Understory, a young company with a new way of gathering weather data, is returning to Madison, where it began four years ago, with some new money in its pocket.
Understory makes weather stations — a silver ball, about the size of a soccer ball, that contains sensors and is attached to a metal rod about 2 feet tall. The devices can be mounted on tops of buildings and in open fields.
The sensors collect data on rain, hail, wind, barometric pressure and other weather conditions with no external moving parts, said co-founder and CEO Alex Kubicek.
Placed two to four miles apart in a metropolitan area, they can track a storm as it travels, Kubicek said, and send the data to the computer cloud.
The sensors provide more pertinent ground information than weather radar that analyzes atmospheric conditions or than distant satellite readings, he contends.
“Our ultimate goal is to be THE meteorological source of weather data,” he said.
Kubicek said the real-time data collected by Understory’s RTi, or Artie, sensors can tell insurance companies if their policyholders are being affected by a powerful storm.
“If you have damage to your home, your insurer will know before you do and start processing the claims,” he said.
Understory sensors are in place in Kansas City and Dallas, and Kubicek said he hopes to add more cities this year.
He said the data can also be useful for agriculture, utility companies and broadcast media.
Originally called Subsidence when it was founded in 2012, the company moved to the Boston area when it was accepted into the Bolt accelerator program there in 2013.
Now, though, Understory — named for the area in a rainforest beneath the forest canopy — is moving its headquarters back to Madison thanks to $7.5 million it has raised, led by 4490 Ventures, a Madison early-stage venture capital fund, and Monsanto Growth Ventures.
The company will keep an office in Somerville, Massachusetts, as well.
Between the two locations, Understory has 10 employees and plans to hire 10 more by year-end, Kubicek said.
Understory has raised a total of $9.7 million so far.