The Meteorological Department is gearing up to adopt Internet of Things (IoT) devices to collect weather-related data which can be reported in real time, and work with the telecom regulator to send weather warnings to people via SMS messages.
The agency, under the Digital Economy and Society Ministry, said the priority was to adopt digital tech to support big data for all parties to analyse and use.
Chomparee Chompurat, director-general of the Meteorological Department, said the agency was not just a weather forecaster.
The department's precursor data has been used by various private applications to provide weather forecast services, she said.
Without data collection from the agency's database, there would be no precursor data for the private operators to use for their apps, she noted.
The department has a duty to inspect, monitor and report weather conditions for aviation and natural phenomena forecasts, as well as issue warnings in case of severe weather conditions.
The department's weather reports will also be sent to the Worldwide Meteorological Department to enable private organisations around the world to access and support their weather forecast services.
Each country has its own meteorological department to collect data for usage.
"People may have a misunderstanding as to why there needs to be the Meteorological Department as there are many private organisations running such a service on their platforms," Ms Chomparee said.
The importance of the department is to gather and keep weather-related data, such as the quantity of rainfall, and make it available to all agencies, she added.
Ms Chomparee said weather forecasting involves complicated processes, including various data sources from ground equipment, aerial monitoring, radar, satellites, and cloud viewings, as well as data processing.
According to Ms Chomparee, the Meteorological Department aims to level up its capacity by providing weather and rain information for more specific purposes and areas.
This data could be beneficial to farmers who have to make agricultural plans, fishermen who need to navigate waterways, and industrialists who may need the data for their business planning.
Ms Chomparee said the agency is now scaling up efforts to bring in digital tools, such as IoT devices, to help measure weather conditions, including the volume of rainfall, which can be reported in real time.
The department takes part in the government's water data integration project by collecting rainfall statistics to support water management.
The agency is in the process of procuring and installing IoT equipment to collect rain data with a budget of 615 million baht, replacing original equipment installed in 1,000 districts.
"The real-time report of data could facilitate farm planning. The government officers and provincial governors can also gather the data for their local planning for the public interest," Ms Chomparee said.
"The use of technology is not meant to drive people out of work. We adjust the role of officials, switching them to provide maintenance for ageing equipment."
The agency currently has 1,200 staff, including 1,150 state officials, with the remainder under employment contracts.
According to Ms Chomparee, the department is joining hands with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency for urban planning in Phuket, which requires statistics on water data, while working with Pattaya for tourism-related purposes.
Ms Chomparee said the department is now working with the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) for a project to provide weather alert services via SMS messages.
The cooperation is needed as the NBTC serves as an intermediary for mobile operators, she said. People who travel to different areas will receive weather warning messages.
The project is holding discussions about its budget, which would be drawn from the NBTC's fund.
SMS weather alerts have been used in around 20 countries, including South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
The alert is similar to SMS messages for promotional campaigns, which are sent to shoppers when they enter malls.
"If this project materialises, it can be extended to other alerts, such as crime, missing persons and fire," said Ms Chomparee.