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GE Powers a Smarter Weather App

GE Powers a Smarter Weather App
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Poncho and GE power the cheeky, cute forecasting app

Rob Kleiman
  • 10 february 2016

With the recent launch of the Poncho iOS application, the weather forecast company announced that it will be partnering with General Electric’s Ecomagination to include information about energy conservation and clean energy based on a user’s local weather patterns.

With its cartoon design, Poncho’s tone is friendly, irreverent and informal. “Poncho has a sassy angle to it, but we are still talking about important topics,” says Deb Frodl, Global Executive Director, GE’s Ecomagination program. “This collaboration is a fun new approach to drive a conversation around business and resource efficiency with younger audiences who care deeply about these types of issues,” she wrote on the GE company blog.

Poncho is a colorful and “cat-tastic” weather service that features a feline friend in a yellow raincoat. The approachable aspects of the design and the world the mobile app creates through its captivating, cartoonish user interface takes the dullness out of traditional weather forecasts programs.

By using this app, you can expect to receive a daily email and customized push notification featuring the day’s weather, pollen level, public transit status, and a predictor of whether your hair will be frizzy that day. It’s all presented with custom-written subject lines, emoji, and GIFs. While cute and clever, the system is relatable, fun and useful, with functions including setting alarms to receive forecasts.

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Ecomagination is GE’s ongoing initiative to provide cleaner technology solutions that improve resource efficiency and costs for its industrial customers. It helps the companies improve operations overall and across sectors. Supported by developments from GE’s eight global research centers, the vision is to make a global impact on environmental outcomes and economic growth. This project, and the willingness to work with applications like Poncho, illustrates how big companies are starting to make commitments to the future generations by partnering with products that fit modern-day lifestyles.

Through combining data from Poncho’s app users can see how weather conditions are helping harvest wind, hydro or solar-power in the real world around us. While GE and Poncho investor Betaworks have partnered on projects before, James Cooper, Creative Director of Betaworks says the collaboration makes perfect sense for the brand:

“Our creative strategy was based on the idea that sometimes the weather sucks and there is not much to say other than – ‘this weather is kinda crappy.’ But, if it’s been raining for 5 days that’s actually great for hydro energy. Or if it’s been blowing a gale then that’s great for wind turbines. We want to put a positive spin on crappy weather.”

Weird weather can make for interesting facts, particularly ones about how strange climate conditions can generate renewable electricity.

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He says the partnership was born from a simple understanding:

“One reason we liked this particular partnership is that GE has history of doing interesting work. They are taking quite serious topics but managing to make them entertaining. We feel the same way about weather. There is a whole generation for whom weather is boring. It doesn’t need to be that way. We are thinking long term about the brand and all our partnerships – we want to be a friend to our user and that means being entertaining but also educating and sometimes challenging.”

The next era of software development could see more communications tools that combine the physical and digital world, built on powerful technologies to solve tough challenges in faster, smarter ways.

Poncho | Ecomagination

Texting in the rain via Shutterstock

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