In the age of the ' internet of things', it was only a matter of time before one of man's oldest and most important technologies, irrigation, went online. Newer generation irrigation controllers are integrating the power of the web and putting the power of your controller in your pocket resulting in water and time savings.
What is smart irrigation?
Smart irrigation involves the linking of your irrigation controller to the Internet, typically via your home or business Wi-Fi network, though there are options available that utilise cellular data networks for more remote locations.
Smart irrigation allows for the scheduling, monitoring and triggering of irrigation cycles from both local and remote locations. It also allows for the input of external data such as weather stations and sensing equipment such as flow metres and rain sensors to provide real-time impacts on scheduled irrigation programs and alerts to your smart device should any fault occur such as pipe breakages or wire and solenoid faults.
Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth
The primary differences between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controllers comes down to the distances in which they can be operated, as well as the external integrations and intelligence available to them.
Bluetooth is a direct connection to your device that can operate at distances of up to approximately 10m, meaning it is fine for scheduling your controller as long as you are actually on site and within range. This can be useful when scheduling valves housed within a confined value box. Using a smart device to schedule your contoller is also typically a more user-friendly experience than navigating the logic of the controller itself. External sensors such as as rain sensors can also often be incorporated, though this is generally the limit of external data available to the controller.
Wi-Fi controllers, on the other hand, can be operated from the other side of the globe providing there is internet access in both locations. Wi-Fi also provides additional networking and reporting options, allowing the controller to update with regular weather updates from local weather stations and use these factors to adjust the irrigation schedule.
The first of these new controllers are designed for both residential and commercial applications and can control from 4 - 36 zones with the addition of expansion modules. An overview of two from Hunter and Rainbird can be found below:
Rainbird LNK Wi-Fi
The Rainbird system requires the addition of an LNK Wi-Fi Module to select current models (for older controllers an upgraded controller face is also available that can be swapped-in for an older model at a subsidised cost - contact your irrigation supplier for details). A simple setup procedure using your smart device allows the connection to your Wi-Fi network. These models are designed for home and light commercial settings with up to 24 stations/valves.
For more details see: www.rainbird.com
Hunter HydrawiseThe Hydrawise system is a purpose-built Wi-Fi enabled controller featuring a TFT touchscreen and expandable modules to control up to 36 stations/valves. An optional subscription to their 'Enthusiast' plan ($60pa) will open up additional weather station data and allow other functionality such as SMS alert notifications.
For more see: www.hydrawise.com