TECH

Netatmo Urban Weather Station Review: Does This iOS Weather Station Cast A Sunny Spell?

30/04/2013 13:42 BST | Updated 30/06/2013 10:12 BST

Tracking your 'personal data' is becoming a big deal in the world of consumer technology. What began with simple pedometers and sleep-monitoring apps now comprises an entire industry of fitness trackers, sleep sensors, diet calculators and location diaries.

But there are two questions still niggling away at this ever-expanding line-up of data doodads. The first is whether the devices are intuitive enough to learn to use properly. The second is your ability to gain useful insights when you do.

At first glance, the Netatmo Urban Weather Station (£139.99) doesn't immediately present an answer to either.

netatmo

Described as "the first personal weather station for iPhone and iPad", the aim of this suite of gadgets and apps is to provide you with a detailed breakdown not only of the local weather, which you can obviously get elsewhere, but the specific environmental conditions in your area. That includes temperature and humidity, plus indoor pressure, CO2 levels, pollutants and noise.

The Netatmo comes in two hardware pieces, both of which are very nicely designed in stark aluminium. One is a fairly standard weather station, which sits outside in the garden (or securely attached outside your flat) and runs on AAA batteries. The other, slightly smaller, unit runs on a USB power outlet, and connects to your WiFi network.

Once set up, these two automatically speak to each other and collate data about your surroundings into a well made and comprehensive app, which runs on your iOS device.

By using the app from anywhere - not just in your house - you can check up on the environmental conditions back home or at the office. It also provides you with graphs of readings over time, forecasts for up to six days ahead and the ability to check if any alerts you've set up have been triggered. So if CO2 spikes suddenly, or there is a rash of very loud noise, you'll know. Which is actually pretty useful.

In our tests the devices seemed pretty accurate, though without another weather station it was difficult to check. Other reviews have mentioned it takes a few days to stabilise, however, so that's worth keeping in mind.

Indeed the whole system is very solid, and works well. The apps are quite complicated at first, and there are gaps. -- it doesn't seem possible to record pollutant levels over time, for instance. But it's easy to set up, and as long as you keep the outdoor sensor away from the rain you shouldn't have too many issues.

The key here is whether (no pun intended) staying on top of this data is something you actively want to do.

For this reviewer, it was little more than mildly interesting - and given the fact I live in central London, occasionally depressing. But for other users with specific needs to track their environment - perhaps your local weather forecasts are inaccurate, or you have rooms that need to be kept at certain temperatures - it could be a real solution.

Ultimately, the Netatmo still remains something of an intriguing curiosity. If you're already tracking your location, diet, movement, activity and sleep, it might provide another set of personal data to stay obsessive over - or just something else to track on the train.

But if you're just curious about the weather, you might do better downloading a few new apps rather than dropping £139 on this beautifully made, but ultimately still quite niche, product.