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The Next Thing In Home Automation: Backyard Automation

The Droplet is a robot sprinkler that knows your weather, soil, and plants, and waters accordingly.

So, you’ve installed a Nest thermostat that turns down the heat when you’re not at home. You’ve got WeMo switches allowing you to tune down lights remotely. Your fridge automatically orders milk when you run out (well, not yet, but probably in the future). What’s next in home automation?

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The garden? Yes, the garden, says Steve Fernholz, an ex-Microsoft programmer who’s come up with Droplet, a smart sprinkling device.

Like the Nest, the Droplet takes the hassle out of trying to save money on household bills. Set the blobby white device on your lawn or flowerbeds (connected to a hose) and watch it do its thing. The sprinkling is calibrated to your backyard’s weather (Droplet takes data from 10,000 weather stations across the country), local soil types, and plant-specific watering plans. From your smartphone or tablet, you set the thing and watch it run.

See more in the video here:

At $300 on Amazon, the Droplet is expensive compared to a $35 standard sprinkler. But Fernholz says it quickly pays for itself. Because the device only projects water to particular spots, and not indiscriminately, it can save up to 90% of the water you might use normally, he says. That equates to a fair few dollars on your water bill, especially if you have a garden and live in a warmer climate.

“It’s a lot more expensive than a sprinkler that just goes back and forth spraying everywhere. But if you compare it to underground irrigation system, it’s a lot less expensive. Then you’ve got to look at the return on investment,” he says.


We haven’t actually seen the unit for ourselves, but it looks nice enough. Droplet connects to smartphones or tablets via Wi-Fi (with a range of about 100 feet) and is controlled via an app. For now, power comes from a cable to the house, though Fernholz says future versions will use solar charging instead.

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It sort of looks like someone urinating in your garden (take a look at the video). But your plants will be happy, and you’ll no longer have the bother. If you’re not into watering, it could be $300 well spent.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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