'EasyBloom' connects gardens to web

February 2, 2009 1:24:31 PM PST
Gardening is still the most popular hobby in the United States. So, since it seems everything else is connected to the Internet, why not your garden?

A San Francisco company has cultivated a way for plants to report what they need and where they need to be planted.

"I've really been a self-taught gardener," says Carol Cohen of Pleasanton.

Cohen is using a new gardening tool. It is a smart flower that gathers information about the garden. She used it after she had no luck growing gardenias.

"I moved the gardenia to a better location, asked the EasyBloom if that was a good spot for it. It said, 'Yes, you should be able to grow gardenias here,' and have since had blooming gardenias from that spot."

Matt Glenn is founder of PlantSense the San Francisco company that developed the EasyBloom.

"The sensor wakes up every 15 minutes," he explains, "takes a snapshot of the world the way a plant would see the world, and then goes back to sleep.

"This is actually gathering the photoreactive radiation, or just the spectrum of light that a plant looks at. This is measuring temperature and humidity. This technology right here is the technology NASA used on the Phoenix mission, the one that discovered water on Mars recently," he says.

The sensor knows the time, the temperature and the day of the year. It knows the humidity, amount of sunlight over the last 24 hours and moisture in the soil. But, it does not know where it is.

That is where the Internet comes in.

When it is plugged into a computer the device transfers information to an account on a website. It matches your postal code with databases of the weather service or seed companies, to recommend plants for that location, or care for plants already there.

Some gardeners might find this overkill. Some master gardeners may even think it is silly, but they are not the target audience.

There is no charge for using the device which costs around $50. It does not take wi-fi or GPS, yet.

Think of it as just the first planting of Web-enabled devices throughout our lives.