How to Profit From the Ultimate Big Data Source: The Weather

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By analyzing a wealth of weather information, multiple industries can adjust inventories and marketing schemes based on the shifting winds of Mother Nature.

That itch in your throat and those watery eyes? Merck, which makes the allergy pill Claritin, anticipated your hay fever and--a year ago--started making plans to capitalize on it. With a subscription to specialized weather forecasts, Merck knew way back last July that this March would be unseasonably cold in most of the U.S., leaving many allergens dormant. Then, quite quickly, May would bring lots of warmth, pollen and spores.

Merck shared its weather intelligence, based on temperature and moisture data correlated to customer behavior by ZIP code, with Wal-Mart. Together they decided to boost promotions and supplies of Claritin and other allergy products at the time when you were desperately ready to buy.

"The upside is potentially millions of dollars in additional sales," says Debbie Sonnentag, Merck Consumer Care's director of category development for Wal-Mart.

Coming Soon: Personal Weather Forecasts

Real-time analytics will enable customized weather reports on smartphones, in cars, and on your refrigerator

Lots of mobile phones come pre-loaded with weather apps from AccuWeather or The Weather Channel. But the companies want to go beyond local forecasts, which anyone can get by typing in a ZIP code. They want to combine sensors and geolocation technology to provide personal weather reports.

Kim Nash is managing editor of CIO Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @knash99.

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