Timothy: Sensors are a big deal at CES this year. They are small devices that track everything from the location of your pets to how many steps you have taken today. I talked to Philipp Bolliger. He has founded a company called Koubachi AG. It is a Swiss company and they are only selling one product right now. It is a small sensor that can detect certain parameters of plant health and wirelessly transmit that information to your computer. Bolliger is an engineer by trade with computer background, but he says he does not have a green thumb.
Philipp: Koubachi is a plant care assistant that tells you when and how to care for your plants. It is an iPhone app that you can download in the App Store. You can use it on your iPhone or your iPad; if you don’t have an iPad you can also use the web app which works on Linux, Android all the different devices. And what Koubachi does is: It sends you a push notification or an email when your plant needs to be taken care of. So you don’t have to worry anymore about how to take care of your plant; Koubachi will just tell you. You can get started for free. Just download the app, choose your plants from the large library, we have all the plant types in here.
I will show it again. So in the library, all the plant types are in here; if you don’t know how to do that, if you don’t know the name, we also have a wizard which helps you do that. Once you find out what your plant is, you just set it up once and you get notifications right away. If you have a precious plant or a more expensive plant, you maybe want to add the sensor. The Wi-Fi plant sensor that we developed measures the soil moisture, the light intensity and the temperature. The cool thing about it is: It is battery powered but it is Wi-Fi. So you just put it into the plant, you set it up once, and it measures these three things continuously. So it continuously measures all of that. And no matter where you are in the world, we know the vitality status of your plant and send you a notification whenever it needs to be taken care of.
Timothy: Do you have to subscribe to your service to do that, to get your Wi-Fi notification?
Philipp: No. It does it all for free. You can start with the app for free, and if you buy the sensor the service will be free for lifetime.
Timothy: How did you come to this idea?
Philipp: Well, I have the very same problem myself. When I first had a very big plant, I was surprised at how expensive it is, and I tried to figure out how to do that, because I don’t have a green thumb. I don’t know how to do that. So I tried to figure out – there must be a simpler solution than just buying books, or looking it up on the internet and creating calendars. And that is why I created Koubachi.
Timothy: What is your background, to create this piece of hardware; are you a programmer are you an engineer?
Philipp: Yeah, I am engineer. I studied computer science so I knew a lot about the computer stuff, with the hardware stuff which we developed it on our own. Then I started with a plant physiologist which was really interesting; I learned a lot. And I am very passionate about plants. So this is easy for me to learn that as well.
Timothy: Well a lot of products here aren’t even available. What is the availability of this?
Philipp: It is available this week. Actually we are on the market in Europe for seven months. And we just started in the US. So it will be available this week on Amazon, and App Online.
Timothy: Do you have a website, if we want to learn more about it?
Philipp: Yeah we do. If you want to learn more about Koubachi, go to our website, it is www.koubachi.com.
Timothy: Okay. Tell us what ‘Koubachi’ means.
Philipp: Do you want the short version or the long and funny version?
Timothy: Whatever, the funny version sounds good to me.
Philipp: The funny version is: When I first discussed this idea with a friend of mine, he said, it is kind of similar to tamagotchi, if you remember. And we tried to figure out what tamagotchi means, it doesn’t actually mean anything, but the chi at the end is a diminutive so it just makes it smaller, and then we tried to figure out what plant means. One guy yelled through the room ‘it is kouba’. And we wrote down Koubachi and that is it. And it was about one year later when we found out that kouba probably spelt differently and certainly written differently in Japanese means plant, yes, but not plant the biologic thing, but plant the factory so there you go. We are a small factory.
Timothy: Right, very good.