Invention by kite-surfers will track remote Scottish weather

WE all know the disappointment of turning up at a beach just in time to see the sunshine turn into a showery downpour.

The devise was invented by two Scottish kite-surfers

But now two Scottish extreme sports fans have created a solar-powered device that could put an end to these weather woes.

Getting an accurate weather reading at a secluded beach, island or other remote part of Scotland can be tricky as weather stations tend to be a few miles inland, giving the date up to a 90 minute delay.

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The reading is also often limited to a single data point, so you can’t get a true reflection of what is going on by checking the traditional channels.

The device was winner at Scotland's first ever IoTUK Boost event

Frustrated by the weather lottery they faced, kite-surfers Andy Maginnis and Julian Dale created thewindop, a sensing device that can send data to the cloud from anywhere in the world with mobile phone coverage.

The device, which was winner at Scotland’s first-ever IoTUK Boost event, takes measurements every second, providing near real-time information on weather conditions.

In addition to wind speed, it has the potential to provide readings for a range of other indicators including air quality and soil moisture content.

Andy Maginnis, co-founder of thewindop, said: “Too often we turned up at the beach only to find the wind was less than forecast or too gusty, meaning we couldn’t ride. What then started as a few chats on the beach and in the pub quickly evolved into a full-scale product.

thewindop could revolutionise the way we predict weather in Scotland.

“The result is the cAno device: a system sized to update data continuously every 15 minutes during a UK winter and send data at various rates, dependent on application. It can also respond to events detected on-board in real-time and users can set alerts through our website for their preferred weather conditions at their local beach.”

Business Gateway Fife helped thewindop fund a mini-production run of 20 cAno devices, with 10 now out in the field.

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So far they have been deployed at various locations across Scotland, including at the top of the Firth of Cromarty Port Authority, as well as further afield in Scarborough Beach, Western Australia and Brown Island, USA, sending back more than 15.5 million data points to date.

Julian Dale

Julian Dale, co-founder of thewindop, commented: “Typically, weather stations are miles inland, the data often consists of a single data point and is lagged by up to 90 minutes. So it was a lottery whether the conditions on the beach were actually stable and safe enough to go out kiting.

“There’s also no Wi-Fi or power at prime locations for wind sports on remote beaches, just mobile coverage – that can make installing devices currently on the market an expensive proposition. The cAno solves both problems by accessing the mobile network and being affordable for groups of people, or even individuals, to purchase.”

thewindop is currently cultivating links with a variety of organisations to fully commercialise the product. cAno has huge potential applications in a number of market sectors, including environmental monitoring, tourism and sports.

The company was recently one of five winners at Scotland’s IoTUK Boost event, organised by Scottish Funding Council-backed CENSIS, The Data Lab, the University of Edinburgh’s Informatics Ventures and IoTUK. It will now undergo one-month of incubation and mentoring, to fast-track the business’s growth and prepare the product for a global launch.

Andy Maginnis

thewindop now also plans to undergo a crowdfunding drive, aimed at raising investment to allow a big increase in the initial network of devices and expansion of the user base.

Andy added: “The potential for this technology is absolutely massive – essentially, we’re talking about instrumenting the environment to the benefit of everyone. There’s a lot of interest from a wide range of leisure sectors – particularly from paragliding enthusiasts, golfers and sailing clubs to name a few.

“Winning at IoTUK Boost is giving us the exposure and validation we needed to make this work, and we’re already seeing the benefits. The valuable feedback and contacts made through IoTUK has provided the stepping-stone to propel the project globally.”

Mark Begbie, Business Development Director at CENSIS, said: “thewindop’s idea was extremely well-engineered, incorporating some real ingenuity and technical excellence. While Andy and Julian were originally driven by a passion to help kite surfers, the idea has potentially huge applications for all sorts of markets – from hillwalkers and sailing clubs, to feeding into crowdsourced metadata for weather forecasting. It just goes to show that what starts out as a small idea can have a big impact.

For more stories on Scottish tech, science and innovation, please visit: The Scotsman Future Scotland

The device was winner at Scotland's first ever IoTUK Boost event
thewindop could revolutionise the way we predict weather in Scotland.
Julian Dale
Andy Maginnis