Extremes sometimes good in weather world

The extreme programming origins of the Meteorological Service's Weatherscape XT presentation software have helped its sale to other weather broadcasting organisations.

The extreme programming (XP) origins of the Meteorological Service’s Weatherscape XT presentation software have helped its sale to other weather broadcasting organisations.

Chief executive John Lumsden says the model allows the service to always offer a customer the benefit of the latest improvements. Thanks to XP the system evolves day by day, and a sale does not have to wait months for a “new release” to provide needed functionality.

Weatherscape XT -- which stands for “extreme" -- clocked up its biggest triumph earlier this month with a “multimillion-dollar” sale for use throughout the BBC. The Met Service had been pushing the product initially in the BBC’s Nations and Regions service (dealing with regional broadcasters including those in Scotland and Wales) for more than two years, Lumsden says.

Then last year the BBC realised that it had been 50 years since the first television weather broadcast, and thought a major spruce-up of weather presentation throughout the organisation was needed. So the contract suddenly became many times bigger, with the central BBC organisation and its World Service also in line to take new presentation software. “They wanted consistency and the same look and feel throughout the organisation,” Lumsden says.

Despite its existing entrée to the BBC, the New Zealand service’s programs were rated impartially against 12 competitive offerings from the US and Europe (including the UK). A US, a British and the Kiwi product competed in the last round in December.

“We gained the contract, I believe, because our system was developed with the users – the broadcast meteorologists – in mind. We know how a forecaster’s mind works; we know the sort of things they’re going to want to fiddle with and the sort of things they’ll leave alone." Other packages are either insufficiently flexible, or try to provide for every possible variation and become too complex.

The Met Service is a government-owned entity, so technically the deal counts as a resale of government software – something government and industry recognise as a huge opportunity and are trying to approach in a centrally co-ordinated way. But Lumsden says his organisation had made the sale “without prodding from our owners” and solely on the basis of its own expertise in broadcast meteorology and presentation.

Met Service representatives continue to explore appropriate promotional avenues overseas. It attracted several expressions of interest at the Amsterdam International Broadcasters’ conference last year, Lumsden says.

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