Pocketnow Smart Home Series

In recent years, our phones have evolved into the “universal remote control” – not for our televisions, but for our homes. That’s where the Pocketnow Smart Home series comes in! Thanks to a combination of sensors and Internet of Things innovations, taking your old-fashioned home and turning it into a smart home isn’t as difficult, or as expensive as you might think – and it’s all controllable from your phone, phablet, or tablet.

If you’ve been following our smart home series, you’ve seen how we’ve added motion detectors, flood sensors, a smart lock, WiFi lighting, door and window sensors, learning thermostats and smart smoke detectors from Nest, and set up automation rules based on input from all of those. Today we’re turning our attention from the inside of our smart home to the outside – into the yard.

Blossom Smart Watering ControllerWhen he was alive, my dad had an old, rotary sprinkler timer that controlled several zones at his home. Changing the settings (zone run times, etc.) was a manual, mechanical process; it ran the same schedule every day; and it couldn’t keep accurate time – which resulted in some hilarious cases where visitors got a wet surprise walking up to the house.

When I built our first house I opted for a Toro-brand irrigation controller. It had a modular “add a zone” feature that let you expand your system by adding zones as you went along, and even had an input for a rain sensor – a relative novelty when I bought it over 15 years ago. It was fairly easy to program, let you specify different programs for different days of the week, turned the sprinklers off when it was raining (if you had the optional rain detector connected, which I did), and had a “seasonal adjust” feature that let you ramp the watering up or down to give your landscaping more or less water whenever you wanted.

Today, we’ve got a lot more information available to us than we had 15 years ago. The Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, uses not only the inside temperature when turning your HVAC system on or off, it also measures humidity, knows whether you’re home or not (or when you’ll be home if you’re on your way), and can even connect to the Internet to adjust your heating or cooling schedule based on the weather forecast.

What if you could apply the same type of logic to your irrigation system? You can, and the product is called “Blossom“.

Blossom: the smart sprinkler controller

sched_whiteBlossom is an Internet-connected sprinkler controller available in either 8- or 12-zone options. There aren’t any external controls on the device itself, instead you program and control it from an app on your smartphone. To set it up (or control it later on) you connect it to your home’s network via WiFi. If the location of your controller is too far away from your WiFi bubble, instead of installing WiFi range extenders to bridge the gap, Blossom-12 lets you connect via a Powerline data interface too – literally running data over the electrical line. How’s that for sweet?!

Why is the Internet connection required? Similar to Nest, Blossom has an algorithm that gathers local weather data, plant information, and site-specific conditions to “formulate and apply the smartest adjustments every single day to help you conserve water”. If the network isn’t available it’s even smart enough to fall-back to the schedule stored on the device itself.

We haven’t gone hands-on with Blossom yet. Part of that is because we don’t have any landscaping installed at our Smart Home. Additionally, we wanted to wait and see if the Blossom-8 or Blossom-12 was right for us. The Blossom-12 is available now, and the less-expensive Blossom-8 can be pre-ordered from their website. We opted for the Blossom-12 since our house sits on a 5.5-acre lot and more zones will probably be better for us in the long-run.

The benefits of using a smart sprinkler controller go beyond just ease of setup and use (and bragging rights). When correctly configured it should save water, save money (for those with metered water connections who pay by the gallon), and will help ensure your plants gets exactly the right amount of water – no more, no less – which should help you have a healthier, greener yard. And then there’s the whole saving the planet thing.

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