USA’s National Weather Service to study real-time traffic camera data from Helios platform


The USA’s government-owned National Weather Service (NWS) is to study the use of real-time images from traffic cameras across the country to enhance the accuracy of its forecasts.

The NWS will study localized weather data collected by Harris Corporation’s Helios digital platform in its National Mesonet Program, which uses multiple observation networks located throughout the USA. Harris is providing the platform under a contract with NWS supplier Global Science and Technology Inc. and the study will run until the end of September. The Helios digital platform pulls data from a nationwide network of 30,000 integrated traffic cameras, which use algorithms to detect surface wetness and ice, notifying users of changing road conditions. The system is already used by several commercial weather companies to enhance and validate short-term forecasting, and is part of Harris’s broader portfolio of weather and environmental capabilities, which include weather and climate sensors and ground processing for space, air and ground sensors.

Regional weather can change quickly and vary significantly, even between city blocks, making weather-based decisions at the local level a real challenge. From the traffic operations center that needs to post weather warnings on highway signage, to the school official who has to decide which schools to close during a winter storm, or the fleet manager responsible for scheduling deliveries during that same event, regional radar alone does not provide the detail necessary to make optimal decisions. Accurate real-time updates on visibility, rain and snow conditions are needed to enhance localized weather predictions.

Helios weather analytics from Harris provide fast and accurate local ground weather validation intelligence to assist companies, transportation agencies and other organizations with real-time decision making. It instantaneously analyzes and filters content from thousands of existing public and private video cameras to detect real-time weather conditions. Helios provides immediate confirmation of ground weather condition changes at a detailed local level, and combines it with NWS warnings and other relevant weather data to give a complete weather picture.

Harris addresses this vital information gap with Helios, a ground-based environmental intelligence platform that integrates on-the-ground surveillance with conventional weather-tracking technologies. The Helios platform allows agencies to understand weather events as they unfold, minute by minute, mile by mile. When adverse weather threatens, Helios integrates images and video from a nationwide network of traffic and CCTV surveillance cameras and displays them on a map, accompanied by NWS warnings and other relevant weather data. The platform is designed for commercial weather companies, government agencies, transportation departments, and industries that rely heavily on accurate weather data to inform, prepare, protect and react.

“The study will allow the National Weather Service to use Helios to complement and enhance its forecasts,” said Eric Webster, vice president and general manager of Harris Environmental Solutions. “Having real-time, ground-level conditions pushed automatically to meteorologists would allow them to validate their forecasts and improve accuracy. Radar information does not provide actual conditions on the ground, so Helios can fill that critical gap.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).