WeatherBeacon is an optical weather indicator showing current temperature, humidity, and precipitatioWeatherBeacon-Installn WeatherBeacon-at-nightfrom my backyard weather station.  Updated every minute, WeatherBeacon is a conspicuous device designed to attract attention and display weather conditions as a single color.  While it’s not the first WeatherBall or Beacon, its round shape and colors are more natural than the glowing digits of bank thermometers often found on outdoor weather displays.

See a time lapse movie  and other images of WeatherBeacon (pic, pic, pic, pic).

Why I created WeatherBeacon:

  1. Subtle changes in weather conditions are hard to feel.  You can’t easily sense the weather by viewing numbers, charts, and digits.  I wanted to create a physical devise to communicate slight meteorological changes in a simpler, more intuitive way.  I also wanted to combine three weather parameters (temperature, humidity, precipitation) into a single color, similar to other projects (WeatherDots and WeatherTrace).
  2. How does wireless communication really work?  I had no clue, but wanted to find out.  It’s really not as hard as you might think to both understand and program, albeit with some guidance (Tom Igoe’s Making Things Talk - a great book!).

How WeatherBeacon works:

WeatherStationOutside, weather conditions are continiously measured by the weather station and sent wirelessly every 2 seconds to the Weather Console (located indoors).WeatherConsole




Inside, software on a computer queries the Weather Console every 2 seconds and updates a current conditions file (data.csv). 




WeatherBeaconHub with Xbee

WeatherBeaconHubScreen I wrote the WeatherBeaconHub program in Processing.  This program reads the current weather data, computes color values, communicates with the Xbee radio, and provides diagnostic and test information (such as color-range tests, turning off the LEDs, and controlling the LED intensity).  Every minute, WeatherBeaconHub sends the latest color values via Xbee back outside to the WeatherBeacon.

WeatherBeaconElectronicsShiftBrite-LEDsOutside, an Arduino microcontroller receives the signal and controls WeatherBeacon’s LEDs.  I modified a program created by Tom Igoe to receive the signal (red, blue, and green values); perform error checking; send confirmation back to WeatherBeaconHub; and load the RGB values into the LEDs.  I also adapted code developed by Garrett Mace to control the LEDs.   Several single-color LEDs attached to the microcontroller indicate if signals are being received (yellow) or transmitted (blue).

WeatherBeacon v0.5 was constructed with more hardware and software than I’d like – a bit of a kludge.  If Davis Weather published their weather station wireless transmission specs, I could reduce the kludgeness.  It would be nice for the weather station to transmit directly to a receiver on the Arduino; however, Davis Weather considers their wireless specs proprietary.

Plans for the next version of WeatherBeacon:

  • Weatherproof microcontroller and Xbee radio
  • Create a smaller footprint base and mount on metal mast
  • Mount mast on top of weather station
  • Improve error checking in Hub and Station software programs
  • Put light diffusers on the ShiftBrite LEDs
  • Have fun…

Technology used:

I’d like your feedback and suggestions – please comment.

One comment

  1. Steve F. says:

    I thought you might find this related concept interesting:

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