EasyBloom is a digital babysitting system for a garden. It consists of a flower-shaped, USB-enabled plant sensor gizmo, and an online plant-matchmaking database. People with green thumbs might not need it, but this product could be attractive if you'd like some high-tech help to keep your plants alive and thriving.
The $60 EasyBloom comes from PlantSense, a start-up founded by a former manager of wireless products at Cisco. The product includes sensors with dielectric capacitance technology used on the NASA Mars Pioneer mission to measure soil drainage.
Setup and design
Downloading and installing the EasyBloom software took less than 5 minutes in our tests on both Windows XP and Vista computers. Once that's done, just plug the flower-shaped gadget into your PC's USB port, which triggers an EasyBloom Web page to open in your default browser. Supported operating systems include Windows Vista or XP. (Compatibility for Mac OS 10.5 or newer is set for release in 2009.)
We like the well-designed Web site, which features plant profiles from seed companies, although it might be nice to have an option for managing plant data on a local hard drive. That would be helpful in places lacking an Internet connection, like a back yard or greenhouse.
The device consists of two main pieces. The top part resembles a flower, with decorative plastic petals hugging a light sensor above a Start/Stop button, an air intake sensor, and the USB plug. It would look at home in the Brady Bunch household.
The other piece, the stem, fits into the top component and has two prongs for sticking into a plant's soil. A gray stand, which can be screwed to a wall for hanging, lets the top piece rest upright. The company thoughtfully includes a AAA battery, as well as a USB cord for connecting the EasyBloom sensor to tight spots with USB ports.
Although not made from recycled materials, this product gets a few "green" points for shipping nestled within a recyclable and compostable PaperForm tray, rather than polystyrene. The outer cardboard box is also recyclable.
The Web site helps you narrow down plants by color, bloom season, foliage characteristics, height, soil type (from acidic to well-drained), and so forth. We liked its simplicity, which shouldn't scare off technophobes.
To get started, plug the petal sensor into a PC, and then on the Web site pick from among three options: "Recommend," to learn which plants may fit a specific location; "Monitor," to check on a specific plant's health in its current location; or "Water," to learn how much a plant needs to drink.