Review: Come rain or shine, Netatmo's Weather Station provides a personalized forecast
At a Glance
San Francisco’s erratic weather patterns are no joke—in the 4.2 miles I travel from the TechHive offices to my house, the temperature can drop by double digits. There’s a reason that everyone here always carries a light sweater: The weather can change faster than a meme moves across the Internet.
While the list of available weather apps is stunningly long, few, if any, of them can tell me what the weather is like at my house specifically. But Netatmo’s Weather Station can. It can also graph the average indoor and outdoor temperatures at my home and give me a weather forecast; tell me the indoor and outdoor humidity levels; and provide information on air quality, barometric pressure, and decibel levels. Which is all pretty helpful for days when it’s a balmy 69 at the office but 52 and windy at my front door.
Netatmo’s Weather Station consists of two lightweight, streamlined silver cylinders of varying height, one with a Micro-USB input and the other with a screw-off top. The package also includes a USB-to-Micro-USB cord, a wall plug, four AAA batteries, a Velcro-like cable keeper, a wall screw, a plastic anchor, and a user manual entirely illustrated with pictures (nary a word of text).
From the helpful images in the user manual, I determined that the taller unit is to remain plugged in inside my house using the Micro-USB cable and wall plug, while the shorter cylinder is to be set or hung outside, powered by the four AAA batteries. The cable keeper, wall screw, and plastic anchor can all be used to mount the outdoor unit in a variety of ways. It needs to be shielded from direct sun and rain—and if you live in an urban area, thieves.
These were my main concerns as I looked for places for the outdoor cylinder to live. After considering my landlords’ back porch, my upstairs windows, and the area around the front door, I settled on using the Velcro-like fastener and anchor to hang the unit near my water meter, behind several branches of a flowered bush and what I hoped would be a discouraging amount of spiderwebs.
Pairing the cylinders to the app was fairly painless. After connecting each unit to a power source, the cylinder flashed green (the outdoor one on the top, the indoor one along the side), indicating that it was ready to be connected. After downloading the Netatmo app (available for iOS and Android, with a third-party option for Windows Phone) and signing up, a setup screen directed me to go to start.netatmo.com from my computer. After a brief firmware update, I was able to find the Netatmo as an accessory in my iPhone’s Bluetooth menu and connect it to my Wi-Fi network.
At this point I needed to do some brief troubleshooting, which mainly consisted of turning the unit off and then on again. Turns out I had left the indoor cylinder unplugged, and needed to reestablish the connection with the shorter outdoor cylinder. It wasn’t hard to figure out where I’d gone wrong and correct the problem, but a more complete user manual might have helped me avoid the problem. That being said, the troubleshooting tips provided by the app were quite helpful in solving the problem, so I wasn’t left in the lurch.
Speaking of which, the aforementioned helpful app is solidly designed, and has a friendly UI and clear instructions—which is good, since it’s the only way you’ll be able to view the information that the Netatmo cylinders gather.
The app has two main components, one for each cylinder, which means that there’s an indoor menu and an outdoor menu. Both of these are shown in a “windowshade” setup on the default home screen: The outdoor data is displayed on the top section and the indoor data on the bottom. Each can be “rolled up” to expand to a full-screen view, and each is indicated by the icons that appear next to the bar measurements. The indoor section has a house to the right of the measurement, which displays a reading such as ‘49 - Good’, while the outdoor section shows an icon with a building and a tree along with a similar bar measurement and reading such as ‘22 - Good’.
Touching and dragging each section will bring up the full “card” (or screen) with information for the respective cylinder. The indoor card displays an overall rating, and tapping the home icon here displays updates such as ‘High humidity - Indoor’. The indoor card also shows the indoor temperature in Fahrenheit, the percentage of humidity, the inHg measurement (which is the barometric pressure), air quality readings (shown as parts per million CO2 levels), and a decibel reading (for example, 36dB, which is Quiet). Tapping the plus sign at the bottom of the card brings up a variety of information about the weather station, and a button in the upper right links to your account information.
The outdoor card, on the other hand, shows you the temperature outside, again in Fahrenheit, as well as the percentage of humidity and a “Feels like” temperature measurement. The full card also displays the general reading with the outdoor icon; tapping the icon brings up a scrolling banner of information on pollutants and air quality. Below this lies a weather forecast for the next six days, with three available views. Summary view displays the most data, with icons and info on high and low temperatures, wind, rain, and humidity; while the Temperature and Rain views both display graphs charting activity in those categories for the current week.
The outdoor card also features an events button in the upper-right corner that leads to a list of measurements from both cylinders, and the button in the upper-left corner lets you access the settings and edit the user information. Turning your smartphone into landscape mode changes the app to a graph view that displays a chart of the temperatures over the entire time the units have been actively measuring that data. A button in the upper-right corner of that landscape view lets you toggle between readings for indoor temperature, humidity, pressures, CO2, and the sound meter, as well as all the external readings (temperature, humidity).
The app itself is pretty neatly organized—it didn’t take me long to tour it and find all its features and menus, and it was essential in helping me set up the cylinders. After setup, using the system as a whole was entirely painless and generally neat in a science-experiment sort of way. It was cool to be able to pull up the current temperatures at my house on my phone—although I will say that the push notifications that alerted me to the CO2 levels inside my house were initially a little scary until a quick Google search showed those levels to be in the normal range.
This is precisely the kind of tech gadget that weather nerds would love to have in their house. Additionally, I can see its usefulness for those who also want to know about their indoor air quality. The features are fairly extensive —you can share your readings via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or over email, change the measurements from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and set alerts to go off when the temperature drops or the CO2 levels rise (although these settings are a wee bit hard to locate—look in the menu for My Stations). You can even link the units to other third-party apps like WeatherPro.
It would be nice to see even more data and measurements in upcoming versions. For example, a CO2 monitor would make this system even more helpful, and I’d love to see more extensive information about the pollutants in the area, but overall the Weather Station provides some lovely visual data about the weather and air quality around your home. Perhaps only home-automation nerds will be interested in this product, but they won’t be disappointed. The Netatmo Weather Station performs as advertised and gathers as much information about your home’s health as your Fitbit does about your own.