Netamo’s Urban Weather Station: Health Benefits and Meteorological Readings

Netatmo

We Brits love our weather – if all other avenues of conversation dry up, the damp and blustery conditions are one sure-fire fall-back. Now Netatmo is planning to exploit our meteorological weakness with the Urban Weather Station, a device it describes as “the first personal weather station with Air quality sensors, for iPhone, iPad and Android devices”. You shell out the princely sum of £159 for two sleek, cylindrical devices that between them measure both weather conditions and air quality inside and outside your home, then view those results via a free app on your iPad, iPhone or Android mobile.

Setup is simple, as demonstrated by  our video unboxing guide: the outdoor device, powered by four AAA batteries, straps to a suitably sheltered point outside using a bracket or supplied Velcro belt, while the indoor cylinder plugs into a handy power socket. Constructed from a mixture of aluminium and white plastic, each cylinder is designed to look sleek and unobtrusive, so should fit seamlessly into most living or office spaces.

Both devices need to be within range of your Wi-Fi network, but setup is simple: just temporarily plug in your mobile to the indoor cylinder, and it’ll grab the connection details it needs. Once done, both devices can start funnelling data to your mobile at scheduled intervals, or whenever you tap the button on top of the indoor device.

The Weather Station uses your phone to get an exact location, which ensures it’s able to calibrate its barometric-pressure sensor to your altitude. The sensors collect information about temperature, humidity, air pressure, noise, CO2 levels and air quality, before delivering all this information to your phone. MacWorld noted in its recent review that early readings tend to fluctuate as the unit acclimatises itself to its new home, but once settled down, it delivers accurate results.

The app not only provides a beautiful display of all the information provided by the Urban Weather Station, it also stores every scrap of information it receives, eventually providing graphs of all the data for comparative purposes. The app also provides up to six days of local weather forecasts, while users can sign up to Netatmo’s Urban Weather Programme, which shares your station’s data for the benefit of others living close by as well as meteorologists, scientists and environmentalists.

Those looking for a complete weather breakdown may be disappointed by the lack of options for measuring wind direction and speed, but the Urban Weather Station offers more than just a glorified barometer and thermometer; it also measures air quality and noise levels indoors and outdoors. Armed with this information, the app can provide timely reminders about when to ventilate your home as the CO2 levels rise plus warn you to stay inside when air pollution levels are at their worst.

With the UK’s increasing problems with air pollution starting to make national headlines, Netatmo’s timing in releasing the Urban Weather Station couldn’t be better. It could become the urban dweller’s must-have accessory this summer.

Netatmo’s Urban Weather Station is now available for £159 at netatmo.com.

The Krup’s Nespresso ‘Gran Maestria’ Coffee Machine

Nespresso-Gran-Maestria

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I am mad about real coffee. I bore my friends senseless about aroma, strength, intensity and crema. The fact of it is, I am old school. I love the process of grinding beans and brewing a fresh cup of espresso the old fashioned way, and bless it, my Baby Gaggia is like family to me.

The thing is, and this is a very big thing, it’s a messy business, and there are irritating downsides. The machine takes a while to heat up, the steam nozzle often gets clogged, the coffee gets stale pretty quickly, the old coffee grounds stain the sink etc. But nevertheless, that aroma gets me every time.

So, is there really a better way? Can I embrace new technology and go over to the dark side? Nespresso transformed the coffee world when it launched its innovative pod system. Suddenly, everyone’s a coffee expert, waxing lyrical about Grand Cru, Ristretto, Arpeggio, Lungo and host of other romantic sounding words harvested straight from an Italian dictionary. What’s more, my proud collection of coffee beans has been eclipsed by an endless array of gaily coloured pods all promising varying degrees of wonderment, beautifully presented in displays that are an art form in their own right.

All well and good, but as they say, the devil is in the detail, or in my case, the tasting…

The Gran Maestria Titanium, Nespresso’s newest creation made specifically for Krups, sits proudly astride my kitchen unit, all sleek lines of grey and black; its green ready light appearing in a matter of seconds. On the left side is a cup warmer tray, a great idea, because good coffee tastes even better from a warm cup. On the right side another marvel; the aeroccino jug, producing perfectly frothed milk in under a minute to suit your cup – be it latte, cappuccino, or cold frappuccino.

