#23 - Seaside Poolside

Gardening at a Distance

Courtesy of Gardena

“Some people think technology shouldn’t be in the garden,” landscape architect Hay-Joung Hwang told ArchiExpo. “But it’s a way to help people enjoy the garden more without harming it.”

As a “smart home” extension, home gardens become practical with connected devices. South Korea-born, U.K.-based Hwang is excited to see the potential for landscape technology advance thanks to companies like Parrot, Green IQ and Rachio who are moving forward on developing smart products for the garden.

Connecting Greens

“I think the concept of technology in gardens is the stepping stone.”

Hwang planned and created the LG Smart Garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in England, one of her dreams since she began studying landscape architecture 10 years ago. In 2014, she set her mind on developing a garden that would incorporate technology. Few tested and improved devices actually existed for the garden at this time. “I was worried about finding any,” Hwang said.

Courtesy of landscape architecture firm Randle Siddeley

When she pitched her idea to LG Technologies in hopes that the company would sponsor her project (which it did), the president of LG saw the bigger picture: It didn’t matter if the project would put LG’s products forward. The president saw the garden as a new field for technology, a building block to further development. One such outsider device was the Wemo by Belkin, an out-of-soil connected solution for lighting.

“They wanted to be a part of the bigger picture,” Hwang explained.

The architect, inspired by and very much in love with technology, selected one of LG’s very large single-glass panel TVs to fit the flower show’s theme: bringing the indoors outdoors. The TV accompanied beautiful furniture on the patio for visitors to enjoy.

Selecting the Smart Tools

A connected treat hid in the LG Smart Garden, which won the Silver Gilt medal, selected by Hwang. The revolutionary company Parrot, who, according to Hwang, launched the first smart garden monitor, continues to develop its Flower Power.

“I’ve tested the product, and have a few at my apartment. It’s great for indoors.”

Watch this video for a review of Flower Power, and this one in which scientists test the product. Watch the video below to see how the Flower Power functions.

For the flower show, Hwang considered Edyn, a more sophisticated connected garden monitor released in 2015 with features like being able to cross-reference the data collected from one’s garden with current meteorological data; however, she remained loyal to the revolutionary Flower Power. “I read the comments on Edyn, the pros and the cons, and it would have been too risky to select this product for the Chelsea Flower Show.”

After putting the Flower Power to work during the show, Hwang concluded that it needs further development for outdoor use. The Flower Power gets a bit confused when surrounded by too many plants. For the moment, one Flower Power can only analyze a single flower in a pot with ease.

“It’s a perfect device for an introduction to these types of technologies and I think they’ll eventually make it perfect for both indoors and outdoors.”

A technology enthusiast through and through, Hwang spoke highly of Edyn, saying it illustrates an amazing opportunity. “If I were an engineer, I’d love to work on this kind of project. Edyn’s quite a good one, despite the cons.” Watch this video to understand how it works.

Edyn connected garden archiexpo

Courtesy of Edyn

What’s Out Now

Incidentally, either from luck or premonition, the same year Hwang pitched her connected garden project idea for the flower show in 2014, a handful of products were launched. There have since been several smart devices put on the market.

Connected watering and lawn maintenance solutions now exist so people can keep caring for their gardens and still take that three-week vacation. The Gardena smart system, for example, contains the Water Control sprinkler, the robotic lawnmower SILENO+ to cut the greens and the Sonde, which collects information concerning soil humidity, light and temperature. All Gardena smart system products are controlled via an application for smartphones. See this article’s featured image.

Rachio produces the WiFi Smart Sprinkler Control system, claiming it can save up to 50% on one’s outdoor watering bill. “What makes a device like this so interesting is the ability to react to real-time weather data specific to one’s own geographic location to adapt its watering schedule,” Forbes published in its review on Rachio.

The Greenbox sprinkler system seems to perform in the same way as Rachio, adapting the watering schedule to current weather. It covers eight zones of the garden that the user selects and monitors those zones, while the second-generation model of RainMachine Touch HD-12 covers 12 and RainMachine Touch HD-16, 16. On the connected road of soil monitoring and garden watering, Plantlink also provides a system of sensors and valves to create watering schedules, although the connected application allows manual watering as well.

A product that doesn’t need to touch the soil, the Netatmo Weather Station monitors the weather and sends this information to the user’s smartphone. It collects data such as the temperature, humidity, air quality, CO2 level and sound level. The device, for both indoor and outdoor use, alerts the user when it’s time to air out their home in order to lower or eliminate interior air pollution.

Room To Explore

Designing garden areas, which falls under the private client sector, and public spaces present different challenges and requirements. While most landscape architects begin by designing for public spaces, technology offers solutions for any situation. Smart devices for the ‘land’ find their place, for now, mainly in private gardens both large and small.

“I’d like to explore this more in order to integrate it into public projects,” Hwang said.

About the Author

American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of AgriExpo e-magazine and ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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