Koubachi's $99 Wi-Fi plant monitor outsmarts the garden gnome

Not exactly plants vs. aliens: Startup Koubachi has begun selling a $99 Wi-Fi device to gauge the state of your vegetation and send you advice over the Internet.

The $99 Koubachi Wi-Fi plant monitor pokes into the soil and uploads environmental data to the company, which then sends plant-care alerts customized for each species.
The $99 Koubachi Wi-Fi plant monitor pokes into the soil and uploads environmental data to the company, which then sends plant-care alerts customized for each species. Stephen Shankland/CNET

BERLIN -- If you're the kind of person who worries about Frank the Fern and Gertrude the Geranium while you're on vacation, a $99 cloud-connected plant monitor could be just the thing for you.

The Koubachi device monitors soil moisture, temperature, and light.
The Koubachi device monitors soil moisture, temperature, and light. Stephen Shankland/CNET

That's what start-up Koubachi started selling in May and was showing off here at the IFA consumer-electronics show here. The white, waterproof devices monitor soil moisture, light, and temperature, said David Kurmann, head of marketing and sales.

The white, waterproof device has an ellipsoidal bulb perched atop a spike to poke into the plant's soil. A built-in Wi-Fi module uploads the data, then Koubachi's service examines it and sends alerts to the customer if it's too hot or if the plant needs to be watered.

"For every plant we have an individual model done by biologists at a university," he said, because a ficus and an orchid have different needs. Of course, that also means you'll need more one monitor for each different plant.

Who's it for? "People who like plants but don't have a green finger, or people who don't like tedious plant care," Kurmann said.

Koubachi's service keeps a week-long running record so people can see what's happened recently; people can check their plants' status through the Web or an iOS app.

The company began selling its remote monitors in May, and three weeks ago made a significant change: the publication of data and alerts through an application programming interface (API). That in theory could enable somebody to build a robotic system that would, for example, add water or twiddle the thermostat as conditions warrant.

The service is for people who want plants but who lack a green thumb, but the company is also considering corporate services to ease the burden on facilities maintenance staff, Kurmann added.

Updated 12:18 a.m. PT Sept. 2 to correct the spelling of David Kurmann's name.

Koubachi's iOS app lets people monitor a collection of plants. There's also a Web interface.
Koubachi's iOS app lets people monitor a collection of plants. There's also a Web interface. Stephen Shankland/CNET
Koubachi's iOS app shows a week's worth of data about a plant's temperature, light, and moisture.
Koubachi's iOS app shows a week's worth of data about a plant's temperature, light, and moisture. Stephen Shankland/CNET
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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