Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Building a Better Mousetrap

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Building a Better Mousetrap

Article excerpt

Flying in the face of competition, two University of Oklahoma engineers hope to storm the market with a high-tech, real-time weather data delivery system.

Working through the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, Harold Stalford and Miguel Simon have developed the software and computer interface to connect a digital mobile telephone to a laptop computer, allowing pilots and other users access to immediate weather data.

"We're building the infrastructure we need in order to make something like this work," said Simon, a graduate research assistant. "We have to have a foundation before we can go any further." The laptop also may connect with a global positioning system, allowing the user to pinpoint an exact location and determine its current weather conditions, or with a simple keystroke discover the national weather situation. "We use the Mesonet (state aviation weather reporting service), the National Weather Service and any other service that's available," said Stalford. Such resources provide radar data that changes every six minutes, with other data -- such as air and soil temperatures, wind speed and direction, humidity and sky conditions -- changing every 15 minutes. "This is real-time weather that a person in a surface vehicle or airplane can access." Stalford, the director of the OU School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, expects to have a product he and Simon may take to investors by the middle of June. "We would like to have some sort of company buy this and turn it into something commercial," he said. "We are developing the software, the infrastructure, the technology that should be exploited by an Oklahoma company. "We (the state of Oklahoma) should be on the leading edge instead of sitting back and letting some company from another state develop this. After all, it's going to be done. We should be the ones to do it." Similar weather technologies are available, with at least one Oklahoma firm already in the marketplace. Weather Affirmations of Oklahoma City provides a lot of this type of information to Oklahoma companies, including building contractors, said President Ross Dixon, who also is a longtime fixture on local television as a weatherman. Several Internet-based services available by wireless modem also offer regularly updated local and regional radar reports and other weather data. "I would imagine this would be primarily for the trucking industry... maybe the car rental companies could offer it as a service to their customers," said Dixon of the system Stalford is preparing. "Most people don't worry enough about the weather to buy something like this until it hits. "I know that some companies have been working on something like this, especially in Texas, but the technology just isn't there." When the OU pair began working on the system, it was thought pilots would be the primary market, so pilots were brought in early to help with testing. …

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