Feeds
NetAtmo Urban Weather Station

Review: NetAtmo Urban Weather Station

The new obsession you've been waiting for

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Do we need a new obsession? Isn’t Facebook and Twitter enough for most folk? Some argue the British are obsessed about the weather.

It’s hardly surprising we talk about it all the time, the weather here changes so much, it never fails to be topical. Well that’s how it used to be. Lately, Blighty has been blighted by a godawful climate that hasn’t seen 20°C in six months yet last weekend finally broke the spell.

The witch is dead, apparently. So when it comes to our national obsession, NetAtmo’s Urban Weather Station is surely a tonic to this topic of conversation. Two cylindrical sensors take environmental measurements and using Wi-Fi send them to your phone, tablet or computer.

NetAtmo Urban Weather Station

"Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you"

When NetAtmo’s UWS was first announced it was originally iOS-only, but now it supports Android too and if you log-in from a computer, the web site has had a complete makeover recently which is very snappily laid out.

First things first though, you need to instal the NetAtmo desktop app and attach the indoor module to the computer using USB to get the UWS modules linked up to Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you can perform this procedure by linking up your iOS device directly to the main UWS from its USB port with a suitable iOS docking cable. There doesn’t appear to be a similar approach for Android though.

NetAtmo Urban Weather Station - Android graph choices

Android app graph choices

The Wi-Fi set-up also involves creating a user account but it’s a fairly straightforward process overall, just don’t be surprised if the installation is momentarily delayed by an automatic firmware update. You’ll also need to have the smaller outdoor unit ready powered up the four AAA batteries supplied in the box. With Wi-Fi established you can then hook up the indoor module to its PSU and position it somewhere suitable. The very basic set-up booklet gives cartoon guidance on where to place the units and, as far as more detailed instruction goes, simply points you to various links which include a full PDF manual.

In the box there are straps and screws for attaching the outdoor unit but as it can’t be fully exposed to the elements. It needs sheltering as you’re not supposed to get it wet, so choose your spot carefully. I put mine under a stone garden bench which was OK to start with, but eventually fell foul of the elements. NetAtmo uses MeteoGroup for its forecast data and the wind speed seems way too high most of the time, somebody should tell them. Incidentally, you can change the units of measurement for the sensors to suit your windspeed, temperature and pressure preferences.

NetAtmo Urban Weather Station

The outdoor module needs protection from the rain or the hygrometer gets stuck

One thing that isn’t exactly clear is how far apart these devices can be. The company claims 100m, but that's a relatively unobstructed maximum distance. Information on signal strength and battery level is displayed on the desktop app, which could help with tests and troubleshooting. Indeed, trying a fairly unobstructed line of sight position from 40ft away, the outdoor module in my greenhouse only dropped a couple of bars. To paraphrase the old saying, your footage may vary. Regarding Wi-Fi limits, I did wonder if the company would eventually bring out standalone satellite models that could record data to a micro USB card for retrieval later.

When it comes to measurements, the indoor module has a more comprehensive roster that can plot temperature, humidity, pressure, CO2 and sound levels. By contrast, the outdoor unit tracks only temperature and humidity, however, it does monitor air quality and relay pollutant information but doesn’t plot them. The levels shown are based on the Citeair index which measures the overall air quality and the UWS app shows only the types that predominate, rather than all the measurable pollutants.

NetAtmo Urban Weather Station - iPad 10in and Android 7in dashboards

Tapping the info sections provide comprehensive descriptions of functions of the iPhone dashboard

NetAtmo claims the modules are accurate to ±0.3˚C, ±1mBar, ±3 per cent humidity and ±50ppm CO2. It relies 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi with 915MHz or 868MHz communication between modules. If you don't have access to the mobile or desktop apps, simply touching the top of the indoor unit gives a colour coded assessment of the CO2. Green is good, yellow is a bit stuffy and red is definitely time to take some air.

In use at home it regularly reported ozone (O3) with NO2 and PM10 particulates appearing a couple of times. Things became more animated when testing in the London's West End, the outdoor air quality indicator started scrolling information on the two main pollutants it detected. The in-app help provides useful information on all its measurements, so if you see something alarming, you can find out all about it.

NetAtmo Urban Weather Station - iPad 10in and Android 7in dashboards

iPad 10in and Android 7in main dashboards

Personally, it was the pollutant measurements that I found the most fascinating and it was disappointing that there was no charting of this information, which is a missed opportunity in my view. After all, if NetAtmo wants you to get obsessive about this stuff then this must be the way forward. We know what the weather is like by stepping outside, but the invisible stuff it detects should be given more prominence. Indeed, discovering an unusual peak in SO2 at specific times of the day could be a useful way of tracking down a serious problem.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch
Full specs for wrist-mounted device here ... but who'll buy it?
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
HUGE iPAD? Maybe. HUGE ADVERTS? That's for SURE
Noo! Hand not big enough! Don't look at meee!
AMD unveils 'single purpose' graphics card for PC gamers and NO ONE else
Chip maker claims the Radeon R9 285 is 'best in its class'
Chumps stump up $1 MEELLLION for watch that doesn't exist
By the way, I have a really nice bridge you might like...
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.