Hop over to Kickstarter this morning and you'll see the smart gardening platform the Eve Ecosystem launched its crowd-funding campaign. Built specifically to work with the SmartThings home automation hub, Eve is designed as an irrigation controller that automatically adapts to the conditions of your yard. It can manage up to 16 different watering zones of your home's existing sprinkler system. You can control each zone individually from your smart phone or tablet, or let Eve do the scheduling for you. It'll process data from its moisture sensor -- called Adam -- placed in your yard, and take into account any weather info gathered by the SmartThings hub, to give your lawn the exact amount of water it needs.
Eve, the first product by Plaid Systems, will have plenty of connected capability right from launch, including IFTTT functionality, courtesy of the existing SmartThings platform. For example, you could have your sprinklers automatically turn off whenever you open the front door, then turn back on a set amount of time later.
SmartThings, a former Kickstarter project itself, was recently acquired by Samsung to help them grow their footprint in the ever-growing smart home market. With a bevy of motion sensors and power controls already at its disposal, SmartThings can now use Eve to expand outside of the walls of the Smart Home.
The increased profile of SmartThings caused by the Samsung deal can only help Eve with its Kickstarter campaign. The downside of Eve building its system for SmartThings is the greatly increased initial cost for interested parties who don't already own a SmartThings hub, as the Eve Irrigation system won't function without it.
On its own, the SmartThings hub costs $99. The Eve Irrigation controller will retail separately for $150, with each Adam sensor tacking on $55. Together, the two sell for $200. All prices will be consistent for Kickstarter backers and shoppers once it hits store shelves, though Plaid is offering a limited number of discount devices for those who pledge early. They plan to have the product ready to ship by March of 2015. Currently, the Eve Ecosystem is not available overseas.
Even with the cost of the SmartThings hub, Plaid's pricing for both the Eve and Adam components pits it favorably against the competition. The Rachio Iro functions as an irrigation controller similar to Eve. It costs $249 or $299 for an 8 zone or 16 zone capacity, with the low price matching the cost of an Eve plus a SmartThings hub.
Similar to Eve, you can use the Iro to manually control each sprinkler zone or allow it to take care of the watering schedule for you. Rachio's device connects directly to your Wi-Fi router, so it can adapt to weather information without the need for a separate hub.That said, SmartThings allows Eve's system to scale in a way that Rachio's can't match.
Each Eve controller can manage up to eight Adam sensors. Both Adam and Eve communicate with the SmartThings hub with Zigbee. Stick Adam in the ground and it'll measure air temperature and soil moisture. Each one is intended to give you accurate readings for an entire area of your yard. You can indicate what type of landscape your Adam is monitoring. The choices ranging from lawn to garden to flower bed. Plaid claims that Adam will use this information to help the zones of your yard customize how much water each area needs.
With two capacitive conductors in the part of the sensor in the dirt, Adam gets its moisture readings by sending a current back and forth and checking conductivity. These two sensors are also designed to calculate both the surface moisture and the moisture near any roots.
Rachio's system offers nothing comparable to Adam, but there are plenty of other plant sensors out there. We recently reviewed three of them: The $80 PlantLink from Oso Technologies, the $60 Parrot Flower Power, and the $130 Koubachi Wi-Fi Sensor. All three connect directly to dedicated apps with large plant databases so you can get customized advice for every aspect of the care-taking of a specific flower or herb.
Thus, the Adam sensor won't be the best option to care for a single plant. Both the Koubachi Sensor and the Flower Power even measure more data, but neither offer sprinkler compatibility so again, Eve's system gains the edge with scalability.
Eve's main competition in this regard could come from the similarly themed Edyn sensor. Edyn raised money on Kickstarter for a sensor and water valve combination earlier in the year, with a combined cost of $160, but that was for backers. The retail cost will be more and hasn't been announced. Edyn also plans to ship in March of 2015. The big difference between Edyn and Eve -- Edyn's valve attaches to a hose, and the Eve controller requires a sprinkler system. Thus, deciding between the two will simply come down to whether or not you have a sprinkler system installed.
Nathan Cauffman, the founder of Plaid, has gambled that users will appreciate painting with broader strokes by specifying landscape types for an area as opposed to customizing for specific plant types in a more localized zone. Those looking for a device dedicated to a specific plant will have plenty of better options available, including generic non-connected plant sensors which can cost as little as $10. Additionally, for those without a sprinkler system Edyn will fit your needs better, while for those without a SmartThings hub, the barrier to entry with Eve will be steep.
That said, the gamble taken by Plaid is based on the idea that consumers want to have an active hand in expanding their smart home, and covering large areas with a single sensor will be a more cost efficient way to do it. Additionally, with IFTTT compatibility and software open to developers, Plaid has put the pieces in place for the Eve Ecosystem to be a great choice for gardening and smart-home enthusiasts.