Review: Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor Outdoor
We were intrigued by Parrot's 2013 CES preview of Flower Power, a Bluetooth Smart wireless iOS-compatible accessory for monitoring plants. Yet Koubachi turns out to be first to market with the concept, as it has debuted the Wi-Fi Plant Sensor Outdoor ($130). Available in the United States exclusively online, including Apple's web store, this Wi-Fi enabled device is designed to work with both indoor and outdoor plants, communicating information back to the company's free iPhone app or its website. Is it worth $130 to know when to water your plant? Read on to find out.
Koubachi’s sensor looks something like an inverted golf club. From end to end, it’s about seven inches long. Most of that length comes from the metal pole that actually sticks into the soil, with a moisture sensor at the very bottom. The rest is an egg shaped plastic housing, which holds the batteries—two AA, included, and rated to last for more than a year—more sensors, the wireless transmitter, and a single button. It’s IPX4 rainproof, but not submersible. Getting the sensor onto your Wi-Fi network takes a few steps, but the app does walk you right through the process and it’s not difficult as long as you follow the instructions. Of course, your plant must be in range of your Wi-Fi network to communicate its information.
Once you’ve stuck the sensor in your plant, everything else is handled by Koubachi’s app. The first step is to add your plant, from the dozens in the database. Notably, the dracaena—a common house plant—we picked up from Home Depot wasn’t in the system, although over-the-air library updates are promised. Once you’ve named it, and listed its location, the sensor will begin analyzing the plant for characteristics such as soil moisture, temperature, and light intensity. Some of these aspects take up to several days to calibrate, although there are no instructions as to if you should be doing anything to aid the process. Once all is set, one page will tell you the moisture percentage, temperature, and light level of the plant, while another will inform you as to when the plant needs to be watered, misted, or fertilized, and if it needs a different temperature or light level. These instructions also come via push notifications. While it can be used for multiple plants at a time by carrying it from plant to plant, it seems to us like it’s not necessarily optimal for that.
Although we’re not botanists, in our testing, Wi-Fi Plant Sensor Outdoor worked about as well as we expected it to. The notifications came through, and the figures were all seemingly accurate. For those who might be growing more exotic breeds, or who are simply unable to keep track of their plants for some reason, it might make sense. But for the average person who simply has a houseplant that needs to be watered a few times a week, the cost simply makes the accessory prohibitive. At $20 or $30, it might be a neat option for a wider audience, but at $130 it’s far too niche. Because only the most dedicated, or forgetful, gardeners should consider it, it earns a limited recommendation.