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Video CES: Automatic Plant Monitoring Through Your Computer or iPhone (Video) 44

Timothy Lord starts this video with these words: "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." And so he chatted with Phillip Bolliger, founder of Swiss company Koubachi AG, which makes Wi-Fi sensors that help you give your plants the right amount of water and light and to keep them at the right temperature. As of this writing, the prices on their online store are in Euros, not dollars, but the sensors are now available through Amazon with U.S. pricing. Koubachi also has a free app for your iOS device, and a Facebook app for your computer or Android device, that will help you give your plants the right amount of fertilizer and other love even if you don't buy a Koubachi sensor.

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.

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CES: Automatic Plant Monitoring Through Your Computer or iPhone (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Here I was excited for an app to monitor flow rates and temperatures. But no, it is for those things that make sugar from the sun.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:24PM (#42682719)

    Nudge nudge wink wink say no more. Legalize it brah!

  • Finally, all of the Farmville experts have something they can apply their skills to!
    • Finally, all of the Farmville experts have something they can apply their skills to!

      Hmm... game plugins for real world application... interesting idea.

  • by mrheckman ( 939480 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:29PM (#42682785)

    Amazon sells them for $99 a sensor. At that price, I can almost afford to have someone come in and water the plants for me.

    Or, better yet, I can just continually get new plants and toss the old ones.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      or if you actually gave two shits about your plants, you'd be sure to make the time to care for them... ..i've never understood why people consider plants orniments instead of what they really are, STATIONARY PETS

      • .i've never understood why people consider plants orniments instead of what they really are, STATIONARY PETS

        Like these [firstpalette.com]?

      • LOL, yeah, all I did for 10 years was water them when they looked dry. All my plants thrived. When they were 'cared for' by other people? THEN they died. I conclude that plants pretty much want be left alone (OK, I do recomend repotting them maybe every 5-10 years depending on how much they grow. You MIGHT also add a few drops of plant food to their water, maybe once a year or so).

    • by plover ( 150551 )

      At first, I thought it was a neat idea. We have an orchid collection, and various species have unique and complex natural watering requirements, such as dry winters, rainy seasons, lithophytes that live with roots in streams, epiphytes with roots hanging on tree branches. And we have them in a variety of media, including mounted on cork bark, potted in bark, potted in clay pellets, potted in sphagnum moss, climbing on tree fern. We have dozens in high humidity habitats. All of these factors affect how f

  • in Colorado and Washington.
    • If you're going to make a pot joke, at least let it make sense: Amazon is a national distributor of goods. The key word is national. Now back to the bango drums!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Assuming one does want a gadget solution to the "problem" of not taking care of houseplants, it's probably cheaper to roll your own Raspberry Pi or Arduino solution than to spend $100 on this thing.

  • Would be good to monitor various locations on a golf course for turf management. If it were hardened for the weather....
  • Facebook app? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @03:48PM (#42682995) Journal

    Saying "...and a Facebook app for Android users" is the same as saying "Android is not supported". Seriously, I have no interest in using Facebook for anything, let alone as an interface to a third-party.

    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      Well on the other hand, signing up your plants for Facebook accounts is likely to be far more entertaining than the usual drivel posted on Facebook.

  • So what plant is worth all this technology? Hmm... I'll bet it is a Weed...

    • Some varieties of grapes, vegetables, etc. have a very short harvesting window. A day or two either way and you lose a lot of flavour and you won't fetch top dollar at the market.
      • Some varieties of grapes, vegetables, etc. have a very short harvesting window. A day or two either way and you lose a lot of flavour and you won't fetch top dollar at the market.

        If you're growing produce for sale, it's unlikely you're going to piss off on holiday and forget to water the fucking things. We all know that this kit is for people growing marijuana, so I expect it will come complete with a hidden transmitter straight to the government if it detects any pot.

  • I can imagine weed growers (and their quixotic whack-a-mole pursuers) will be very interested in this.
  • Is a cheap dumb sensor that you could deploy in a mesh network in orchards and farms. $99 isn't even worth the cost of replacing a single plant, unless it's a rare plant and then you're probably already observant enough to notice when a plants leaves aren't full and it needs water.

    Or just use appropriate plants. I did experiments on spider plants, given the right root system and humidity I went 6 months without watering one of them before it started getting nutrient deficient.

  • Too expensive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Thursday January 24, 2013 @05:09PM (#42683867)
    They should be selling for $20 not $100. I might understand if it actually controlled the watering and fertilizing. You're paying a $100 for something that will tell you while you are on vacation, "oh by the way your plant is dying". Most of the others cost $10 to $20 they just lack the iOS app. I made an automatic watering pot out of a used soda bottle and it would keep the plants watered for a week and didn't cost a dime. The joke is it actually watered the plants. If you are going to sell automated systems make it do some form of automation!
  • Slashdot, you're really not hitting the high registers with these videos.

    A video of people talking is good, but you need to punch it up a little. Use some powerpoint-style slides with text bullet points, then have the speaker read out the text as the audience follows along.

    Here's an example [hackaday.com] of what *not* to do.

    All that action and movement does little to enhance the video, and the scripted text makes it seem somehow terse. Don't do that - the discluencies - "ah", "uhmmm", "you know", and so on - are what mak

  • What kind of plants are we talking about here: Gas plants? Manufacturing plants? Pharmaceuticals plants?

    House plants? WTF???

    Oh yeah, it's an iPad ... lightweight.
  • At first I was quite excited about this thing, as I have been looking for something like this for a long time, but it is one of these things that are "almost, but not quite unlike tea" (from HHGG I believe).

    Background: I grow orchids; a lot of them. It isn't hard, I've got a conservtory for that, but when you grow things in a small, confined space, the microclimate becomes very important - or perhaps that should be nano-climate, since it can vary widely over a few 10s of centimetres.

    So, what I have been loo

  • by alexandre_ganso ( 1227152 ) <surak@surak.eti.br> on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:00AM (#42688999)

    For this price, I can buy an aerogarden, which comes with the water deposit, water pumps, lights and even comes with some seeds inside an optimized growing medium and fertilizer, besides being an aeroponics system, with a lot of advantages over growing stuff on dirt.

    Even for those pot growers this is not a good idea.

  • having looked at the web site the device costs about 75 euros. To do a job that I can do myself by simply looking at my plants and adding water/feed as required.

    Oh well, if you've got money to burn...

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine