Weather Stations and Web Cameras ("Web Cams")

Along with sensors weather stations, web cams and now wireless video have recently become very affordable and practical for farming.

Weather Stations

We have installed and tested two affordable weather stations that we can recommend: the AcuRite Weather Center and the Ambient Weather WS-1001-WiFi Observer .  

Both weather stations

  • include outside temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and rainfall,
  • are relatively easy to install and connect to your router via WiFi,
  • include a small console to view readings in your office or house,
  • can be registered as a Personal Weather Station (PWS) to supply data to the wonderful, free Weather Underground website which provides excellent display of your weather data along with other stations in your area (and nationally).  Most importantly we are working with Mojyle to combine data from your weather station into the Mojyle portal to provide a single display for your sensor and local weather data and incorporate it into pest management models.

The AcuRite ($130 + S&H)

  • can work with up to three $8 temperature/humidity (purchased separately),
  • has a nice standalone user interface with an app for mobile devices,
  • has a somewhat shorter radio range of the two weather stations
  • requires batteries (AA) for the weather station,
  • requires a separate "bridge" device (included) to connect via WiFi to your router and receive signals from the weather station,
  • has a black and white display console

The Ambient Weather station ($280 + S&H) 

  • includes a solar radiation and UV level sensors,
  • includes a single indoor temperature/humidity/pressure sensor
  • includes a color console display with very rich display options and which doubles as the weather station receiver and connection to your router's WiFi,
  • includes a small solar panel to keep the weather station batteries charged,
  • relies on Weather Underground for data display which provides a much richer website and app for mobile devices,

I have installed both of these for Databasics at my home on Quidnick Reservoir, Coventry, RI.  The Acurite is registered with Weather Underground AcuRite here.  The Ambient Weather and an associated webcam is registered with Weather Underground here.  The AcuRite is installed on a pier over a lake--not the best place to measure humidity!  The other is installed about 175 feet from the water.

We have also installed the AcuRite at Riverland Farm.  See Riverland in the Case Studies section.

Unless the cost difference is a problem we highly recommend the Ambient Weather station for farming since it has more measurements and a much better console, and, in the long run would provide more information such as solar radiation that we can use for implementing data models useful for farming.

Web Cams

Weather Underground allows you to associate a weather camera ("web cam") with your weather station. The recommended camera is the Ambient Weather AMBF18906W Outdoor Wireless IP Camera by Foscam ($110 + S&H).   We acquired the camera with the weather station and have installed and tested it.  You can see the current view of the cam weather station page here.  

On the farm you may want to use web cams for something other than showing the area near your weather station (which is what Weather Underground requires).  The best solution for this is one that became available in 2015.  See wireless video below.

Foscam produces the camera mentioned above but also sells a large variety of cameras for indoor and outdoor use.  Some of them let you control the pan and tilt and even zoom from your mobile device or browser.  You can set them to send you an alarm if motion is detected; they have infra red sensors for night vision; you can record images like a standard security camera, etc.

Installation is the tricky part unless you have WSP on your router.  Foscam has indoor cameras that use Wireless Protected Setup (WSP).  If your router has a WSP button then all you do is press the WSP button on the camera and then on the router and your done.  

But the outdoor cameras and most others require you to go into your router and set up "port forwarding" which makes it possible for you to query your camera from your mobile device or browser because your camera is acting like a web server.  Foscam offers a $40 service to set it up remotely for you.  Unless you're technically inclined I suggest using their service.   As affordable web cams go the Foscam company in Houston seems to be one of the better vendors with 24/7 phone server and online documentation and support.

Note, if you would like to put a web cam where your WiFi doesn't reach, you can extend your WiFi with one of a host of WiFi range extenders on the market.  See the page Farm Sensor Concepts, Accessories for more information.

Wireless Video (added 3/14/15)

Until recently adding video monitoring has involved dealing with IP addresses, port forwarding and other complicated stuff.  But in the past year or so new equipment has come out that makes it easy to the point that you can install it yourself. 

The best mainstream solution I have found that has great equipment, good documentation and technical support AND is super easy to install is Arlo from Netgear (http://www.arlo.com/en-us/) shown below:

ArloEqpt.png

 It works very much like the sensors we are using with about the same wireless range.  Like the sensors it has a gateway (the large white rectangle above) which you plug into your router (or a WiFi extender or your Internet point-to-point bridge).  Then you put four batteries in the cameras (the two black and white oval devices above), and synchronize them to the gateway by pressing a button on the gateway, then a button on the camera and presto they learn how to talk to each other.  Then you attach the little silver half sphere mount shown above (or an adjustable mount sold separately) to a wall or ceiling within about 300 feet of the gateway and stick the camera to it with the built-in magnet in the back end and point it in the right direction.  Then add the free Arlo app to your smartphone, create an account, add the cameras to your account and your ready to view what the cameras are seeing on your smart phone.

The cameras are weather proof, completely wireless, include motion detection and automatically switch to "night vision" (infrared) when it's dark.  On your smartphone you get live HD video, which you can zoom in on, take still pictures and record to the cloud.  You can watch the recorded videos from your computer, smartphone or tablet using Arlo's free App

Here's a video from their website showing how to install: http://www.arlo.com/en-us/support/.  Here is the user guide: http://www.downloads.netgear.com/files/arlo/arlo_um_en.pdf.

Arlo kits include a gateway and one to five cameras.  The cost at Amazon is 1 camera, $160, 2 cameras $280,3 cameras $400, 4 cameras $500, 5 cameras $625.  You can start with a small number of cameras then add single cameras which cost $145.  A cloud subscription is free for up to 5 cameras, $99 or $145 per year for more cameras as shown below.

ArloSubscriptions.png

 I have installed two cameras in my 94 year old mother's apartment in Arkansas so I and brother's and sister can keep tabs on her.  Before I call her, I can check to make sure she is at home, not asleep and near a phone.  I have also installed four cameras at my house in Rhode Island so we can monitor it when we are away.  I'm be installing a couple of Arlo cameras in a tomato greenhouse in April.

Battery powered cameras are not good for continuous use.  They are best used to check what's going on in an area, or to record when motion is detected.  Continuous recording would go through batteries too fast.  The batteries are type CR123A Lithiium such as the Streamlight brand of them at Amazon.

You or your crew should be able to install these yourselves..  If you need to extend your internet access from your router for use with video you can use WiFi extenders, powerline adapters, a point-to-point bridge call me to discuss options.

If any of you have experience with comparable equipment and functionality I'd love to hear about it.