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Computerized Investing > July 13, 2013

Netatmo Urban Weather Station

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$179 ($79 for each additional module)

Personal weather station for tracking indoor & outdoor environmental elements from your smartphone.

You have to be a bit of a geek to enjoy reviewing gadgets week in and week out. I fit that bill. I am also a bit of a weather geek, evident by the six weather apps I have on my iPhone. So when the opportunity arose to review a product that combined both technical gadgetry and weather, I was sold. Ever since attending CES in Las Vegas this past January, I have been chomping at the bit to review the Netatmo Urban Weather Station. I was ecstatic when my review model arrived a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it ever since.

The Urban Weather Station is an indoor/outdoor weather station that, when paired with the free iOS or Android app, allows you to monitor a variety of environmental elements from your iOS or Android device. With the device, you can keep track of indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, as well as indoor barometric pressure and carbon dioxide (CO2) and sound levels.

Out of the Box

The Urban Weather Station consists of two modules: indoor and outdoor. Both have an aluminum shell, which makes them look like silver tubes. The design is very understated, so it is easy to have one in your house without it drawing a lot of attention. The indoor module measures 1.8 inches by 1.8 inches by 6.1 inches, while the outdoor module is 1.8 inches by 1.8 inches by 4.1 inches.

The first thing I noticed with both modules is that there are no readouts on either one. In order to set up and use the Urban Weather Station, you have to use the free Netatmo app. Therefore, if you don't have a smartphone, you can't use this device.

You get a USB wall adapter for the indoor module, as well as four AAA batteries for the outdoor module. Including the batteries is a nice touch and allows you start using the Urban Weather Station as soon as you get it.

Setup

Setting up the Urban Weather Station was extremely easy. Beyond needing an iOS or Android device, you must also have a Wi-Fi network in your home or office. Setup starts by plugging your iOS or Android device that is running the Netatmo app, and is connected to your wireless network, into the USB port of the indoor module. A connector cable isn't included, so you'll need to use your own USB cable. Plugging your device into the indoor module transfers your network credentials to the indoor module so it can access your network. Since the outdoor module is pre-paired with the indoor module, it wasn't long before I had my Urban Weather Station ready and recording the environmental variables inside and outside my condo. When positioning your outdoor module, be aware that it must be within range of your Wi-Fi network. You also need to place the outdoor module away from direct sunlight and in an area where it will stay dry. I was able to place mine on the ledge above my back door. Netatmo also provides a wall-mounting kit for installing your outdoor module.

Setup requires that you set up a username and password for your Netatmo account.

Once you have your Urban Weather Station set up, you can monitor the indoor and outdoor temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, as well as indoor CO2 and ambient noise levels. Once you have it set up, it does take several hours for the readings to stabilize.

Netatmo App

To get the current indoor or outdoor readings, you open the free Netatmo app on your iOS or Android device. The app is one of the more visually appealing ones I have used. When it opens, you get summary information from both the indoor and outdoor modules, including indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity as well as the outdoor “Feels Like” temperature and indoor barometric pressure. Another useful piece of information is the outdoor air quality and indoor comfort level.

If you rotate your device to landscape position, the app displays graphs for all of the individual data points the Urban Weather Station collects. These graphs allow you to monitor the trends in the various environmental factors over time, which for a weather geek is kind of cool.

Dragging the horizontal bar in the middle of app either up or down will give you more detailed current readings from the indoor or outdoor modules, respectively. On the outdoor side, you get the current temperature, as well as the high and low temps for the day, along with humidity, “Feels Like” temperature and current air quality reading. There are also three tabs—Summary, Temperature and Rain. The Summary tab provides the forecast for the next three days, retrieved from the Internet from weather-forecast services of the reporting station closest to your Urban Weather Station’s location. Swipe the screen to the left and you see an additional three days worth of forecasts. The Temperature tab shows the projected hourly temperatures over the next six days, while the Rain tab offers the hourly percentage chance of precipitation for the next six days.

The detailed indoor information includes the indoor comfort level, current temperature, along with the day's high and low temps, current humidity, barometric pressure and CO2 and noise levels.

I am especially enthralled by the ambient noise monitoring capabilities of the Urban Weather Station. Anyone who knows me is aware of the ongoing struggle I am having with my upstairs neighbors and how noisy they are. I have my indoor module in my master bedroom, so I can keep track of the noise levels in that area of my condo throughout the day.

If you want to monitor multiple indoor locations that are part of the same Wi-Fi network, you can purchase additional indoor modules. With the app, you can then choose specific indoor modules for their reading. You can also monitor multiple Urban Weather Stations using the Netatmo website. Since outdoor modules are paired to an indoor unit, you can't have multiple outdoor modules on the same “system.”

Overall

This was one of the gadgets I came away from CES most excited about seeing. I love being able to see the temperature inside and outside my condo while on a Chicago-bound Amtrak train in southwest Michigan. The air quality readings should appeal to those who do a lot of outdoor activities, as it shows you when conditions are dangerous or safe. Netatmo went the extra mile with its app, which makes the whole experience very enjoyable and user-friendly.

For those people who aren't close to a weather monitoring station, you know how inaccurate “local” forecasts can be. With the Urban Weather Station, you get local weather conditions that are updated every five minutes. The Urban Weather Station also offers two data points that you won't get with the typical weather monitoring station—carbon dioxide and ambient noise levels. For those interested in air quality inside your home, the Urban Weather Station monitors just that.

The biggest drawback I see is that you must have an iOS or Android device to set up the Urban Weather Station and access the readouts. The modules themselves do not display any information. This limits the station’s usefulness—anyone walking past it wouldn't necessarily know what the unit does and they definitely wouldn't be able to get anything from it.

The $179 price tag definitely makes the Urban Weather Station a pricey temperature gauge. Even as a self-described weather geek, I doubt I would buy this for myself. While the technology gets an enthusiastic response from me, the cost definitely tempers that. This is a niche product, but if you are a weather geek, you’ll want to pick one up.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Well-designed app
  • Montitors CO2 and ambient noise levels

Cons

  • Requires iOS or Android device to set up and access data
  • Expensive
  • Cannot purchase multiple outdoor modules

Netatmo Urban Weather Station

$179 ($79 for each additional module) (Currently $179 from Amazon.com)

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @AAII_CI.