Q: How does Weather Nexus work?
A: Almost all Vaisala and All Weather Inc. AWOS systems have a connector where METARs are written. This is called the NADIN port. Weather Nexus equipment connects to this port to gather METARs that are sent from your airport to the FAA, and the World.to top
Q: How hard is it to install?
A: One of our design goals was extremely easy installation. All the box requires is 3 connections: a cable to the AWOS (which we provide), a connection to the transmission system, such as the internet, and a power cord. That's it. Connect it and turn it on.to top
Q: Can anyone do this?
A: Anyone can and over a hundred airport managers and airport staff already have. No technical training is required. One huge advantage this gives us is maintenance. In the unlikely event your equipment fails, we simply replace it overnight via FedEx or UPS. Airports are harsh environments where the best equipment can fail due to lightning, electrical surges, temperature extremes, and more. Overnight replacement gets you back on the air much faster and easier than dispatching a repair technician or sending equipment in for service.to top
Q: What are the physical space requirements for the equipment?
A: Our box is approximately 2 inches tall and 12 inches square. It has no keyboard, monitor, nor CD drive that can be tampered with. There is nothing but a power button.to top
Q: Where do you get your equipment?
A: We OEM the computer parts to assemble and configure our custom equipment. Mackinac Software has very extensive technical resources. We have researched, designed, and written all of our own software. There are two computer science Ph.D.s on staff. This means we can solve any special issue you have and we can get to the bottom of any problems when they occur. No other vendor has our technical resources. This translates into the lowest cost, highest reliability service you can get.to top
Q: So the weather goes from the airport straight to NADIN?
A: Not exactly. The Weather Nexus computer gathers the METARs and sends them to the anyAWOS Weather Nexus server. From there, METARs are processed, checked, and sent in batches to the FAA.to top
Q: Why aren't the METARs sent directly in? I have heard that getting them into the FAA is a big challenge.
A: Well, not really. First, the FAA claims to have limited capacity. They don't really want large amounts of data flowing in from lots of independent sources all over the country. But there is a better reason why a server is involved. That way, we can monitor and carefully control the timely and accurate delivery of data to the FAA. If the connection were direct to the FAA, we'd lose a lot of opportunities to monitor the data.to top
Q: Sending data to the FAA is a hard process?
A: Administrativiely, yes. It took Mackinac Software over 18 months and lots of money to become approved and work out the details to send data from our server to the FAA. Technically, no, not a big problem. Special communications gear and techniques are required, but compared to getting the data from the airport to our server, sending to the FAA is easy. Over 90% of the technical work is involved in getting the METARs from the airport to our server. That's by far the hardest and most troublesome leg of the journey.to top
Q: I heard that the METARs are ready to go right off my AWOS. Why is getting them to a server hard?
A: An AWOS is a complicated piece of equipment clearly subject to the weather and environment. While most are reliable, problems do occur. When they do, they must be detected and reported. Weather Nexus monitors the METARs for problems and notifies you when problems occur. Next, there has to be a means of transmission to get the METARs from the airport to our server. Weather Nexus has three transmission methods available to meet any condition and any location you have.to top
Q: I have heard on one hand the internet is the way to move data and on the other, that it is not premitted. Which is true?
A: How the internet is used is the key. Extreme security must be enforced and the internet can be unreliable if precautions are not taken. Nonetheless, Weather Nexus uses the internet for nearly 100 airports. To handle potential bad reliability, Weather Nexus employs sophisticated computer communication techniques, first, to ensure METARs are reported to the FAA as frequently as the FAA will permit, and secondly, to watch for and recover from problems. Where the internet is too unreliable or just not availablle, we employ one of two other methods to move the data.to top
Q: I have heard you use only phone lines and that they are old fashioned and slow.
A: We do use a lot of plain telephone connections. We pioneered this technology because frankly, phone lines are available everywhere and are actually very, very reliable. "Slow" is a red herring. As long as your data is reported to the FAA 3 times an hour, speed is not an issue. On the other hand, we service places like the Beaver Island airport in the midddle of Lake Michigan where there is no internet, nor radio or cell service. The technology we use over the phone line is very sophisticated leading edge compression and checking software (no modems) to transmit the data very fast and reiably. Phone locations are often more reliable than internet, especially in remote rural areas.to top
Q: If phone lines are so good and the internet is bad, why aren't all locations served by phones?
A: Several reasons. First a separate phone line is required for non-internet locations. This costs something, while many airports already have an internet connection that we can share. Second, we only collect observations 3 times per hour over phone lines (the max that the FAA will accept), while we send data to our servers once a minute over the internet. This means our Web Basesd Airport display updates more frequently with an internet connection.to top
Q: Web Based Airport display? What's that?
A: As part of the Weather Nexus service, we provide a web based display for your airport, tailored to your airport, showing your runways in either pictorial or satellite view overlaid with the current wind and weather. Any of your constituents can view it any time. Click on any of our customers from the list on Weather Nexus home page for examples. The data on this screen is updated directly from your AWOS and does not need to flow through the FAA first.to top
Q: You said there were three transmission means available? Internet, phone, and what?
A: Yes, no other company offers as many alternatives as we do to move the data from the airport to the FAA. And as mentioned above, that's 90% of the work and by far the hardest part. In areas where the internet is not feasible we use terrestrial radio. It is increasingly available and provides an update cycle to our servers of every five minutes.to top
Q: So, your Airport Display Web screen can update from once a minute to every 5 minutes to every 20 minutes based on the media used?
A: Yes. No other vendors offer once a minute visual updates which are available to the public.to top
Q: You've been using the term "FAA" for where the weather goes, but I keep hearing about "NADIN" and "WMSCR". What does all this mean?
A: NADIN, the National Airspace Data Interchange Network, is like a self contained private internet within the FAA. One of the points on this internal network is WMSCR, which stands for Weather Message Switching Center Replacement. Essentially, WMSCR is the organization within the FAA that accepts and distributes your METARs (as well as all the federal METARs). We had to obtain approval and certification to transmit data over NADIN to WMSCR.to top
Q: So, getting the NADIN connection is what all the fuss is about?
A: Well, as mentioned earlier, the regulatory and administrative procedures for a NADIN connection, if available at all, are steep. However, talking to NADIN is not the primary technical challenge. Getting the data from the AWOS to a server where it can be sent to NADIN is by far the hardest technical part of the system.to top
Q: If you share our internet connection how much bandwidth do you use?
A: Very little. METARs are small to begin with, and we use compression beyond that. The traffic we produce is negligible. All METAR traffic sent in one month is less than a single web browsing session.to top
Q: We are behind a firewall and our IT department is concerned about security. How secure is your machine?
A: Extremely. We use proprietary "phone home" technology which works perfectly behind firewalls. There are no open inbound connections to our machine and we don't need to know any of your network details such as IP addresses, etc. As long as you run a standard DHCP server, our equipment will self-configure and work.to top
Q: I think our IT department said we use fixed IPs. Can you handle that?
A: Yes. Fixed IPs are also fine, and we already have several locations with fixed IPs.to top