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Updated: February 3, 2010 16:25 IST

Monitoring rainfall more accurately with mobile phone towers

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A cellphone tower mounted on a private buildings in Bangalore. Photo: Sampath Kumar
A cellphone tower mounted on a private buildings in Bangalore. Photo: Sampath Kumar

Researchers have been able to measure rainfall more accurately using data supplied by a mobile telecom company.

In the future, this could be combined with intelligent control systems for sewer networks so as to reduce water pollution in urban areas.

J. Rieckermann of EAWAG’s (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) Urban Water Management department points out the problem will be exacerbated as a result of the increase in heavy rainfall events associated with warming of the climate in Central Europe.

Rieckermann, environmental engineer, is developing a computer model that uses data from a mobile phone network to reconstruct rainfall events than is possible with conventional methods, said an EAWAG release.

Rieckermann and his research team are taking advantage of what is essentially a nuisance for mobile network operators - the fact that raindrops interfere with microwave radio links between base stations, thereby disrupting signal transmission.

Thanks to the density of the mobile phone network, the resolution of the EAWAG rainfall data is superior to that provided by rain gauges or weather radar.

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