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IoT is Real – and Here to Stay

I recently got my first taste of an IoT solution that has been done right. For me, this was an “ah-hah” moment, a first-hand experience that brought into focus the power and potential of IoT technology to make us smarter and better our lives.

Sure, I’m familiar with the use of IoT sensors coupled with back-end, intelligent analytics and control for apps in areas as diverse as real-time train or flight routing and home automation. I’m aware of IoT technologies being applied in a range of relatively invisible machine-to-machine applications, accelerating decision-making and/or production while improving efficiency. Arguably boring, all good stuff. But it’s those consumer-facing, time-saving, knowledge-enabling IoT apps that we notice, and that bring the technology to life.

What is this groundbreaking app that delivered my epiphany, and along with it an instant and comprehensive understanding of the power of IoT to change our lives? Sprinkler automation. Uh – what was that you said? Yes, automating the watering of my yard. Hmm – and why, you ask, is that so special? Well, to understand that, you have to appreciate the pain and hassle I’ve endured over many decades to get the watering done, and done right. Controllers malfunctioning, batteries dying, inflexible programming schedules, no concept of whether it’s rained and watering is even needed – that’s a small sample of my woes. Grossly under-watering, mistakenly or unnecessarily over-watering; you name it, I’ve done it in spades. And keep in mind, I live in drought-stricken California, where five years of less-than-normal rainfall has drained reservoirs and made every drop of water seem valuable.

So imagine my delight when I installed an automated and intelligent, IoT-driven system that takes all of these cares away. The system—a Rachio Gen 2 Smart Sprinkler Controller—is based on AWS IoT technology, and is both smart and dead simple to set up and use. (This blog is not meant to endorse or review this particular product, but rather to use it to illustrate the capabilities that IoT technology helps to enable.) The primary (and only required) system interface is an iPhone app, which connects to the controller via Wi-Fi and to Rachio servers in the AWS cloud. The system is aware of the type of soil, slope, etc. of the lawns, which helps to determine the timing and amount of watering, and accesses the latest local weather patterns to dynamically adjust the irrigation schedule. The optional use of rain and freeze sensors (connected to controller ports) can enable the system to be turned off when watering is not needed or advisable. At last, a watering solution I don’t have to worry or even think about, made possible in part by the use of IoT technology.

You can definitely “set and forget it”, but if you so choose, the app will tell you when watering cycles have been completed, estimated gallons used, and water savings due to greater efficiency. In the future, Rachio plans to add a flow sensor that will measure actual water usage more accurately and might also help to detect any issues. The vendor has set up an online community, and is presumably capturing sensory and user data about watering habits, consumption and savings (per any number of environmental and customer segments), which it can then analyze to further improve both its product and customers’ irrigation practices.

I believe this is just an early example of the amazing possibilities that IoT technology has for our lives, both personally and professionally. And yes, lest I’ve bored you with all of this, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

  • Premiered: 06/16/16
  • Author: Jeff Byrne
Topic(s): IoT Cloud


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