Weather on your mobile phone, whether
rain or shine
Hong Kong Observatory

Exemplary Services@Gov
2011

Mobile phones are no longer just a device for voice communications. With the advent of smart phones, instant online news and information are now a simple finger swipe away. Taking advantage of the widespread popularity of smart phone technology, the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) recently launched the "My Observatory" smart phone application ("app"), which allows users to see current location-specific weather conditions retrieved from nearby weather stations.

Mr Edwin Lai, a Senior Scientific Officer of the Hong Kong Observatory, said that development work was ongoing to explore the use of smart phones to deliver more regional weather forecast information in the near future.

With a smart phone in hand, even weather novices can become experts!

An app to set your day by

"Hong Kongers are used to a fast-paced life and expect efficiency all the time. So, in delivering weather information to the public, the challenge is to keep pace with the fast tempo," said Mr Lai.

"My Observatory" is an application developed by the HKO for tech-savvy smart phone users. In addition to observations on temperature, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity, the app also provides information such as seven-day weather forecasts, radar images, lightning locations and tropical cyclones. The app has become so popular that for several months the app has been among the top ranked free apps in the iPhone App Store. Even senior government officials have installed "My Observatory" on their iPads to keep abreast of the latest weather situation and be prepared for inclement weather. Since its launch a year ago, the app's hit rate has increased rapidly to reach an astonishing figure of 400 million times.

As usual, success does not come easily. Initially users did not respond positively to the first version of "My Observatory". After gathering their feedback, HKO staff immediately started improvement work. Within a few months, an enhanced version was launched and gained the popular recognition of users.

HKO a big hit on YouTube

To reach the younger generations that are used to sharing videos online, the HKO has set up a "Social Networking Meteorological Service Team" to produce short videos for upload to YouTube. With HKO staff presenting the information on camera in an in-depth yet easy-to-understand manner, the clips focus on a wide range of topics including meteorological knowledge, weather information, as well as HKO's latest news and activities. This enables the HKO to move away from the conventional pictorial or text presentations in the delivery of weather messages to the public. As an example, when waterspouts appeared in Hong Kong July last year, the HKO posted a video on YouTube with HKO staff appearing in person to explain the weather phenomenon. The clip was very well-received and has since attracted more than 100,000 viewings. Total viewing figure for all the clips posted on HKO@YouTube has since exceeded one million. The HKO team has found the experience most rewarding, given that it is mostly achieved through an effective deployment of existing resources.

HKO staff work tirelessly around-the-clock to monitor rain and storms and provide timely weather information for the assurance of public safety. In the course of doing so, they also strive to deliver weather information more effectively and efficiently through new platforms.

"The public's recognition and support have always been the best motivation to drive us forward to better services," said Mr Lai.

HKO's weather information travels

  • "My Observatory" smart phone application: Provides latest weather information based on users' locations, including current observations, seven-day weather forecast, radar images, lightning locations and tropical cyclone information.
  • HK Observatory@YouTube: Provides meteorological knowledge, weather information and the latest news and activities of HKO through video clips.
  • Twitter: Provides automatic updates on the latest weather information and warnings.

The HKO strives to deliver weather information more effectively and efficiently through new platforms.
The HKO strives to deliver weather information more effectively and efficiently through new platforms.
'My Observatory' smart phone 'app'
"My Observatory" smart phone "app"
HK Observatory@YouTube
HK Observatory@YouTube
YouTube production team in action during the Observatory's Open Day.
YouTube production team in action during the Observatory's Open Day.