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The Home Automation Revelation

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I am a bit of a weather geek. So when the folks at Netatmo offered to let me check out their latest Urban Weather Station, I took them up on the opportunity to try it and in the process I discovered an entirely new use for the device.

Have you ever needed a screwdriver to tighten up a door handle, but the darn tool was located way down in the basement. However, there was a butter knife sitting right there on the counter so you use that instead?

Sure doing the job is not as easy without the proper tool, but your handle is now tight and you saved yourself from having to walk up and down eight steps. Granted, it would have been nice to burn off those extra three calories, but you still have a nice warm feeling of having MacGyvered the situation.

Well, in the same spirit I've discovered a great second use for Netatmo's Urban Weather Station.
Home security.

The two may not sound interchangeable, but much like my butter knife/screwdriver the Netatmo Weather Station has two features that can be used to remotely see what is going on inside your home.

The product, which started selling in the United States several months ago for $179, records the noise and CO2 level inside your house, in addition to the normal indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity.

The Netatmo kit consists of two cylinders containing the various sensors, one for inside the other for outdoors. It sets up very quickly, easily ties into your home network and is accessed remotely via an iOS or Android app and through a website. After an account is created it is a simple matter to see what the temperature is at your house.

But I think the most interesting bits of data provided are the noise and CO2 levels. The smartphone app comes with a nice graph showing how these go up and down depending upon the activity at home.

Just by watching the undulations of the graph line I can tell when I get up in the morning, leave, head out to work, when my wife and son wake up, when my son takes off for school and when my daughter gets up and leaves. Then when my wife leaves for work the gauges show that the home's noise and CO2 levels have dropped down indicating that the house is empty.

So if there were a spike in noise or CO2 during the day I would know something was wrong. Granted, this would all be in hindsight, but it would be a bit of evidence for the police report.

The noise and CO2 levels are actually being monitored for health reasons, according to Mika Aim, Netatmo's VP of marketing. In the future additional sensor cylinders may become available that will check for other pollutants and irritants such mold or pollen, he said.

Other upcoming features include an interactive map that will plot all of the Netatmo users on a map and show the temperature at each location.

Aim showed this feature in beta during a recent visit using Netatmo stations in Paris and the range in temperature across the city was amazing. One interesting fact is how granularly the temperature can be measured using the hundreds of Netatmo stations in the city. The temps varied dramatically even over a few blocks.

The other, non-weather related, aspect that the device brings to the forefront is the upcoming home automation revolution. The capability is available now to remotely monitor what is going on at home while you are away, but as Netatmo shows this is only going to get easier and easier to install and use.

I spent about 10 minutes setting up the weather station, opening an account and downloading the app. The most difficult job was figuring out how to open the outdoor sensor cylinder so I could add the batteries. Again a butter knife did the trick.

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