05.13.14Alan Harris

Water Conservation in the Cloud

Droplet Water Conservation Robot
Spray up. Spray Down. Spray all around with the Droplet for amazing water conserving precision.

Sometimes the cloud brings rain and sometimes the cloud brings opportunities for water conservation. The cloud in question is the internet and it has changed and will continue to change the way we live our lives. These four innovations (recently or soon to be released) may or may not disrupt the world of irrigation, but they do have significant water conservation implications.

Droplet – Reinventing How Plants Get Water

A combination of robotics, cloud computing and connected services transform the way this sprinkler functions. Droplet draws upon a vast system of data to intelligently determine how best to care for the watering needs of plants. By being exceptionally smart, precise and frugal, Droplet reportedly can lower sprinkler water consumption by up to 90%.

What Makes Droplet Different

We know smart controllers use data from thousands of weather stations to determine the ET rate (evapotranspiration) and how much water should be applied to replace the water lost to wind, sun and plant transpiration. The Droplet takes it to the next step and applies water based on the individual plant’s horticultural needs all from a single sprinkler. Let Droplet know where the walks, drives, windows, building and other elements you want to stay dry and Droplet will adjust the arc of the nozzle to keep the irrigation off of those areas.

Another unique feature is Droplet only needs a standard garden hose, a power source and WiFi within 100 feet.. In other words a traditional irrigation system and controller is not required. With a 30 foot radius the droplet can apply its highly customizable water program to cover 2700 square feet of landscaping.

Iro – An Irrigation Controller…Sans Buttons and Knobs

Historically irrigation system controllers have a combination of buttons and knobs which have to be pushed and turned in the correct order to (hopefully) properly program. As irrigation systems have added more features the interface has become more complicated. The Iro by Racchio does not have a single knob or button. The system is controlled through an app on a smart phone designed specifically to make the experience painless and much more intuitive. Like any good smart controller, the Iro uses weather data, specific for your location and adjusts the watering schedule automatically.

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RainMachine – Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me for Water Conservation

For the slightly more tactile water conservationist, the RainMachine uses a touch screen interface, a handheld smart device or a computer. RainMachine also connects via WIFI and downloads weather data every 3 hours from NOAA. NOAA uses satellites, radars and thousands of weather stations, delivering the most accurate weather forecast on Earth. Forecasting seven days in advance, the RainMachine improves watering efficiency thus dramatically reducing water waste. RainMachine will even display the last 30 days of water use.

skydrop – Twist and Shout Your Way to Water Conservation

If you have a Nest thermostat you are familiar with the twist and push concept for programming. skydrop uses a similar interface to set the irrigation proram. skydrop also uses weather data to make smart irrigation water conservation decisions. However, skydrop goes one step further. After the initial setup skydrop enters a learning period where it will send push notifications to the user asking for feedback. With this information, skydrop, like Nest, fine tunes the schedule to maximize efficiency and water conservation.

The cloud and the “internet of things” will continue to bring new water conservation devices to market. These four water conservation devices and several others can be found here.  Some of these devices will likely be very successful and others maybe not so successful. In the latter case there may be some risk if the cloud service is proprietary and ends up being a sunny day with no cloud, forever. However, many of these devices will pay for themselves in a year so anything beyond the payback period keeps more money in your wallet for when the “next best thing” is released, which will hopefully include flow sensing and reports.

If you enjoyed reading about water conservation in the cloud, please share it with a friend, check out my previous posts, follow me on Twitter @h2oMatters and check out water stories I am reading on Flipboard:



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Alan Harris

Alan Harris is a water management pioneer. With roots in landscape architecture, Alan has worked with irrigation throughout his career experimenting with hydrozones and a variety of high efficiency irrigation systems. Now, over thirty years in the landscape industry, Alan continues to stay apprised of the latest technology even in a sales leadership capacity as our Director of Sales Operations for our landscape maintenance division. In addition to his contributions to this blog, Alan keeps his hand in water management as a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine and speaker at WaterSmart Innovations Conference.


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  1. Tuesday, 4:16 Mike Buettner

    Finally! Someone else talking about wifi enabled irrigation controllers! Welcome to the 20th century everyone!

  2. Wednesday, 8:02 Kathryn Boyce

    Great article! Re-posting now!

  3. Tuesday, 4:46 Kathy Nguyen

    This is a cool article. I am always both excited by the potential of the new technology and frustrated with the challenge of how we get folks to actually adopt it.

  4. Tuesday, 5:51 Alan Harris

    Thanks Mike, Kathryn and Kathy for your comments. This post has generated a lot of buzz on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my inbox (private messages from irrigation experts who had not heard of any of these new innovative products)
    Adoption can be found at the intersection of Awareness and Willingness. Willingness is achieved when the financial or social ROI exceeds the cost. Since these are all in the $200 – $300 price range the financial ROI can be achieved quickly depending on the price of water and the amount of water the irrigation system uses.

  5. […] reviewed several cloud based irrigation controllers in Water Conservation in the Cloud which all have an app for their irrigation controller. Richard Restuccia, Director of Water […]

  6. […] at the WaterSmart Innovations Expo were Droplet and Skydrop. You may recall these products from Water Conservation in the Cloud. Seeing these products in person for the first time our initial thoughts were Droplet was a little […]

  7. Monday, 5:34 Martin

    Interesting and has a lot of research too which is fantastic as it gives me a good overview. Here at Trobs we are committed to stuff and this has given us a good idea whether to make the investment or not.

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