With plant sensors like the Inolve Fliwer, it seems that the necessity of a green thumb is dying. An advanced sensor with both Wi-Fi connectivity and an app for iOS and Android, the Fliwer could be a real win for challenged gardeners like me.
I confessed my frequent, accidental plant murdering when I covered the Click & Grow Smart Flowerpot. Naturally, I am really excited about gardening technology where I am mostly, if not entirely, removed from the growing equation. I'm the problem, which is why this new gardening tech is so appealing. I'm hopeful that with products like the Click & Grow and Fliwer I won't measure the life span of plants in days, but rather months, and, if I'm really lucky (meaning if the products are really successful), years.
There must be more people like me, given the fairly rapid development in the smart gardening category, with technology like smart grow boxes or flowerpots and more advanced sensors. Newer plant sensors, like the Fliwer, don't remove me from the growing process, but they definitely help me to stay out of the way.
The Fliwer Sensor reads and transmits information about various growing elements, such as light, temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and conductivity, which measures fertilizer needs. This data from the sensor combines with weather forecasts and specific plant information from the Fliwer database to determine whether your plants need watering. The sensor is waterproof and, according to Fliwer's spec sheet, tested to withstand extreme weather conditions.
At a basic level, Fliwer is an attempt to change the way you water your plants and your yard. For example, traditional irrigation systems release water on a timer, whether or not the yard or plants need it. The Fliwer Sensor and Link Wifi communicate with the database to determine whether the soil in the sensor's range is dry enough to require watering. If the forecast predicts a lot of rain, Fliwer may direct you to hold off on watering to avoid oversaturating your garden. In addition, the Fliwer Sensor houses an irrigation valve. For those looking for a more hands-off approach to their gardens, this would be a welcome inclusion.
It's not just for large areas, however. The Fliwer Web site describes the product as being fully customizable with expansion potential. This means that you can customize the Fliwer system to function in a potted plant in your living room, a vegetable patch, or a large gardening operation. They claim that, with added Link and Control devices, you could use the Fliwer system to manage a space as large and unwieldy as a golf course.
Despite its embedded intelligence, Fliwer requires some smarts from you as well. For example, the sensor can track different plants within the same area, as long as they need similar kinds of care. Inolve even goes so far as to claim that, provided the plants are similar, one Fliwer Sensor can monitor several potted plants. If different plants are incompatible based on its database information, the Fliwer system will notify you. This means that it might not be the best option for those with existing produce or flower gardens unless you are willing to purchase enough sensors to account for your various plants' requirements.
If you're starting a garden from scratch and want to use the Fliwer system, you'll need to perform a little research so you can arrange your plants to best take advantage of the sensor's capabilities.
That the Fliwer senses is not so impressive as what it senses. Sunlight, temperature, and moisture detection are fairly common among smart plant sensors, such as the Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor. What is impressive about the Fliwer system, however, is the "electroconductivity sensing," which, if it works, measures not only the level of salt in the soil to avoid salinity troubles, but also the amount of fertilizer on the plant substrate. Experienced gardeners likely won't need to be told when to water their flowers or vegetables, but notifications about salinity and nutrient levels could be extremely helpful, especially when dealing with more delicate plants.
If you're the type wanting to bring social media to your gardening, Fliwer offers a community option that enables you to chat with other Fliwer users, learn more about specific gardening recommendations, share tips you've discovered, or simply communicate with like-hobbied individuals.
The Fliwer Wi-Fi sensor requires a Wi-Fi connection to connect to the Link, though Inolve also offers a 3G version. The sensor itself is charged via a USB cable that you can connect to the Link or any device with USB ports. Setup is not as simple as merely plugging the sensor into the ground and leaving it there, but neither does it seem to be overly complicated to activate the base kit. If you want to plug in a farm, well, that's a different story.
The Fliwer system is on Kickstarter right now, but is in the final development stages and, according to Inolve, not dependent upon Kickstarter funding to go into production. The basic kit, which consists of a Fliwer Sensor and Link Wifi, is priced at $249, though Fliwer is currently offering a reduced price of $199 on Kickstarter. Inolve projects that units will ship in January 2014.