Edyn, a company developed by ecologist Jason Aramburu, aims to make gardening an enjoyable experience for everyone. To that end, it has invented a sensor that aims to take the guesswork out of the process. The Edyn Garden Sensor and the Edyn Water Valve are the two hardware components of the company's current Kickstarter campaign. Those two pieces will work in tandem with a free smartphone application to monitor soil and air quality near your plants, watering them automatically when necessary, and only to the required extent.
The company's Kickstarter campaign already reached its funding goal, and it's continuing through July 8. If you want to get your hands on this product, for now, you'll need to donate to Kickstarter and wait. For a donation of $100 they'll send you a device from one of their first production runs, with an estimated delivery date of March 2015. If you need shipping outside of the US, add $22 to the cost. The cost for a sensor and a water valve is $160, plus $35 for overseas shipping, and you'll need to wait until April. Both the Edyn Garden Sensor and Water Valve won't reach retail shelves until the company has fulfilled its promises to backers, and it's said the price will be even higher at that point.
Edyn wants its system to be specific enough to help professionals yet friendly enough to be of use to amateurs. Both goals are lofty, especially when comparing the possible off-the-shelf cost to the competition's. See, Edyn isn't the first to the smart gardening party. Here at CNET, we recently reviewed three smart garden sensors with a variety of features designed to add convenience and knowledge to the process of keeping your plants alive. At a greater price point than the current Kickstarter cost, Edyn will be the most expensive of the bunch. Thus, it'll be a tough sell, to amateurs especially.
Fortunately for Edyn, it's promising a combination of features that has the potential to make it the best smart plant sensor yet. The Garden Sensor specifically monitors and makes recommendations on temperature, light, humidity, soil moisture, and soil nutrition. It measures the last two by checking the electrical conductivity of the soil. From the preliminary screenshots of the app, it looks like you'll be able to see specific measurements of any of the categories over time, and a snapshot of all conditions simultaneously.
The number of parameters measured by Edyn bests the $60 Parrot Flower Power, the previous data champ, by one. Parrot doesn't measure humidity, and its soil nutrition (fertilizer) readings proved inaccurate. Parrot calculates fertilizer amount via the electrical conductivity of the soil, the same method used by Edyn, so it'll be interesting to see if Edyn can get more precise results with the same measurement technique.
Additionally, humidity readings are suspiciously absent from all of the app screens currently released by the company. The $129 Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor also advises you about humidity but can't measure it; it simply extrapolates advice based on what it knows your plant likes. Perhaps this will be Edyn's approach as well, but to be a true step forward, the Garden Sensor will need to both measure environmental and advise you on what to do about them.
If the Edyn Garden Sensor can accurately measure all five listed categories, it really will be the best smart plant sensor for professionals needing data. To be the best at making gardening easy for amateurs, it will also need to prove itself convenient. With Wi-Fi capability and a solar powered battery that can supposedly last up to 2.5 years, it's off to a good start. The three we tested had standard batteries, but used very little power. All three should last about a year, but the standard batteries they use might be easier and cheaper to replace than the special solar-powered one used by Edyn when the time does come to swap them.
The range offered from the Edyn's optimized Wi-Fi signal could be among the best of the bunch, and that is an extremely important piece of convenient monitoring and care advice. The biggest drawback to the Parrot Flower Power was its limitation to Bluetooth signals. You had to be close to your plant with the app open to get any new data; your plant couldn't let you know something was wrong unless you were already checking on it. For a smart device, the Parrot Flower Power was severely limited in automation, and most of that was due to its choice of signal. The Koubachi Wi-Fi Sensor does well with automated monitoring using the same direct-to-router approach as Edyn.
The $79 PlantLink system, from Oso Technologies, had the best range of the bunch, and I have trouble believing any Wi-Fi signal can match what PlantLink was able to accomplish, range-wise, with its dedicated Zigbee radio frequency. A Kickstarter project itself, PlantLink also offers precise accuracy, friendly recommendations, and an easily readable graph that compares the readings from your plants directly to the ideal range for care. PlantLink measures only moisture level, though, so Edyn claims to beat it in the number of managed criteria, but it's hard to discern from the available pictures how user-friendly Edyn's recommendations will be.
Though the Edyn Garden Sensor has plenty of competition, the Edyn Water Valve is pretty unique. Edyn is attempting to be the first to offer a successful combination of plant sensor and watering control. Fliwer offers this, but its sensor still needs some refining. The upcoming Rachio Iro is a smart watering controller that can manage your yard's irrigation system and make adjustments based on weather, but you need to have a sprinkler system already in place to use it.
The Edyn Water Valve can simply be attached to a hose, making it the simplest watering control device yet. It'll also turn on or off based the sensor's readings, giving your plants the precise amount of moisture that they need. However, if you do have a yard with a sprinkler system, Edyn might not be compatible. Edyn also might get beaten to the punch by PlantLink, as it's promised a watering valve for its own system soon.
Edyn looks great. It worked with Yves Behar and his renowned design firm, fuseproject, to create the device's appearance. For manufacturing, it's partnered with the San Francisco arm of Flextronics, a Fortune 500 company. Edyn's founder, Jason Aramburu, has worked on ecology and sustainability research for years in a variety of locations and climates. Edyn has the pedigree to be great.
To fulfill the ambitious promise of the Edyn system, and have it become the perfect smart garden assistant, it'll have to be accurate, and responsive to changes (something the similarly priced Koubachi struggles with). It'll have to provide specific recommendations across all categories that are easily understandable and comparable to the data it collects. It'll need customizable alerts to keep you to task when necessary. It'll need a friendly and usable database to identify and learn about your plants. No smart garden sensor that we've tested has been able to perfect every aspect of this combination yet. Check back for the full review to see if Edyn nails it.