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Forecast: Innovation

Divina Paredes | Nov. 26, 2013
The flipside of Alistair Vickers' business card features a rugby ball -- and a reminder how MetService plays a role in the victory of the All Blacks at a final game at Eden Park."

The flipside of Alistair Vickers' business card features a rugby ball -- and a reminder how MetService plays a role in the victory of the All Blacks at a final game at Eden Park."

"All Blacks strategy hangs on last-minute MetService weather briefings," it reads. "Direction of play, kicking style, sprig length, territory or possession? Can't claim 'full-credit'. Honoured to be selected."

No wonder Vickers, CIO of MetService, has a ready smile each time he hands over his business card.

A cursory look at the card also reveals another one-off -- he is also CIO of MetraWeather, the offshore company of MetService.

Across New Zealand, MetService is the weather authority, delivering the official forecasts and warnings 24x7, 365 days a year. But overseas, it is known as MetraWeather, a major provider of innovative weather information services for a range of organisations.

Its customers vary across markets and geographies, and range from energy operators, hydropower operators, retailers and network managers, television stations, print media and mobile communications operators.

"Our forecast for New Zealand is exceedingly accurate, to the minute," says Vickers. "We can also provide this type of forecast for absolutely anywhere in the world."

Related: MetService is in the quintessential information business.

Balancing act

"MetService is a unique balance for being a fully commercial operation with provision of second to none public weather services," says Vickers. "We try to be game changing -- and be agile."

He explains MetService does a lot more than meteorological services and their challenges are around supporting a global business, meeting and delivering to customer needs, managing a rapidly changing environment and controlling IT spend to maximise value to the business.

Its counterparts across the globe will have different business models, but they also compete on certain fronts. The UK meteorological office, for instance, is largely government funded but has commercial contracts as well. So MetraWeather competes in the UK weather market, as well as private weather companies, some of which are funded by venture capitalists.

In the United States, the National and Atmospheric Administration gives away its data. Therefore, any developer can take the American model and present it for free, which is why people can download many weather apps on iTunes.

Being able to cost model your investments, capex, opex, what is the return on investment, the weighted average cost of capital, are really important as the bottom layers of IT become more productised.

The problem with this is the data is not always accurate, he says. Last Christmas, for instance, the Accuweather site predicted thunderstorms for Wellington when it was a "beautiful 35 degree sunny day" in the capital.

"Where MetService is different," says Vickers, "is we take other people's models, put our smarts both from our meteorologists and also from scientists, and bring these together."

 

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