‘The 2018 Source Code’: The Weather Channel On Artificial Intelligence And Monetization Strategies For Apps

Kevin Crenshaw

Manager Software Engineering for Mobile Apps at The Weather Channel

To help our talented dev community capitalize on new opportunities in the New Year, we’re talking to some of the industry’s brightest minds about what they’re currently working on and what excites them from a developer standpoint. In our latest edition of The 2018 Source Code: A Dev’s Guide, Kevin Crenshaw, Manager, Software Engineering Mobile Apps, The Weather Channel, describes how the company is using new technology like AI to deliver trusted, real-time forecasts around the world, right to users’ smartphones.

At SDC 2017, The Weather Channel debuted new app features to better help users plan their lives around the weather. Tell us about some of the developer tools that helped bring these innovative features to life.

To create The Weather Channel’s Android app, we used a lot of tools, including: Android Studio - IDE, HockeyApp - Crash Reporting and Initial Testing, Jenkins - Continuous Integration, Git - Source Control, Jira - Workflow Management, Crucible - Code Reviews, Slack - Instant Messaging, Gradle - Build Tool, Lint - Code Quality, FindBugs - Code Quality, ProGuard - Minimize app size, Code Obfuscation, Charles - HTTP debugging proxy, Mapbox - Geographic maps provider.

We combine these tools with developers, QA, product and design, working together in a clearly defined process which emphasizes continuous workflow on only the highest priority items. This enables us to deliver a high level of value to our app users over time.

How will the integration of artificial intelligence help developers improve the app experience, especially when related to weather?

Artificial intelligence is already helping us bring a more personalized and relevant experience to our users. For instance, we created chat bots to answer everyday weather questions in everyday language. Users simply type in a question like, “What is the temperature today?” and we will answer it. We have also used AI in our calendar feature to make suggestions about activities and attractions near you, based on current weather conditions. This is accomplished through a partnership with TripAdvisor. If the forecast calls for rain over the weekend, we will automatically show suggestions for indoor activities near you.

Our cognitive home screen is another example of how we are using AI to provide an even more relevant experience for our users. Using this increasingly powerful tool, we can ensure the information you care about most is at the top of your weather feed.

What is the impact of internationalization on app monetization strategies?

We want to make sure that users around the globe have the same access to the most accurate and up-to-date weather data possible. To accomplish that goal, we are working hard to ensure that our apps are localized for every country in which they are available. In addition, we are working with local partners to provide the news and information that people care about the most. So, what does all that have to do with monetization? We know that if we make it our primary mission to protect the safety and wellbeing of our users first, then our global audience will grow and the opportunities for monetization will follow.

What metrics are most important in measuring the success of your app? Are different metrics used to measure domestic vs. international performance?

The metrics we use most widely are the number of installs, daily active users, and monthly active users. In addition to those standard measures, we closely monitor the interactions with each of the features within our apps over time to make sure we are providing the most value to our users. We also monitor performance metrics like start up time and data usage of our apps. This is especially important internationally since connectivity and data usage rates vary widely from country to country.

What’s the one big trend that developers should keep their eyes on in 2018?

The trend that developers should keep their eyes on in 2018 is the continued growth of artificial intelligence. The inclusion of AI across the technological spectrum will continue to accelerate. AI platforms like Samsung's Bixby and IBM Watson are already using AI in ways that we could only imagine just a few years ago. For instance, with Samsung Bixby, you can speak commands into your phone in plain, everyday language and it will do what you ask without any other interactions with the device. Likewise, IBM Watson is using AI to push the boundaries of computing in areas like health, financial services, IOT and education. These efforts combined with those of other industry giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon will propel AI to be more integrated with everything we do in 2018 and beyond.

Thank you to Kevin for sharing his thoughts. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss an installment of The 2018 Source Code: A Dev’s Guide.