2014 prize winner has become top weather app RainParrot

2014 prize winner has become top weather app RainParrot

Brad Rees was a GovHack contestant in 2014. The software he built during the weekend formed the basis of one of the top selling iOS weather apps in Australia called RainParrot. The app predicts when rain will fall on you and notifies you in advance. It is known to be amazingly accurate.

Brad Rees

Before GovHack, Brad had an app called “RainDar” which showed rain radar images from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). Coming in to the Govhack weekend, Brad wondered what would happen if he took the BOM data, did some calculations on it, and was able to predict when the rain was going to hit. A small team was interested but most dropped out leaving just Brad and another programmer to work on the project.

What was built during the hackathon wasn’t an app itself, but the backend logic that used a popular app at the time called “Yo” to notify users of coming rain. The entry didn’t come first but did win a prize and Brad’s team was “absolutely over the moon” about the success. The development was quite difficult and what was created was a minimal proof of concept that showed that it could work.

While looking at a sequence of rain radar images and predicting the future path of rain might sound simple, it actually involves some complex maths. A common problem is interference or noise on the radar images and Brad continues to work on improving the detection of noise.

After GovHack, Brad built out the back end algorithms for detecting rain, and continued to test at home to see if it worked.

“It was one of those moments where you have an idea, and you imagine how it’s going to work, and it actually surpassed my expectations”.

During initial tests it was accurate down to a minute or two. At that point Brad thought “Oh, hold on, I think I’m on to something!”.

Work then began on the mobile app which is now in the Apple iOS App Store called RainParrot for $3.

Brad thinks that the mobile app market has passed its “golden age”. People don’t download many new apps. Most new sales come via word of mouth referrals.

“If I could borrow Tim Cook’s ear for a minute, I’d give him some ideas on how they could change the business model in the App store.”

The app is currently only in Australia and only on iOS but both of these things are going to change. A version 2 of the app, with new visual design is planned to launch simultaneously with an Android app and new regions.

The company structure is interesting, Brad has set up an incubator for a number of projects that they work on. Apart from RainParrot there is a new app called “Higher” which is an app for freelancers to help them freelance better. As the company uses a lot of freelancers themselves they are very excited about the app.

Future work on RainParrot

iOS 13 is just around the corner, with new features including dark mode. A macOS version of the app is coming which is built from the iPad version using the new catalyst technology. Using Catalyst to port to macOS has been surprisingly easy to do, even things like notifications just worked from day one.

Brad’s been following the new SwiftUI technology and having worked with React in the past he’s keen on that model of programming.

Learning the new swift language was a reason why RainParrot was developed. The app has been through five versions of the language and carries some of that history in its source code.

Advice for new competitors

Developers tend not to talk to each other, surprisingly. The more people you meet, the more networking you can do, the more opportunities open up. “Doing something like GovHack is a fun way to meet people and get a feel for how they work”.

Brad is hiring!

Everything from iOS developers, frontend, backend, really anyone on the technical side. Contact Brad.

Story by Peter Marks for GovHack

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