Building connections (and weather stations) with DataJam NE

The Urban Observatory will be placing nine automatic weather stations on Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) sites across the region, after a collaboration that came from a chance meeting at last year’s DataJam NE.

Through Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory project, experts will be placing nine automatic weather stations on Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) sites across the region.

The Urban Observatory is the largest, open data monitoring system in the world. With 3,600 sensors across the North East the project has already collected over 4,000,000,000 records on everything from rainfall and air pollution to traffic flow and pedestrian movement.

Weather data can help TWFRS predict which response vehicles they might need, and the likeliness of certain types of fires, and it is hoped the nine new weather stations can be used to provide data that will help the Fire Service with improved response times.

Andrew Warren, Property Manager for TWFRS explained:

“We attend a very wide range of emergencies, including road traffic collisions and water rescues as well as fires, so accurate weather data is extremely valuable in helping us to be prepared.

“We also carry out a lot of prevention work, so weather station predictions can also help us to make sure members of our community take the necessary precautions to stop incidents from happening in the first place.”

The collaboration came from a chance meeting at last year’s DataJam NE.

DataJam NE 2018 brought together over 200 people from data scientists to user designers to take real public data and come up with ideas to improve public services.

The Uban Observatory team were looking for thirty locations for ten automatic weather stations, and twenty tipping bucket rain gauges, and by chance TWFRS were also looking to build a weather station on one of their sites.

Jennine Jonczyk, UO Programme Manager, explained that before they met, she had no idea that TWFRS had such a big data analysis team:

“People have this perception that firefighters only attend fires when they’re called, but there is actually all this data science that goes on in the background.

“It’s great the data will be used, not only to calibrate our radar, but by a funded service. Through this project, we can carry on our research while providing useful information to the fire service.”

As with all Urban Observatory sensors, the data from these weather stations will be publicly available and it will also be used as part of Newcastle University’s Flood Prepared and Digital Twin projects.

These both look at ways to better predict and prepare for emergency disasters such as the 2012 Toon Monsoon, where a month’s worth of rain fell in a two hour period, causing millions of pounds worth of damage.

This is just one example of why DataJam NE is an important event bringing data science into the real world, and can create lasting connections between partners across the region.

DataJam North East 2019 is a free event taking place on 16-17 September. It will be a hack, unconference and workshops rolled into one.

Over the two days, people will form agile teams in a hands-on hack with a difference. Using a variety of open and licensed data sources and service design techniques to come up with real, tangible answers to specific problems affecting the region on the themes of Skills, Health and the Environment.

The Urban Observatory and many other partners from across the North East will be attending including: Newcastle University, DWP Digital, North East Local Enterprise Partnership, The National Innovation Centre for Data and Newcastle City Council, inspired by public sector reform movement OneTeamGov (

The event will take place on the Newcastle Helix site in the brand new Frederick Douglass Centre.

Sign up for your free ‘Datajam North East’ tickets on Eventbrite:

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