Member company Understory Weather was recently selected to deploy their technology in Somerville, MA, formally launching the City’s GreenTech Program.


Understory Weather station installation.
Understory Weather station installation.

The City of Somerville has set a municipal goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and the GreenTech Program is one strategy by which the City hopes to crowdsource technologies that will help reduce carbon emissions, increase renewable energy in the city, assist in city planning, and support resilience efforts against climate change impacts.


Understory’s weather stations provide hyper-local data in real time. They have installed two units on schools in Somerville. However, if you were to dig deep into the hardware of their stations, you’ll find Homer Simpson looking back at you. Why?

“Why not? And because Jake [VP of Engineering] loves Homer Simpson,” replied CEO Alex Kubicek.


Co-founder Bryan Dow assembles hardware on Somerville school roof.
Co-founder Bryan Dow assembles hardware on Somerville school roof.

This partnership provides the company with the chance to tinker with and improve upon their installed technology as they develop and test new sensors and analytics in the lab and integrate them into new designs. For the city, it’s a free, direct mechanism to gather high-density weather data that can be put to use during events like snowstorms, heatwaves, and extreme weather events in order to effectively distribute resources and manage risks. I recently sat down with Co-founder and CEO of Understory, Alex Kubicek, to learn more about their experience working with the City and gain insight on how the partnership will evolve.


Q. What was your experience like working with the City of Somerville?
A. It was a surprisingly smooth process. Oliver Sellers-Garcia, Director of Sustainability and Environment for the City of Somerville, has been working extremely hard to make the process as easy as possible for people or companies who want to participate in the GreenTech Program. Essentially, we’re exchanging installation locations for hardware and a real-time data subscription, a partnership that benefits us both. We worked with the city to install units on the roofs of two schools.


Q. What kind of information does the real-time data subscription provide?
A. Hyper-local, on-the-ground weather data including temperature, humidity, wind speeds and a spectrum of other variables. The data is publicly accessible online in real-time.


Q. How does the City intend to use this information?
A. Reliable, localized weather data can be leveraged for city planning purposes such as snow removal, salt distribution for ice melt and thus by extension, traffic congestion and infrastructure maintenance projects can be managed more effectively and efficiently.


Q. What has been the greatest value to your company to participate in the GreenTech program?
A. We’ve been searching for local areas to deploy our stations, but it’s been difficult to find them since most private companies lease their buildings. This pilot is a huge help to our hardware development, since the weather stations are local to where we work and live, allowing us to make continuous improvements to the stations. We’re also happy that we can give back to the city by being a part of its clean tech initiatives.


Q. The GreenTech Program clearly benefitted your company. How else does being based in Somerville help your startup?
A. There’s really nowhere else in Boston where you can work in a prototyping space like at Greentown Labs, which is headquartered here in Somerville. The connection between Greentown and the City is how we heard of the GreenTech Program in the first place.


Q. What’s next for your weather stations?
A. We’re presently working on a new sensor that we will test with the two weather stations on Somerville schools. We also plan to continue putting new prototypes at the installation sites as the hardware and sensor networks are updated – developing and testing both hardware and software revisions to the technology. We’re also working on constant calibration testing, so stay tuned for the data analysis results of that!

Q. Will Homer Simpson always hide within the weather stations?
A. Yes. Always.


Q. Where else have you deployed weather stations, and what are they being used for?
A. We’ve worked with private landlords, school districts and golf courses to deploy and install weather stations. Our primary deployments are in Kansas City and Dallas, since our unique precision hail reports have significant applications in those locations. You can find Homer in all of those stations! We recently learned that a high school in Kansas City is using the real-time data from the unit on their roof as part of a weekly school broadcast.


Rapid Fire – Answer these random questions with the first thing that comes to mind!

Q. What is the Breakfast of Champions?
A. Eggs and bacon and/or just coffee. Actually, just coffee now that I think about it.

Q. What motivates you to go to work?
A. Building a company.

Q. Which brand of toothpaste do you use
A. Whatever’s on sale.