Using Weather Data in your Open Source Project

Open Source software has become a critical component of our daily lives. From robust operating systems and servers, such as the software stack serving your this article, to client applications such as browsers and helpful desktop widgets, nearly everyone benefits from Open Source software daily. With Visual Crossing Weather, we are proud to give back to the Open Source community by making high-quality forecast and historical weather data available to your projects at no cost to you and in many cases at no cost to your users as well. In this article we will explore some of the options available to Open Source developers and suggest ways that we can work together. Of course, every project is unique, and we know that one size does not fit all or even most in the Open Source world. So, after reading this brief article, please reach out to us if you have ideas for how we can help your project and users. We are always excited to do our best to help the Open Source community create useful, new software for the benefit of us all.

Weather Data and Open Source

Weather data has many applications in Open Source projects, and you are likely reading this article because you have a specific weather use case in mind. However, before going into details, let’s consider some of the various types of Open Source projects that can benefit from weather data. Skimming this list may give you some ideas for how to expand your own project.

  • Weather Apps and Widgets – These are some of the most popular open source weather projects. They include apps that display weather on smart phones, widgets that display weather at the operating system level, and widgets that plug into specific application such as WordPress or Amazon Alexa. While some are for general use others target specific user populations such as hunters or bikers. These apps often show weather forecasts but sometimes also show historical weather data based on specific event triggers such as when a wildlife photo was taken or mountain hike was made.
  • Data Interfaces – These projects take weather data and bring it into popular analysis environments such as R or Excel or coding language such as Python or Java. They may consist of a UI for building weather queries and/or a code module that allows developers to easily fetch weather data and make it available in the target environment.
  • Homebrew Projects – These are the fun applications that people build in their spare time using a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and include applications such as Magic Mirrors, homebrew garden watering solutions, model railway controllers and more. In some cases, weather data is just used for display while in others it is used as the intelligent input to make automated decisions. An example is the automated lawn waterer that determines the length of the daily watering cycle based on the daily temperature and the amount of natural rain received.

Weather Data for you, the developer

If you are the developer of a public Open Source project we want to help you easily add the benefits of weather data for your users. We do this in four ways.

Easy-to-use-Weather API

Our Timeline Weather API is designed to be very easy to integrate into any application environment. It uses a simple URL API that can be tested in any web browser and called from nearly any development environment. The URL for a forecast query can be constructed simply by appending the location and API Key to a base URL. Here is an example that queries the 15-day forecast for Paris, France.<API_Key>

The result data is also simple to process in nearly any environment. The default output is a JSON structure that can be natively parsed in nearly all modern language environments. If your needs are even more basic, you can choose to have the output returned in standard CSV format.

Vast Globe Weather Database

Our weather database includes worldwide historical weather back to 1970, 15-day global forecasts, and climate-based statistical weather summaries for every day of the year for any location. This allows your project instant access to a vast trove of weather data, patterns, and trends. In addition, we provide the current weather conditions at any location, severe weather alerts, and major weather-related events. This allows our data to be used for thousands of purposes such as helping plan business staffing level this weekend, picking the best date for a wedding next summer, or tagging images based on the weather at the time and location taken. We have done the work to merge local, national, and international weather data services into a single API and made it easy for you to consume in any application.

Free Access for Development

We’ll be glad to sponsor your development team with free weather data access to support your development. This is above and beyond the free 1000 daily records that we offer to everyone who signs up for our service. Simply tell us the level of access that you need for your development purposes, and we’ll do our best to make it available to you. You don’t want to worry about hamstrung trials accounts or demo accounts that only produce sample data. We’ll configure a full Visual Crossing Weather account with free access to the weather data capacity that your development project needs. If you need to share that account with other developers on your team or if you need additional accounts for them directly, just let us know. We’ll do our best to accommodate your project’s needs.

Help from Weather Experts

Our commitment to your project doesn’t stop with free weather data access. Not only do we have many samples and reference articles available in languages such as Java, Python, C#, Swift, and more, we have a top-rated support team who will be glad to answer your weather questions and help solve any problems you may encounter. Visual Crossing is a small, close-knit team and we often implement feature requests and enhancements from customers. So, if your project needs a specific piece of weather data or functionality that is not in our public API, we may be able to add it for you.

Weather Data for your Users

We not only want to help you develop your open source application, we also want to make it easy for your users. Traditional weather data providers require each one of your users to sign up for their own account on the weather service just to use your application. This is traditionally a huge impediment to building your user base. Other weather providers have “terms of service” that don’t even permit individual customers to sign up for their own accounts when the service will be used in a larger application. They require applications to have a single global key for every user. Of course, this can never work for Open Source applications. There is no way that you, the developer, are able to pay out of your own pocket so that your users can access weather data. After all, you give your time and effort to make a great application for the world to use, your weather data provide should be willing to give just as much.

There are multiple ways that Visual Crossing Weather can enable free data for your users. One option is that we can provide a private API Key that you can embed in binary versions of your application. While you can’t publish this API Key in your public source code repository, it will make life easier for your users who choose to run your prebuilt binaries directly.

Another option is for us to create a custom API Key that is matched directly to your application’s needs. We can lock keys based on a geographic locations, time restrictions, usage patterns, and more. Just let us know what works best for your application and use case. We’ll be glad to work with you to get your application the API Key that you need.

We are flexible and open to any ideas that you may have to make your application’s user experience ideal. Aside from the obvious limitation that you can’t make an “open” API Key available in public source code, we will do our best to help realize a great solution for your users.

Reach out and we can help

Reach out to us and tell us how best we can help you develop your application and make your user experience great. You give so much to all of us by investing your time and energy to create free software. We will do our best to work with you to realize your dreams. We want to be the weather data provider that helps your application succeed.

And to all of you who have given of your time and talents to build the great Open Source applications that power our hobbies, our daily computing experiences, and the entire world, thank you! Without you, Visual Crossing Weather could not exist. We are proud to give back in every way that we can.