Can't remember when to water the plants? Wish they could just tell you when they need watering—just call you on the phone or something? Or maybe text you, "Help I'm desiccating!" Telecommunications researcher Kate Harman has come up with the device of an absent-minded plant owner's dreams—Botanicalls. It hooks up to your plant and sends you a short text message when the plant is too dry.
Each kit costs $99 and includes metal sensors connected to a microcontroller. Insert the sensors into the plant's soil and it measures moisture levels all day and night. The sensor sends its information to a microcontroller that compares the measured moisture level with what it should be and determines if the moisture is too low, too high, or just right. The microcontroller wirelessly transmits to your computer, and your computer sends a pre-planned text message that corresponds with high or low levels of water. If you've just watered you plant, it might send, "Thank you, oh wonderful owner." If the plant needs water, it might send, "How could you forget...again" or perhaps something less self-effacing.
Botanicalls can be useful to seasoned plant owners, as well. The kit can help you more precisely monitor those tough-to-grow plants. Tropical plants in dry offices are tricky because they need a little more water than usual, but not too much. "Give me two coffee cups of water today, please," they might say. Plants in deep pots hold water toward the bottom while the top gets bone dry, so it feels like they need watering when they don't. Botanicalls eliminates the guessing game.
The creator of Botanicalls, Kate Hartman, is professor of telecommunications at NYU and makes various other interactive telecommunications solutions, such as her recently released StitchLits LED sewing kit.
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