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It's the weatherman calling

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WeatherWave dials your cell or satellite phone to warn of approaching foul weather

WeatherWave dials your cell or satellite phone to warn of approaching foul weather

A Virginia company is offering a new weather service for coastal and Great Lakes boaters that provides updates and severe weather warnings by cell phone.

WeatherWave provides subscribers computer-generated cell phone calls notifying them of National Weather Service alerts. It also provides toll-free access to current conditions, forecasts and alarms for any marine zone, marine buoy or U.S. city.

WeatherWave co-founder and president Sande Smith says the service increases weather awareness and boating safety by providing warnings within minutes of an NWS alert. As soon as WeatherWave receives an alert, the information is converted into a computer-generated voice message. Calls are made within 10 seconds to cell phones based on the marine zones and cities in subscriber profiles, according to the company. Subscribers also can choose what kind of alerts they want, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, even Amber and homeland security alerts. The service also has a “follow me” feature, which lets subscribers check conditions at various locations as they cruise.

Headquartered in Reston, Va., WeatherWave was founded in 2003 by Smith and Mark Ross. Ross was working on text-to-speech and interactive voice response technologies to deliver weather information to personal computers. The duo, who had worked together in the past, then applied the technology to cell phones. Though not a boater, Smith says he and Ross saw a potential market in the marine industry since boaters need to know changing weather conditions as soon as possible. Smith says that while there are several “high-end weather solutions,” WeatherWave can complement other systems, such as NOAA weather radio and Coast Guard broadcasts, which are broadcast in 8-minute loops, according to WeatherWave.

One-year subscriptions are available for both individuals or families. Individual subscriptions cost around $59 a year. Family plans allow two or more cell phones with annual subscription fees of $59 for the first phone, $40 for the second, and $20 per year for each additional phone. Both plans have a setup fee of $6.95, and phone calls cost 14 cents per outbound notification and 18 cents per minute per inbound phone call. The company also is offering a one-month trial for $7.50.

“I think it’s smart business,” says Smith. “I think people will be shocked at how easy it is to use.”

Smith says service can be disrupted if a boater is out of cell phone range. “The good news is that cell phone coverage is going to get better and better,” he says. Messages also can be sent to satellite phones, he says.

Smith has more than 30 years experience in sales, marketing and management at technology companies, including CEO of Dynatech New Star, a provider of real-time news information systems. Ross has nearly 20 years of experience in information technology and business management, including his work in technology development for a Midwest weather information provider. He also was vice president of technology at Dynatech. www.weatherwave.com