Pelmorex Calls on Government To Open Data

Pelmorex, which owns the Weather Network, makes the case for open data in its submission to the Digital Economy Strategy:

The Government of Canada should continue and expand it practice of adopting digital technologies and making its own digital content freely available. An example of government’s success in this area can be found within Environment Canada’s Meteorological Service. Through ongoing consultation with the private sector, the Meteorological Service of Canada has made a broad array of weather information freely available, allowing private sector firms like Pelmorex to develop valued added products and services for Canadian businesses and consumers. In Pelmorex’s view government, including the provinces and territories must emphasize making information freely available so as to support increased private sector productivity and to encourage the development of new digital economy products and services.


  1. Why should taxpayers finance increased corporate profits?

  2. I appreciate that the company makes the weather data available more easily or with a better interface and I want to see the government of Canada continue to receive attribution for the data that made the report possible. This model may not apply to all government data but surely there are many cases where it does apply.

  3. License it
    I hate all the competing, mainly unreliable weather analysis out there, every online provider and TV station seems to have its own “meteorologist” and you find half a dozen different reports/predictions for anyplace with no quality control. Env Canada is the best, as the dodgy Weather Channel has apparently figured out. It might want it for free, but there’s nothing to say it can’t be fee-licensed, or provided free for development purposes and a share of profits when monetized, wins for weather analysis consumers and for taxpayers.

  4. Creative Commons
    The government should start releasing more data under a Creative Commons approach allowing it to share and dictate the terms of that sharing. We, as Canadians, do not benefit from having all that data locked down. If a company has the creativity to add value to that data and monetize it then I do not see a big problem as long as everyone has the same opportunity to obtain that raw data. Has the digital economy been so strong in Canada over the past several years that we can afford to turn away opportunities such as this? I think not.

  5. Yes freely available for non profit usage other wise any corporation I’m sure can afford the $50 per location price tag for the info. I’m sure the price they pay for the info is a pittance to what they make off of it.

  6. …”you find half a dozen different reports/predictions for anyplace with no quality control”

    I’ve tried, but I fail to see how this has anything to with Env Canada releasing the raw data for general use. The worst that can happen is that you would continue to get unreliable predictions from these locations. The best that could happen is these predictions would be based on more reliable data, and become reliable predictions.

    The weather channel is just one example of using the raw data, there are potentially many more applications that could use this raw data in innovative ways. Household energy consumption forecasting, picnic planners, etc, etc.. From the simplistic to the complex. From free to monetized.

    The point is that this data is gathered through taxpayer funding. If you are a taxpayer, you already “own” it – or at least a copy of it. If the weather channel doesn’t pay taxes, then I could understand your point of view, but they are just as much a taxpayer as you and I. How they use that data should be irrelevant.

    Let me try an example. I, as a private individual get free access to that data. I combine it with data gathered from my household energy usage, and use it to forecast how much cooling or heating I may need, and somehow use that information to “adjust” my planned activities or settings to save myself money (perhaps I install a heat exchanger and only use my clothes dryer on cool/cold days). Would this be classified as a “monetized” application? I may not be using it to “make” money, but I can use it to “save” money. How is my usage different than the weather channel?

    Then I open my web app up for many others to freely use in the same way. I don’t charge for it directly, but I use their input and additional data to tune my application to do a better job of forecasting when are the best days to do certain activities. I do advertising for specialized appliances on that web site. Now I am “making money”. How is my usage different from the weather channel? What if my advertising revenue is simply used to cover the cost of making my app freely available to many others? Are you going to audit me?

    It a slippery slope when you decide to offer taxpayer funded digital data for free in some situations and not in others. You may be artificially restricting the “range of innovation” possible to people and businesses. If taxpayers already paid for it, they should have free access to it, period.

    Don’t get the above puzzlement: the two points I made were 1) exactly that better data is better weather analysis, and removing the financial incentive for unreliable free-lance services is good use of a tax-paid service, but 2) there is a big difference between using data to run a household and using it to run a business, unless somebody is proposing to pay income tax on household economizing. Businesses should have to license the data and return a fee for use to government / taxpayers. [Note there are a couple SPAM comments above that ought to be purged.]

  8. “Quality control”..
    That “financial incentive” already exists, regardless of free access to Env Canada raw data or not. If the data is good and the analysis is poor, you will have poor results. If the data is bad or incomplete, it doesn’t matter how good the analysis is. So I don’t see how paid only access to Env raw data will somehow “control” or eliminate bad results. On the other hand, granting free access to the data may improve the results. At the least it will allow “private individuals” the chance to develop better sites for minimal costs. Weed out the “poor results” by competition.

    How much do you, as an individual, pay to view the weather channel on TV, or visit their web site?

    “Monetizing” for a business is no different than “monetizing” as an individual. The same issues face both, just different rules apply. I know, I deal in both. Some apps I develop for the business, some apps I develop for the household. Sometimes the lines blur.

    The example application I gave above started as a “household” application, and eventually became a “business” modeled on the same lines as the weather channel. The lines blurred. It would never have come into existence if I didn’t have free access to the data. If that “business” is simply cost recovery for making it freely available to others, it is still not a “business” per se and I would never be able to afford to run it if I had to pay for access to the data. Effectively it is operating as an unregistered non-profit. The only way you are going to figure this out is if you audit me. Are you suggesting that all web sites that do advertising on the internet be subjected to an annual audit? There is a massive grey area between the personal household application and the self supporting business. Where do you draw the line?

    Let me try another example that is further from this topic. You save some money by being a handyman around the house. Your neighbour needs some help, so you contribute your time and expertise. They buy the materials and perhaps some specialized tools needed for the job. You keep the tools. The word spreads and soon you are doing this for dozens of neighbours, gaining free tools at each job. Is that a business? Are you making money or saving it? Are you a business or is this a hobby that saves you lots of money on tools? Could you afford to help if you had to buy your own tools every time? The lines blur.
    The analogy breaks down when you consider the web and digital technology. For the same amount of personal effort, I can “help” hundreds, even hundreds of thousands. The “tools” I need are a better server and better internet connection. How do I pay for those upgraded tools? At what point am I a business?

    None of this affects the core issue. This is data collected and funded by the taxpayer. Your personal taxes as well as business taxes are used to fund it. Forget about the difference between a poor business and a rich individual. Why should some taxpayers pay only once, and others be forced to pay twice? Where do you draw the line in that massive grey area?

    Note: There seems to be am implied assumption in your analysis that all businesses can afford to pay for the data. If you think about it for a minute, you will realize that can’t be true. Just as there are rich individuals and struggling ones, there are rich businesses and struggling businesses. Maybe we should base the decision of “free” vs “paid” access on taxable income? But wait, that already happens at the initial taxing level..

  9. Consumer
    Not one of the articles I’ve read mentions the fact that digital TV is far inferior to analog for fringe stations. Analog will bring a weaker signal that is still watchable while digital will simply break-up or disappear. Te quality of the signals are,for the most part cleaner and sharper,but a signal that is not 100% strong can become broben and lose bits and pieces of the pictures or skip scenes, like a person with a cronic cough, skipping words; its annoying and distracting so the brodcasters should boost the strength of their signals before they make the switch to analog.