Get next level weather info with WeatherFlow
Crowd funding has brought about a seismic shift in bringing innovative niche products to market, along with more flops than anyone would like to count. Flops aside, crowd funding has resulted in a number of the best of breed home automation devices on the market today. Brands like Canary and Ring (which began as the crowd funded Doorbot) started out as dreams on platforms like IndieGoGo and went on to become established companies with a focus on quality products.
I like to keep an eye on these platforms to see what might be the next hot product, and a recent look revealed the WeatherFlow connected weather station. Home weather stations are something that a lot of people have an interest in, perhaps surprisingly. I have a number of family members running them, and I have an old BiOS model that's getting a bit clapped out. The data is rudimentary, connectivity is flaky, and the software is pretty basic. I don't really get any value out of the current one, and have considered, on and off, replacing it with something more capable. Why? Curiosity for the most part, which is what drives most people to fork out big bucks on these things. The big hardware store chains typically stock a few models, $400 and up usually for all the bells and whistles, but the demand must be there.
The problem is that these stand alone models is that they are really only useful for data gathering for the amateur weatherman. Connected models however, have the potential to be useful data sources for other things like controlling blinds, sprinklers, thermostats and so forth. The options in this space have been pretty limited in terms of comprehensive outdoor weather data. Plenty of products will give you room temperature, humidity and similar things, but barometric pressure, wind, and rainfall? Not so much.
The go to products are often from NetAtmo, with the indoor/outdoor weather station that support Alexa integration. This slick device will give you outdoor temperature, humidity and air quality. The addition of the wind module and the rain gauge will enhance this significantly, but at a price. The full set will run around US$320. Elgato has a more basic option in their Eve Weather device. This will get you temperature, humidity, and pressure in a small, externally mountable box for US$50.
Integration in both of these examples is limited. One only let's you query the readings with Alexa, the other is limited to HomeKit users as a sensor input. This brings us back to WeatherFlow. This two unit system is promising to shake this category up. The temperature, humidity, and pressure readings are there, plus wind and rain. In addition to that, it includes ambient light, UV and solar radiation, and a lightning sensor.
Like the NetAtmo offering, the wind sensor on the WeatherFlow is sonic, using ultrasonic transducers to determine wind speed and direction. This results in improved reliability and durability as there are no moving parts to worry about as you would have in a typical anemometer. The Rain sensor is actually haptic, and is thus completely sealed. No more having to worry about levelling the sensor and getting it clogged with dust, leaves, or cobwebs.
SKY uses a patent-pending haptic rain sensor in the top of the device. Using a combination of pressure and capacitance, SKY measures and counts each falling raindrop. Algorithms exclude things that are not rain (like the rumblings of a passing train or Harley). This allows SKY to report the instant rain begins falling, the current intensity, and the total rain accumulation over time. Accuracy compares to a large tipping bucket, but does not get fouled with leafs or bird crap.
The WeatherFlow is claimed to be able to detect lightning (both ground and cloud) up to 40km away, and give an indication of distance. I can see that being quite handy for implementing protective measures for your gadgets.
All of this is completely wireless, using WiFi and BlueTooth LE, the batteries are expected to last up to a year. What about the integration question? Well, here is the real door opener. The project is currently working on integrations for SmartThings, HomeKit, Google Nest, IFTTT, and Alexa. That's a pretty comprehensive platform list and will be a game changer if they can deliver on that. Note that the project only says they are 'working on', and keep in mind that we've heard that from other device makers which have yet to deliver on some or all of these. Still, the intent is positive.
As it stands, WeatherFlow is planning to deliver a whole lot more than the competition for only US$279 at international release. A comprehensive integrated sensor platform like this can provide real value for home automation by enabling control over all sorts of other devices based on environmental trends.