In Britain we have this mad obsession with the weather, its normally the first topic of conversation. I am not sure why, but its probably due to the fact it changes so much, it’s currently cold and overcast today, this time last week it was warm and sunny.
On to my obsession with the weather. I have always been fascinated by science, i even studied it at college, and the weather is one of the most accessible sciences around. It is everywhere and it affects us all and as a photographer it affects me most than others.
Around 8 or 9 years ago I bought a Weather station kit from Maplin (A UK based store that sells electronics and components, that is now out of business ☹️ ), that had a display fed by a set of outdoor sensors, which read the temperature, humidity and rainfall amongst other things. The one big draw of this kit, was that it had a usb out connection that you could hook up to using a computer to collate data. I had it hooked up to a Raspberry Pi, retrieving data using a piece of Python software called Pywws and I built my own portal to display the data. There was one flaw with this kit which drove me crazy. The display had an internal memory, which would lock up when full, and the only way to clear this to pull the batteries. When this locked it would stop feeding data to the raspberry pi, but the display would work as normal. As you can imagine this was a major pain, so I looked for a better solution.
A few years ago Oracle created a weather station project that used the sensors available in the same weather station kit that I had, it turns out that these kits are a generic Chinese kit rebranded under different names dependant on the company selling them, so the sensors are widely available and relatively cheap. Luckily I already had these and they were working fine. The downside to this project is that the hat is only available to education projects. A hat is an interface board that plugs into a Raspberry PI via the GPIO pins to allow to use a wide range of interfaces such as buttons, screens, and sensors. This is one of the big reasons that the Raspberry Pi has become so popular, because you can literally build anything with them. The good news is that the software is open source, can be downloaded and used by anybody for their own projects.
I was lucky enough to stumble across a project by Sparkyhall on Github who had reverse engineered the Oracle board, using readily available components. I had some experience of soldering mainly from electronics classes at school and had built projects in the past, but this was an whole different world for me. I am used to building projects that interface with other software such as API’s but building a software project that interfaces with hardware is a totally different world to me. It took me about 2-3 goes to build the hardware, and was a project that I picked up and put down over the course of 18 months mainly due to getting frustrated when it didn’t work, so after a lot of frustration and nearly blowing my Raspberry Pi by soldering a capacitor the wrong way(if you look at the black mark on the picture you’ll see what I mean!) I got it working and was collecting data. I then took on the task of building an interface, which was easy for me. I chose PHP for this, as its something I am used to developing in. The weather station software runs on python which hurts my head to this day(whitespace and indentation errors anyone? 😉 )
The project cost me about £80 in parts if you include the sensors I already owned. The project has been running successfully for around 18 months now, and can be viewed at my weather station site. Feel free to have a look, but don’t make any important decisions on this info its purely for research, and I am happy at its accuracy and it suits my purpose. I can’t guarantee its accuracy, it is a hobby project after all and I can’t see the BBC knocking on my door anytime soon. 😉 It also tweets to my personal Twitter twice a day.
Feel free to leave a comment below and if you have any questions feel free to ask.