In which we review the Bloomsky weather station and camera

I’ve been looking into getting a web cam and weather station set up for the cabin on a hill for a little while. It’d be nice to be able to check up on the weather and get a local snapshot on the situation up there when away.

Nothing’s really stood out until a friend sent word about a new Kickstarter launched weather station and web cam unit being sold by a startup called Bloomsky.

After looking into it more, I knew I had to get one.

bloomsky2And so it was, on this latest trip up to the cabin, the new Bloomsky weather station and camera was unpacked and prepped for installation.

You can order your own on the Bloomsky website or on Amazon. Check both, the Bloomsky site might be running a special dealio.

I ordered the solar powered option. It was delivered as a single large box containing three smaller boxes.  The three boxes contained the solar panels, weather station/cam unit, and mounting bracket.

Fans of good design will take some notice of this product. The packaging is attractive and in good taste, minimal and utilitarian.

As I unpacked the separate components, I was able to easily breakdown the cardboard boxes and inserts, there was hardly any foam or plastic or other hard-to-recycle elements.

bloomsky1

The basic kit features the semi-spherical Bloomsky unit in which are housed the weather cam, the sensors and the cpu and wifi.

The round Bloomsky unit is the meat of the package. Every five minutes, the onboard sensors transmit the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and ultraviolet intensity, along with a big old fish-eye view of the sky, back to Bloomsky where it is made available on the web and through the Bloomsky mobile app.

All the sensors for light, UV, pressure, humidity and rain are embedded in the main Bloomsky unit, below the visor which houses the fish eye web cam. The camera can be positioned to a narrow band of view, from straight ahead with the horizon filling the bottom of the view to straight overhead, with the view pointing up into the sky. An image from the camera, along with the sensor telemetry, is uploaded once every five minutes to the Bloomky servers. At the end of the day, defined as when the sun goes down and it is dark, the imagery is automatically stitched together as a time-lapse on the servers and made available for general viewing over the web or via the mobile app.

The time-lapses are particularly awesome.

The overall excellent design sensibility is not confined to the packaging.  The various pieces of the kit are well thought out and designed to meet the majority of deployment scenarios using the basic components right out of the box.

bracket

The Bloomsky unit screws onto the top of the two-piece stake. From there, one could, for example, stick it in a window box without the separate steel bracket and plug it into a receptacle inside and feed the cord out the window and plug it into the unit and boom, instant weather cam. Or stake it into the ground and power it with the solar panel add-on screwed into the solar panel bracket or clamp it to a fence rail on the porch with the solar panel or screwed to the eve or the side of a pole or building  using the screw bracket and so on.

Unfortunately, our deployment was one of the minority cases where the unit was attached to an east facing roof eve which means the solar bracket would be oriented to the east,  and what I needed to do was orient the solar panel to either the south or west.  So it required a trip to the garage to look at what I had in the way of wood or brackets or screws to mount and orient the solar panel correctly as well as secure it in such a way that the occasional high winds wouldn’t cause it to fly away.

Tah dah!

improv

Okay, that was sort of a pain.

Setup of the unit via the app was really easy.  Bring up the Bloomsky app on your mobile which is  connected to the local wifi router. Go to the settings menu, press the Add a New Device button and follow the instructions. Done. Go drink a refreshing beverage and wait for the first image to upload.

There are plenty of nits to pick if one were a nit picker. This is not necessarily a good unit to use where there are high winds. The stake stays seated in the bracket by the slight weight of the unit. It isn’t screwed or clamped to the bracket, so one can anticipate a certain degree of mobility in windy environments. It isn’t clear at this stage how well the unit will stand up to extremes of hot and cold. There are also certain elements missing from the app, such as the permalink to the unit for web viewing. On the other hand, one can get notifications pushed to one’s mobile if, for instance, the device detects rain, which is neat if you are a weather nerd.

One big plus for techies is that the Bloomsky web cloud provides a REST API with which you can write custom programs to access your devices. You can check out the documentation here.

This is a new product with a strong surge right out the gate. Given the already impressive level of design and thought which has gone into the physical product as well as the web dashboard and mobile app, it is clear that it will iterate and improve quickly.

3.5 stars heading for 5.

You can check out the view from our weather cam here:

https://map.bloomsky.com/weather-stations/eaB1rJytnZSmm6el

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