When I was in grade school, I had the idea that I wanted to be a weatherman someday (I didn’t even know what a meteorologist was). It was probably more for the chance to be on television than anything else, but I was proud that I knew what cirrus clouds are, and why dropping pressure meant rain was on the way.
As I got older, I was lucky enough to get a weather station once or twice. These were always rather technical collections of gadgets that had to be set up very carefully. I recall the first one was in the pre-wifi days, and expected me to run wires into the house. More recently, I had one that would communicate wirelessly. But I had to go outside, find the highest point I could get to in order to mount the anemometer (wind measurement) and rain gauge. That took a lot of work, and only a couple years after, the signal no longer worked. Kind of disappointing.
So, I was interested when Netatmo offered me their new weather station setup to test. It promised ease of setup (only two parts – an indoor unit and an outdoor unit), and a very slick app interface for the phone or tablet.
Out of the box, Netatmo is simple and, dare I say, Apple-esque. Both units are small columns, about the diameter of paper towel tubes. The outdoor unit is about 6 inches tall, and the indoor a couple inches taller. They are aluminum on the sides, and white plastic on the tops and bottoms. The outdoor unit is powered by a couple AA batteries (included), whereas the indoor unit can be powered by batteries, or off USB (if you want to keep it next to your computer). Once you have both powered and the indoor unit connected, you download an installation app which takes you through an easy process of getting the units on your LAN and setting up an account.
Then you mount the outdoor unit… outdoors; out of direct sunlight works well. I used an included strap to mount it to a downspout. Then all you need to do is download an app to your iOS or Android device, and get down to the business of tracking your weather.
One of the things that makes Netatmo’s setup so easy is that it doesn’t have the anemometer or rain gauge that serious weather geeks might want. On the other hand, what it does track, it tracks well, including a couple things that one wouldn’t necessarily expect. Of course, you get indoor and outdoor temperature and pressure, but you also get air quality (a CO2 monitor) and a sound monitor, which is intended to help track “quality of life.” Further, it combines your readings with data from Metro Group, an international private weather service, to provide you with accurate predictions. Also, all the data recorded by your units is stored in the cloud, with no data limit and no subscription fee. You can even opt to provide your data to the Urban Weather Program, which seeks to collect environmental data from units all over the world, to help create the most detailed climate models possible.
The app is very slick, indeed almost fun. The basic presentation of the data is clear, and cleanly laid-out. It only takes a swipe of the finger to bring up detailed data, and you just turn your device to landscape mode to see extended curves of the data plotted over time. Pinching and zooming lets you change the period of time of the curves easily.
Okay, so my bottom line take on this: there are cheaper weather stations that aren’t as easy to set up, and don’t have the slick interface of the Netatmo. There are more expensive units that would appeal to the hard core weather geeks. Netatmo seems to be set right in between. Its price is not cheap, but what you get will be up and running quickly, and feed you everything you need in a useful interface. In short: it’s the weather station for the rest of us.