Your smart garden options are growing, and Blossom, a new irrigation controller designed to compete with the Rachio Iro , hopes to stand out from the crowd. Like the Iro, you install Blossom using your existing wires, then control your sprinkler system remotely via an app. But Blossom is promising increased range and durability.
Blossom, the product of a new California-based startup of the same name, further differentiates itself from the Wi-Fi-only Iro by adding weather resistance, in case your controller is outside, and by broadcasting its signal via Power-line in addition to Wi-Fi. Power-line networking transmits signal through the wiring in your home, passing information between the controller and a bridge that plugs into your network. The bridge translates for the router, so the system can talk to the cloud. In theory, the signal strength isn't reduced as much by distance or location as it is when a controller relies solely on Wi-Fi.
Adding cloud connectivity to your sprinkler system allows Blossom to help you take weather into account when planning your watering schedule. You can set things up manually if you'd like, or simply indicate the type of plant in each zone and let Blossom go to work. By watering based on this plant and weather data, Blossom claims it can get your plants the moisture they need while saving you an average of 30 percent on your water bill.
You can pre-order Blossom now via the Kickstarter campaign that launched today. It'll retail for $179 and can cover up to 12 zones. That's a good price compared to the 8-zone controller from Rachio that costs $250. Rachio also sells a $300 16-zone model. Early birds will get an even better deal, with a limited number of Blossoms available for as little as $89.
Blossom plans to ship in January of 2015, whether or not they receive funding. At first, the product will be offered only in the US, but the company plans to expand internationally late in 2015.
You can interact with Blossom via the iOS or Android app; the app will work with both phones and tablets, or you can use the browser interface from your computer. Get things rolling and you can name each zone and give it a picture. Turn each sprinkler set on and off with the push of a button, then schedule them individually yourself if you'd like. Blossom even has a time option simply labeled "sunset" which I'm hoping means it'll give your yard an automatic sprinkle at the golden hour, changing the time accordingly as the seasons progress.
As mentioned above, Blossom can automate these schedules based on plant type, which is an especially nice feature. App screenshots show five levels of moisture to pick from, starting with "Ultra Eco" and working up to "Very Wet," and you'll be able to tinker with the specific settings of each one.
That said, I'm uncertain how precisely it can hit moisture levels without sensors actually measuring the soil. Upcoming systems like Edyn and Eve combine soil sensors with watering mechanisms to go beyond weather data and water your garden based on real time information.
Blossom claims to cover everything in its planning, saying the system uses hundreds of data points to make variations based on the plant, the sprinkler itself, and the yard's layout. That's certainly comprehensive, and if it all works, I'll be very impressed. I simply don't see how it can accurately account for all of the above factors without getting down into the dirt, literally.
Even if it can't cover all of the details of its promises, schedules that accommodate accurate weather predictions should keep it apace with the Rachio Iro. The range, the price, the number of zones covered, and the weather-proofing all seem deliberately intended to outdo its nearest competitor. If it can prove itself once released, it'll make for an interesting comparison.