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The GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub brings friends to the connected yard

/ Updated: September 8, 2015 9:00 AM PDT
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Editors' note, January 11, 2016: GreenIQ introduced a new look hub at CES 2016. The piece has been updated accordingly.

Smart gardening tools have made it easy to get the great outdoors hooked up to the Internet. We've seen plenty of connected plant sensors, weather monitors , and sprinkler controls , and now Israeli startup GreenIQ Hub wants its Smart Garden Hub to control all three.

The third version of the GreenIQ Hub can't do this all on its own. First and foremost, it's a smart sprinkler controller that replaces your existing box and can manage up to sixteen zones (up from the six zones of the first generation GreenIQ). Like the Rachio Iro and the Blossom Smart Watering Controller , it monitors the weather and uses that information to help you manage your watering schedule. If it's going to rain, the sprinklers won't run. If it's particularly dry and hot, they'll run more.

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The original design is on the left. The new look sensor is on the right.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

GreenIQ sets itself apart with its communication capabilities. It connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi -- standard stuff -- or through a cellular signal. GreenIQ can also access AT&T's 3G signal. It's the only smart irrigation controller with this option. And it can communicate with other smart devices via its open API, its channel on IFTTT or a direct interface.

The garden gang

GreenIQ previously announced collaboration with the Parrot Flower Power and the Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor. In theory, you can use the moisture and temperature readings from these connected plant sensors to help your sprinkler system be that much more accurate.

GreenIQ can also directly communicate with the Netatmo Urban Weather Station , so you won't have to rely on weather predictions for your general area. Instead, you can use the weather readings right from your backyard to guide your sprinkler.

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GreenIQ

With the help of its partners, GreenIQ stands to be the most informed smart sprinkler controller out there. GreenIQ will even have a flow meter allowing you to measure the precise amount of water used. Whether that makes an actual difference remains to be seen. GreenIQ has promised as much as 50 percent savings on your water bill compared with standard, non-smart controllers.

The GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub costs $249 and is available worldwide with free shipping via the GreenIQ site. It has an iOS app and an Android app. The price converts to approximately £165 and AU$320 for those in the UK and Australia, respectively. It's also available online at Home Depot.

The rivals

Looking closer at the competition, the Rachio Iro gives you eight zones instead of six for the same price, and also costs $249. The Iro also comes in a 16-zone version for $299, and it has its own IFTTT channel. Parrot and Netatmo have IFTTT channels as well.

You might not be getting a large advantage via the direct connections between those devices and the GreenIQ Hub. Parrot can only communicate via Bluetooth and thus needs your phone or tablet to come into range to send its data to the cloud. If the GreenIQ could help bridge that gap, so it could talk to your garden without you remembering to take a trip out there, that would be pretty significant.

As it stands, the information from the GreenIQ Hub and any of its partners only meets up once it all arrives at the cloud. I'm doubtful that it could get any more info out of a Parrot Flower Power or Netatmo Weather Station than you could send to Rachio via IFTTT.

The Blossom Smart Watering Control offers a cheaper alternative, selling for $199 and covering 12 zones. It's not as advanced at interoperability as either the GreenIQ Hub or the Rachio Iro, but it communicates through power line, using the wires of your home, in addition to Wi-Fi for a theoretically stronger signal over a greater distance.

Both the Blossom and the GreenIQ Hub are waterproof. The Rachio Iro isn't. All three allow you to set custom schedules via an iOS or Android app and also allow you to use a desktop interface should you choose to forgo a smart device.

Outlook

Whether the GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub can get enough details from its partners to outdo the Rachio Iro or the Blossom Smart Watering Controller remains to be seen. That said, it bests the Rachio by being waterproof, and it bests the Blossom with interoperability, and it'll soon round out its functionality with a flow meter to detect leaks.

If everything works together as promised, and the devices in its smart garden family really can make a difference over basic weather predictions, it could be the winner of the comparable trio of smart watering controllers. As it stands, it looks primed to be an interesting competitor.

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