Weather fun with BloomSky

Two days ago I finally got around to setting up my BloomSky Sky2 weather station. Yes, it’s another of my many IoT Kickstarter gadgets that I have acquired over the years. I do love my Kickstarter finds. I have to admit, my Sky2 and the accompanying Storm did sit on my bench for a few weeks before I made the time to get started this week. So far I’m loving it!

The Long Delay

First off, I have to admit, I was getting antsy waiting for my BloomSky. The estimated delivery date for my EarlyBird pledge was October 2016. Well, every Kickstarter runs late right? But around April I started looking at the comments and found people receiving units already. There was some shipping issue to Australia, and while I won’t say I was happy with the delay, I’m satisfied enough. Kickstarters always run late; it just sucks when earlybird doesn’t mean anything.

The early bird gets the worm. And the late bird gets a worm. And you get a worm. Everyone gets a worm!

Meme Oprah

I received my BloomSky Sky2 and Storm on May 18th, which was the first day of iMoot. So I cracked the box, looked at the pretty units and put it aside to focus on my presentations.

In the weeks following, I was the source of the delay. Well, myself and my dog. Our dog Finn does like to randomly steal, hide and/or destroy things he finds outside, like most younger pups. My wife has pulled a Parrot Flower Power from out of his mouth before; a heart breaking experience. So I was not extremely eager to use the stakes included which would keep the unit at ground level.

A mounting bracket was included, and I’ve identified an endcap of my roof where I want the units to go. But with two units and one bracket, I left both in the box in my office. The BloomSky store is out of brackets, has been for awhile, and will no doubt be so for a long time in the future with Kickstarter and Indiegogo orders still being filled. Plus, although Ted said he’d leave a ladder behind, he did not. Not to have a go at Ted – hey, I bought his house, not his ladder – but ladders are expensive. And hard to take home in a Toyota Corolla.

Setting up the Sky2

Oh you know I couldn’t wait. I found a place in the garden the dog doesn’t really take notice of. I thought I’d take the chance – he’s getting older and this is a largish item. So I set up the first and easiest item – the Sky2.

The Sky2 does basic measurements you’d expect from a weather station; temperature, humidity, air pressure. It also includes a camera which takes a fisheye photo of the sky every 5 minutes. These photos are strung together into a timelapse of the day’s sky. The unit doesn’t take photos at night, which makes sense in a way. Stars would never show, and the moon would be difficult to see. However, I still find myself wishing it would do a full 24 hours.

 

The camera supposedly is HD, but the photos don’t look so to me. Perhaps I just can’t see it? I have noticed an annoyance – during the night condensation forms over the lense, making the early morning photos blurry. I suppose that’s winter in Southern Macarthur.

The Storm unit, which I have yet to setup, will also track wind speed and direction, and rainfall amounts. I thought UV was tracked in the Sky2, and my unit is reporting a max value constantly. My worry was that this was an error with the unit, but some investigation suggests the UV sensor that was on Sky1 units is now on the Storm.

I have not setup the solar panels for the Sky2; I think the dog would go after those. After three days, the unit is still reporting the battery at 100%. Of course that could just be the unit reporting incorrectly, but if that’s accurate, it’s impressive. Sure, when I’ve permanently installed my BloomSky, I really don’t want to retrieve the unit from my roof to charge it. But as a temporary installation, I’m satisfied so far to bring it in and recharge it when it will need it.

Reporting

BloomSky has an iPhone app. I’m sure it has an Android version as well. I’m pretty impressed with the app – it reports everything I want plus a picture of the sky currently. This is good for computer-nerds like me; yes Mom, I’m outside getting virtual sun and virtual fresh air from my iPhone here inside my office.

You can also look at other stations around you with the Explore functionality. Someone has a station in Bowral that I like to compare my weather to, and see how different it is 30km SW and 350m up.

BloomSky also offers a web dashboard, which I find a little mixed. I find the UI a little half baked. I often get Network Error when logging in, which maybe a capacity problem; a little disturbing. There is a graph view of conditions, raw data to download, and a timelapse view. However the timelapse is only for the previous days; a current photo is not available. The raw data table is difficult too. Altitude – a value that shouldn’t change ever – is included in every row, but dew point – a useful indicator – is not included.

The BloomSky web interface.
The BloomSky dashboard. Hmm… it’s not quite…right. The graphs are pretty, but where’s the current conditions? Where’s my dew point? Where’s my current photo? And how do I change my profile deets?

BloomSky also has an IFTTT channel that I’m starting to play with. Currently I’m recording all observations in a Google Sheet. I plan on later hooking up their API to an Übersicht widget to display current conditions on my screen. I’ll save you all from Tweeting the weather every five minutes.

Probably the showcase though is the map. Bit of a pain that it always takes me to the US and shows in Fahrenheit. Switching to Celsius is a pain as it’s not obvious at all. Click on any station and you should have a link to click to see it in metric, but it really is a pain. You can view my station but also zoom out and see the colour coded world around you.

Final Thoughts

Cons:

  • It’s a pricy unit; I’d forgotten how much my pledge was. And the units on their store cost a pretty penny.
  • There’s a few places where the UI feels half baked. I think these will be fixed in time as the BloomSky developers improve the code.

Pros:

  • I like that there’s an API and I can get a JSON string directly from their servers, or write an IFTTT recipe that’ll suit my needs.
  • The units themselves look sweet, and while the camera isn’t as useful as I thought it would be, it is a nice addition.

I think it’s a 3.5 out of 5. I’m happy, but I can’t overlook the rough edges.

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