Chase The Sun: Solar Plots API Helps Sun-Lovers Find Their Sweet Spot

Mark Boyd
Jul. 17 2013, 12:00PM EDT

The SolarPlots API provides a new data tool to track where the sun will be in any given location in the US (and adjacent parts of Mexico and Canada) for any specific date and time or series of dates. The sun plotting search tool could possibly be used by photographers needing to know best times to shoot outdoor scenes, for sun-bathers wanting to book the best time on a hotel rooftop, or home buyers wanting to calculate how much direct sunlight they can expect to get at their new property. Developers could use the API to scale up such individual needs or to add sun-loving contextual information to a location-based app product.

While not suited to engineering projects or fine-grain scientific needs, the Solar Plots API provides a good data source for many app developers wanting to add a new tool to the growing directory of sun-seeking apps available.

Developers need to be aware of daylight savings times when querying data. The API provides data in XML format and uses a SOAP protocol.

There is a throwaway joke in an episode of Don’t Tell The B In Apartment 23 in which James Van Der Beek uses an app to find out when there is direct sunlight shining at his favorite outdoor café. Well, it’s no longer a joke. Here are some of the ways end users can get greater value by knowing where the sun will shine:

  • With Solar Plots API, any outdoor diner can easily let customers know when to enjoy the sun at their establishment
  • Photographers wanting to capture that alluring twilight scene can use Solar Plots to forecast ahead for a photo shoot
  • Travel groups could use the tool to plan when to hold outdoor activities, or schedule walks or more gruelling sports to avoid direct sunlight
  • Real estate agents can market properties based on how much direct sunlight the property gets, or buyers could independently research the sunlight potential themselves.
  • While not suited to highly scientific investigations, the data may be helpful for some solar energy businesses to undertake initial research.
  • Data could help identify areas at highest risk of urban heat island effect and to warn of potential risks to local resident health.

While anyone can use the Solar Plots website to look up a specific location, the API allows developers to embed the query engine into their app and provide a more contextual experience for their sun-loving app users.

The SolarPlots API offers queries to get series or individual data, and shows the percent of sunlight in one minute intervals from sunrise to sunset at any given location. Latitude and longitude are used to determine the location and dates can be set for any timeframe.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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