations, formats, map projections, processing times, and important characteristics of the data needed to develop the algorithms that would generate the on-air products.  Data received from the various NOAA agencies is processed around the clock by WorldWinds servers in 4 different states.  Each set of data has its own challenges in order to be transformed into a product ready for television viewing.  After passing through WorldWinds’ retrieval and processing algorithms, the results are formatted for ingestion by Baron Services.  Fresh data is pushed to Baron’s graphical display systems, OMNI and VIPIR, several times a day for use by client television stations across the United States.

By the end of spring 2013, WorldWinds had nearly a dozen active Beta Testers who showed the new products on-air and provided feedback regarding how products were being received by the public.  In January 2014, WorldWinds and Baron Services transitioned the SBIR products from beta status to a commercial data package called the “Insight Data Package”, which is being marketing heavily ahead of the upcoming hurricane season.  More information on the Insight package can be found on the Baron web site at: http://www.baronservices.com/broadcast/data/tropical.

Business Impact

The Insight package was introduced at the AMS Broadcast Conference in Nashville, TN June 26-28, 2013 and has been enthusiastically received by television broadcasters and the public alike.  Currently, over 40 television stations have downloaded Insight Data Package for testing in their media markets.  Thanks to NOAA’s strong commitment to the commercial weather industry, small companies like WorldWinds have the ability to develop innovations that generate jobs and improve public awareness.

Creating compelling weather products for the broadcast media industry is highly competitive business requiring continuous innovation.  The company’s ongoing growth in this niche results directly from the SBIR program and our close working relationship with NOAA.  Baron Services also benefits from our agency relationship as do the customers who utilize the products developed and delivered through the partnership.  WorldWinds and Baron have been partners for 13 years, working with local weather providers, emergency responders, mariners, and individual users to improve local weather forecasts that impact lives and property.  These new NOAA based SBIR products will aid TV broadcasters in improving forecasting skill and will also be included in other WorldWinds/ Baron commercial data bundles, such as web and smartphone apps, XMWX satellite weather for mariners and first responders (http://xmwxweather.com/), and the new Quiklink International Marine Weather package (http://www.baronservices.com/marine).

Broader Societal and Economic Benefit

WorldWinds is an Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business.  The founder and owner, Elizabeth Valenti grew up in south Louisiana; an area where everyone’s lives and livelihood depend on access to its rich fishery and energy resources.  The area’s dependence on the coast makes the economy particularly sensitive to severe weather and environmental impacts.  Through her engineering education and early career with government and university research organizations, Elizabeth quickly recognized that preserving the region’s quality of life could benefit from the application of Earth science.  Building resilience through increased awareness and intelligent decisions would mitigate risks, improve public safety, and reduce the environmental, personal, and economic impacts of severe weather events.  Once Elizabeth formed WorldWinds, Inc., she immediately focused on working with university researchers and government agencies to commercialize technologies that would achieve business sustainability while providing broader societal benefits by delivering cutting edge science and technology to the public.  These technologies have been applied in applications as diverse as explaining tomorrow’s weather to helping individuals prepare for and recover from hurricanes.

As a result of her efforts, the company has continued to receive countless testimonials regarding the company’s positive impacts on their lives and businesses.