I raise the central pod arm, drop in a pod, select how much coffee I want dispensed and the magic begins. Each time, and let me be clear about this, I had many cups in the name of research, the coffee was a bull’s-eye.. Always the right temperature and always producing a delicious crema to die for. The empty pods conveniently disappear into the waste chamber, all clean and tidy.

There are downsides of course. At around £475 this is no cheap date, the pods are only available from Nespresso which work out more expensive per item than ground coffee (although there will be other suppliers who will produce pods as the Nespresso patents expire) and you can only deliver one cup at a time. But for any lover of fine coffee, this is well worth the investment. The pods ensure your coffee stays roasted fresh and there’s no mess.

Are there alternatives? Tassimo is a similar system which uses T-Discs and there’s Senseo and its Pad (like a tea bag) owned by respected coffee supplier Douwe Egberts. They are similar in many ways, but don’t match up to Nespresso’s pod system for freshness and usability.

For me, I’m hooked, and my old Gaggia is officially consigned to history.

Gran Maestria Titanium £475 www.nespresso.co.uk

Electrolux Infisight and Zanussi QUADRO: Take your home cooking up a notch.

We recently did a feature on fitness gadget that covered all sorts of bits and bobs that will help you stay trim for 2013. However as I’m sure you know “great abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” so we thought we’d also look at two new devices that will help out with your eating habits.

Food

Have a tiny kitchen? Join the club. Great. Now it’s even more crowded. If you’re trying to create dishes in a cramped urban setting you might want to investigate Zanussi’s family-sized microwave oven from its new QUADRO range.

Zanussi-Combi

The Zanussi ZKC38310XK can be used as a traditional oven, a microwave to reheat food and as a combination-microwave oven to cook food in half the time – handy if you need a second oven whilst entertaining … or if you just want a first oven for your tiny flat. The combi-microwave uses Thermaflow fan cooking to ensure that hot air spreads evenly within the oven so the crisp/moist mix of your food should be maintained. Yours for around £635.

Infisight-Oven

If you have a little bit more room to work with you might consider getting serious with the Electrolux InfiSight pyrolitic oven. Pyrolitc cleaning means that at the touch of a button the over will heat to nearly 500 degrees, turning all food residue and grease into a fine ash that can be simply wiped away. It’s the oven of choice for Bond villains.

The InfiSight has a colour screen which a database of recipes and you can choose between 13 heating modes, 87 pre-set cooking programs and 18 functions, including 20 settings of your own. The screen will then display your selected heating mode, the actual temperature and the remaining cooking time.

The InfiSight features a FoodProbe to check the temperature of your food and displays it on the colour screen so you get a virtual look inside your meal and have a good idea of when it’s ready to pop out. No more burnt dinners. You can also the cooking level of the oven so that your food is medium, rare or well done … through choice.

Yours for £1,099

Let the Right One In… An end to cold callers?

Hands up who isn’t fed up of door to door cold callers. At best a mildly irritating nuisance, and at worst a form of psychological bullying that can intimidate many people, door to door cold callers are one of the banes of modern life. In fact, I’m sad to report that complaints to Citizens Advice about such unwanted callers have reached a record high between January and September this year. Now an invention originally conceived by a 13-year old schoolboy could be set to come to the rescue of many phone weary folk the world over…

SmartBel

Called the Smartbel, the device links your doorbell with either your landline or mobile phone which means you can talk to people first before you answer the door. The gadget operates with a sim card and technology that currently exists in a standard mobile phone.

Retailing at £129.99 from Fireco, along with free 12 months of airtime, the Smartbel could well revolutionise the way we open our door, and put an end once and for all to uninvited strangers making door to door calls. Should you be awaiting the delivery of a parcel and you can’t get to the door, you can also explain to them where they should leave the package. Most handy, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Not only can you use the device for your home, but the Smartbel can also be implemented at businesses and leisure organisations who do not have a traders intercom to screen visitors.

