Reading weather data with software-defined radio


Article from Issue 160/2014

Armed with a US$ 20 hunk of hardware and a free software-defined radio tool, Konstantin starts the hunt for radio-transmitted data from a weather station.

Weather stations with transmitters (Figure 1) are used in many households today, including my own. The small transmitter, in this case, is on the window sill, measuring weather data such as temperature, air pressure, and humidity and transmitting the results digitally to a base station, which then displays them. However, a base station is not even necessary for receiving the data. With a little passion for tinkering, and the help of software-defined radio, I can receive, read, and even produce this wireless data with my own computer.

Software-defined radio (SDR) picks up electromagnetic waves almost directly at the antenna and uses software to process them. In the simplest case, an SDR-receiver consists of an antenna and an analog-to-digital converter plus software. Depending on the device, it can thus scan a very large frequency range. Applications for implementing SDR include GNU Radio, GNU Radio Companion, or Gqrx (see the "GNU Radio from a PPA" box).

The software does the majority of the work, so your soldering iron can stay safely in the cabinet. You only need to find the right hardware, which costs only a few dollars, as well as an editor to process the digitized radio data on your computer.


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