July 2014 Issue
WeatherFlow: A Smart Wind Meter
WeatherFlow: A Smart Wind Meter
WeatherFlow, a leader in the private-sector weather industry, recently introduced its first hardware product for the wind- and weather-addicted community: the WeatherFlow wind meter. Similar to the Vaavud from Ronstan International that we reviewed last year, the pocket-size WeatherFlow wind meter plugs into the audio port of a smartphone or tablet and records wind speeds using a proprietary app.
The durable, portable anemometer weighs less than 1 ounce and is made of plastic and rubber. The wheel-style anemometer works with most iOS and Android personal electronics; you’ll find a full list of compatible devices on the WeatherFlow website. Android devices do not require an adapter.
What We Found
The WeatherFlow App is free and easy to download from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play. Once the app is downloaded, simply plug the wind meter into your device’s audio port and hold the meter into the wind—hold it high and away from your body. After you touch “start” on your device’s display, you’ll be able to see the wind speed and wind direction readings.
When the reading stops (at the end of your sample period or after you touch stop), you can edit the reading, add a description, or make the reading public. If you chose to edit, a screen shows you the wind and direction ranges. You can share the reading via Facebook, Twitter, email, or text. After taking wind readings, subsequent screens show onsite reports of your readings with wind directions, average speeds, and gusts. A list of your latest readings appears onscreen with your current wind readings.
Testers found wind speeds to be easy to capture and the readings to be accurate up to 35 knots (max we tested at). According to Weather-Flow, the meter’s operating range starts with a 2-knot puff, and it can be used to measure hurricane-force winds exceeding 125 miles per hour.
Calibrated at the University of Florida’s Aerospace Engineering Department, the WeatherFlow is touted as being accurate to the larger of +/- 0.5 percent of the reading or 0.2 miles per hour at up to 15-degree off-axis. Translation: Even if you don’t hold it directly into the wind, you’ll still get very accurate wind-speed information.
One drawback of the WeatherFlow is that—like the Vaavud—it doesn’t float. It’s not designed to be waterproof, but it is water resistant, and it survived salt and sand while in a salt fog chamber for the equivalent of 12 months.
App settings can be selected from multiple pre-sets based on an activity (sail, windsurf, kiteboard, surf, fish, pilot, work, other), and include your preferred speed unit (miles per hour, knots, kilometers per hour, meters per second, Beaufort scale), direction display (text or degrees), magnetic declination (True North, Magnetic North), and sample period (minimum 3 seconds and maximum 60 seconds). You can choose any combination of these settings. The home screen includes a history of your wind-meter readings, along with a list of compatible apps and a link to tech support.
Practical Sailor testers felt the WeatherFlow offers more features than the Vaavud we tested. The WeatherFlow design makes it easy to share readings, and the crowd-sourced WeatherFlow data is accessible in several other applications, including WindAlert, SailFlow, iKitesurf, FishWeather, and iWindsurf.
The $50, Danish, cup-anemometer Vaavud wind meter offers a connection to Weendy, a world-wide community-based weather network app. The $35, U.S.-based WeatherFlow meter connects to the WeatherFlow network, which provides wind and weather information to a lengthy list of partners and clients in the government and private sectors.
Of particular interest to sailors is the tie-in between the wind meter and SailFlow (www.sailflow.com and SailFlow the mobile app). With WeatherFlow, your meter readings can be made public on SailFlow and shared with sailors from all over the world.
Vaavud (www.vaavud.com) has plans for expansion, including offering more product features to its hobbyist audience, as well as building out more services that appeal to business and enterprise.
Currently, however, we found the WeatherFlow to be a stronger product overall; although we’d prefer that it float. We will keep an eye on changes to both the Vaavud and WeatherFlow, and will report on any worthwhile findings.