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How IoT helps Mount Washington Observatory forecast weather

Steve Rogerson
August 31, 2017



The Mount Washington Observatory (MWO), a New Hampshire-based non-profit research facility, is using IoT technology to conduct critical weather, atmospheric and climate research that is used for national and global forecasting.
 
The equipment comes from Colorado-based FreeWave Technologies, which specialises in industrial, secure M2M and IoT wireless networking. The MWO is using its ruggedised industrial IoT data radios.
 
The facility also provides vital data that allow local government agencies to assess active conditions to protect the lives of crews during search and rescue operations.
 
FreeWave's low-power 900MHz radios are trusted to deliver the critical data while facing Mount Washington's extreme weather and harsh conditions.
 
"As you can imagine, there is little-to-no room for failure when it comes to our climate monitoring efforts that double as a resource to help save lives during search operations," said Peter Gagne, ‎IT manager at ‎Mount Washington Observatory. "For more than 13 years, FreeWave's radios have impressed us with their durability and reliability in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet. We've been so pleased with their performance that we will continue to deploy FreeWave as we update our auto road vertical profile this year. To top it off, we receive top-notch customer service, and the network is cost-effective and easy to deploy."
 
MWO has studied the Earth's climate since 1932. The facility sits atop the highest peak in north-east USA, boasting an elevation of 1900 metres. Researchers frequently encounter 80 to 160km/hr winds and penetrating fog in the summer, with sub-arctic temperatures, 225km/hr winds, freezing fog and heavy glaze icing in the winter. Weather conditions change frequently and rapidly, visibility is often compromised, and researchers have seen ice accretion rates of up to 30cm per hour.
 
FreeWave is known for its ability to maintain connectivity in environments where other technologies have succumbed to the elements. At Mount Washington, the FGR and FGR2 radios connect a network of 28 sensors and devices on five remote weather stations and have successfully delivered data in spite of Mount Washington's year-round harsh weather.
 
Additionally, the weather stations are solar-powered and only receive sunlight 40 per cent of the year, another reason that low-power radios were suitable for the network. These capabilities have enabled 24hr, year-round network connectivity.
 
"Mount Washington Observatory has certainly put our IIoT to the test," said Kim Niederman, CEO of FreeWave. "Today, I can confidently say that we've received the Mount Washington Tested stamp of approval, which is no easy feat. However, this unforgiving environment is exactly the type of deployment in which our solutions excel. It is a testament to the dedication and innovation that goes into the FreeWave R&D process in order to deliver excellence and overcome big connectivity challenges facing many IIoT networks."