In early February a black box crammed with computer processors took a flight from California to Uganda. The squat, 4-foot-high box resembled a giant stereo amp. Once settled into place in Kampala, its job was to predict the weather better than anything the nation had used before.
The California startup that shipped the device, Atmo AI, plans by this summer to swap it out for a grander invention: a sleek, metallic supercomputer standing 8 feet tall and packing in 20 times more power. “It’s meant to be the iPhone of global meteorology,” says Alexander Levy, Atmo’s co-founder and chief executive officer. That’s a nod to Apple Inc.’s design cred and market strategy: In many countries, consumers who’d never owned desktop computers bought smartphones in droves. Similarly, Atmo says, countries without the pricey supercomputers and data centers needed to make state-of-the-art weather forecasts—effectively, every nation that’s not a global superpower—will pay for its cheaper device instead.