The range and variety of things you can control from your smart phone is astonishing and growing. Smart fridges, lights and heating systems can be connected by wireless broadband and you can feed your pets by remotely controlled hoppers and feeding bowls; meanwhile anything from tvs and speakers to drones and toys can be controlled using apps.
This year I got the chance to set up my own digital weather station that collects data about climate and weather conditions and sends it to your phone in pretty graphics. If you love the outdoors in the UK, the weather tends to intrude in some way so anything that sheds light on the mysteries of the heavens must be useful.
Netatmo weather station comprises an indoor base station, an outdoor data-collector and a rain gauge. These are all connected via a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-fi and controlled by an app that you can download from itunes or the Google Play Store.
The internal base station – a neat metal cylinder that glows green or blue depending on its needs – is plugged into the mains and stays in contact with a smaller station that needs to be fixed somewhere shady and sheltered outdoors. A downpipe worked for me. The rain gauge – a cup that measures the flow of precipitation through it – must be sited in an open area but within range of the first two devices.
You get a lot of information – temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, dew points, sound levels, CO2 levels and weather predictions (though plenty of weather apps already offer this). I installed it during one of the many long, dry periods of 2018 so I was quite excited when it started to rain about a month later and the rain gauge started to record the mm per hour and total mm every six hour period. It’s much more exciting when it rains.
It’s all very interesting and I liked checking in on how things are at home in Abergavenny when I’m at work in Bristol. And I can always tell when my son and wife are home as CO2 levels go up – as do the decibels, especially when he’s practising violin. But as most of the information is about things that have already happened, it’s only of academic rather than practical use. The graphs allow you to store and, presumably, compare the data day by day, week on week and year on year. That said, the CO2 level warning is useful – it reminds us to open windows more often to get rid of that creeping sense of stuffiness.
My only gripe was that the rain gauge often declared that it had disconnected despite having new batteries and being well within range of the various base stations. This was frustrating as it wasn’t clear if it was still recording data during these down periods. It’s also very light so blows over in strong wind – and this, understandably, leads to some strange readings.
Overall, however, I’ve found it a really interesting and fun project to have running in and around your home and a must for weather obsessives.