For further information on the Smartbel intelligent doorbell and how to get yoru hands on the technology, visit www.smartbel.co.uk .

 

Future Kitchen Technology Revealed

Gorenje-HomeCHEF

Appliance manufacturer Gorenje and sustainable lifestyle products outfit Ecover have joined forces to put a new spin on our kitchen gadgets. These like-minded companies have introduced a whole suite of shiny black technology with the underlying ethos of environmental responsibility, reusable energy and appliance efficiency – with all the innards easily repairable or replaceable to reduce temptation to scrap them when the gloss comes off.

HomeChef-Display

Cooking up a storm

The piece of kit that really grabs our attention is a touchscreen cooker (thankfully not on the oven door!) The Gorenje HomeCHEF built-in oven with full-colour touchscreen boasts “photo realistic images” for a cook-by-pictures experience. To use SIMPLEbake, just tap a picture of a mouthwatering plate to select or scroll through the options to activate a pre-set programme and then sit back and hope it turns out as delicious as it looks while it handles the settings, temperature and duration. SRP is £1199

Forget-the-knobs hob

Don’t let your oven outsmart your hob. The IQcook induction hob uses sensors to measure and keep a watch on your pans while automatically adjusting heat and cooking times. Like the oven, there’s a whole raft of pre-set cooking modes including frying and slow cooking. Gorenje’s patented SmartSense safety function is designed to prevent your food from boiling over or burning and if a pan boils dry, the cooking hob automatically switches off. With such features as StayWarm and IQBoil, it’s one step away from having your own chef – if only it had an attachment that could crack eggs and make a cup of tea we’d be laughing. SRP £699

Food for thought

If food storage contraptions usually leave you cold, Gorenje has also turned its attentions to the fridge-freezer. The Simplicity range does the complete opposite of the cookers, stripping back all the programmes to give you all the controls in a single dial.

One particularly nifty feature is the Cool’n’Fresh drawer, which sends cool air directly into the vegetable crisper and food and meat bins to diminish droopy leaves and prolong the freshness of your cold cuts. SRP £659

A new Fiery Red range gives you the option of a retro-styled vibrant red finish to match the bright A++ energy rating. If you’re not blinded by the fiery hues, the RB60299ORD refrigerator also packs a SuperCool fast chill option – ideal for blitzing drinks in a social situation – and a fast freeze, which gives your dishes an extra shot of blizzard before returning to the pre-set temperature once your food is frozen. SRP £719

Curtains to smaller washes

A couple of washing machines join this classy kitchen collection. The catchy-sounding WA74163 7k machine or the roomier 8kg WA82145 have A-10% energy ratings and an extra-large 33cm porthole door to avoid the inevitable battering when trying to crowbar in your duvet. UseLogic technology continuously monitors the purity of the water to avoid a stinky cycle and adjusts water usage according to the type of load. It also keeps tabs on detergent levels to determine whether or not you need an extra rinse – ideal if like me you load the machine throughout the day and risk doubling up rather than digging through your smalls to check you put the soap in first.

I particularly like the look of the 17 minute -wait for it… – Quick Wash”, which will rinse through lesser-soiled pieces you need in a hurry. SRP £645

The WA82145 adds a delayed start function, which means you can programme it to get to work at the dead of night to take advantage of better energy rates or start at another more favourable time (like after Eastenders). SRP £410 (reflecting less premium components and reduced guarantee).

Here comes the rain – get it sorted with Xylem’s pumps

As I write this we are enjoying the tail end of a tropical storm, and the rain is pouring down outside the windows. So it seems quite apt that I am writing about a rainwater pump – although maybe not so apt that it’s solar powered.

Xylem-Pumps

It’s all very well collecting rainwater in your water butts, and even using grey water – from baths and washing up – in your garden. But actually getting it out of your chosen receptacle can be a bit of a chore.

The RainPerfect solar-powered rainwater pump aims to make the task simple by pumping stored rainwater at up to 0.9 bar through an ordinary garden hose, making it easier to water all around the garden, even if you have a sloping site.

