KMA-Certified Blockchain Project OBSERVER Commodifies Weather Data

It’s a sunny day for OBSERVER.

As of November 26, blockchain-based weather data project OBSERVER is recognized as an official weather corporation by the Korean government (though the Observer Foundation is headquartered in Estonia). The company announced yesterday that it had received the certification from the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), South Korea’s weather and climate agency.

Authorization from the KMA allows weather corporations like OBSERVER to participate in government-funded public projects, as well as gives the blockchain company access to the KMA’s robust weather and climate data. The OBSERVER team indicated that such benefits would help to improve its weather predictions.

OBSERVER works by crowdsourcing hyper-local weather data. Data providers receive OBSERVER coins (OBSR) in exchange for their weather information, first when it’s quality-checked and second when it’s sold. Anybody with the ability to make weather observations (like using a smartphone to collect air pressure data) can participate in the OBSERVER ecosystem. Plus, participants can earn royalty coins for their data contributions as a kind of copyright protection.

Miners on the OBSERVER blockchain receive OBSR for verifying weather observations and upholding the blockchain network, though the white paper mentions that proof of stake is used within the system as well.

However, OBSERVER is not the only blockchain project looking at weather data. A similar initiative is Thor Weather, which allows individuals to view weather- and climate-related data in exchange for their Data Read Tokens. Users receive these tokens by contributing their own weather information to the platform.

From a broader perspective, compensation for people’s data contributions is a core theme among many blockchain projects, not simply weather-based initiatives. Researcher and RadicalxChange founder Glen Weyl calls this shift in economic thinking “data as labor.”

Take SENSE, for instance. The token is designed to reward knowledge sharing over the Sensay messaging platform. It’s like a blockchain-based ChaCha (remember that service?).

Another example is FOAM, a blockchain protocol to crowdsource location data. Users (called cartographers) stake their FOAM tokens to indicate that a certain point of interest exists, then other token holders vote to approve the legitimacy of the claim. Cartographers are not necessarily awarded tokens for their contributions, but there exists an economic incentive to participate in that more FOAM users may mean an increase in the token’s value.

One more example is, a blockchain-based social media website that rewards users in STEEM coins for their content contributions. Although written content is not the same as location or weather data, it still represents the commodification of information (in this case, meaningful social media content) that typically goes uncompensated.

Blockchain technology has the potential to re-evaluate the ways in which societies conceive and manage data. Weather data projects such as OBSERVER show promise in helping to shift our understanding of existing data models (especially regarding compensation for said data), but like with any blockchain initiative, people need to use the system first for it to be meaningful.

Daniel Putney is a full-time writer for ETHNews. He received his bachelor’s degree in English writing from the University of Nevada, Reno, where he also studied journalism and queer theory. In his free time, he writes poetry, plays the piano, and fangirls over fictional characters. He lives with his partner, three dogs, and two cats in the middle of nowhere, Nevada.

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