Xylem

The pump also lets you use low-pressure sprinklers or use a hand spray nozzle. The RainPerfect pump can fit onto the top of most water butts and barrels, and as it has no wires, and no running costs, is a cheap option. So if you pay for your water on a meter, you’re wining twice over – lower water bills and no electricity charges either.

The RainPerfect solar-powered pump costs £94.99 from retailers. See www.rainperfectpump.com for more.

The makers, Xylem, also make the new AquaCharge portable pump, should you wish to get rid of water (which also might be quite handy if this weather continues!)

The pump is powered by a rechargeable battery and can be used to pump out aquariums, garden ponds and even hot tubs. It’s also useful for DIY tasks such as unblocking sinks and baths, and washing machines that won’t empty.

The AquaCharge has its own 2.4 metre (8ft) hose or can be connected to a standard garden hose.

It costs £61.55 inc VAT from retailers and from www.jabscoshop.com.

Dyson Hot fan heater, warm up your room

As I write this, the weather forecast is promising another week of unseasonably warm temperatures. However, when winter finally comes, the experts are warning us that it will bring with it some far-from-average low temperatures, so the latest release from Dyson could well be high on many a winter shopping list.

Dyson-Hot-Fan

The new Dyson Hot fan heater hardly looks like your average fan heater – and Dyson promises that it works very differently as well. Usually, fan heaters only heat up the bit of the room in front of them, and everyone jostles for space to sit in front of it. Not so with Dyson’s latest production.

Instead of fast spinning blades, the device uses Dyson’s Air Multiplier technology, which draws in air at the bottom of the heater using an energy efficient motor, and then this is amplified six times, using processes called inducement and entrainment. Without getting too technical, suffice it to say that is it the same technology used in jet engines and turbochargers (which will hopefully impress your other half if they’re asking why you have spent £269 on a fan heater).

The upshot of all this technological wizardry is that the whole room should be heated evenly, thanks to the smooth oscillation of the machine, and it is easy to achieve a target temperature. Safety wise, there are no visible heating elements or blades and no safety grill to get dusty, so it gets points from me for cutting down on cleaning jobs. It also cuts out automatically if it tips over, which is comforting if you have kids, animals, are buying it for an elderly relative, or are just a bit clumsy.

And should the weather prove too warm, it also offers a cooling fan to offer an uninterrupted stream of smooth air.

A remote control allows you to easily change the temperature, airflow speed and oscillation without moving from your comfy chair.

The Dyson Hot fan heater is available exclusively from John Lewis.

BIBO water filter dispenser: Hot or cold water on demand

Wouldn’t it be great to have boiling water without having to wait for the kettle to boil? And wouldn’t it be equally as great to have chilled water without having to wait for it to cool in the fridge? Well dream no more as now you can have boiled or chilled water in an instant with the BIBO water filter dispenser.

Bibo-Water

If your kitchen, with its mass of ‘convenience enhancing’ appliances and cooking utensils covering the work tops, looks more like the inside of the tardis than a kitchen, why not get that even bit more plush and modern by sitting a BIBO water filter dispenser comfortably on the work top, if you’ve got any room that is.

Although jests aside it does seem uncanny how we seem to happily consume cup after cup of chilled water from the water dispenser in the office at work in an attempt to maintain the golden ‘eight cups of water a day’ rule, whilst at home all yearnings for a glass of water are replaced by a longing for a glass of wine or ice-cold beer. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact chilled water at the touch of a button is not readily available to us at home like it is at work.

Encouraging daily hydration outside of the office, the BIBO water dispenser will give you an endless supply of water – hot or cold – in an instant – well not quite endless, but 7 litres which equates to approximately 30 cups of cold water and 15 litres or 60 cups of hot water an hour, by all intents and purposes may as well be endless.

The water you consume out of the BIBO dispenser will be completely pure, thanks to its ultra-sophisticated and powerful UV filter, which removes all traces of heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals – definitely preferable to the water we consume out of taps, particularly for those living in London may I add!

This ultra-modern, health-boosting, dishwasher-proof kitchen appliance costs £363 – perhaps we will stick to waiting a couple of minutes for the kettle to boil and chancing our chocolates with comparatively unfiltered tap water.