Water Your Lawn? There's an App for That

Greebox iPad Mockup
Greebox iPad Mockup

Israeli start-up Greenbox is connecting your lawn to the Internet of Things, aiming to be Nest for your backyard.

With a similar website to Nest, they hit all the usual buttons: easy-to-use, firmware updates, cross-platform, water-conserving devices with a simple user interface you can access from your phone or computer.

As TechCrunch reports, the Greenbox value doesn’t just come from being a remote control for your lawn sprinklers, it comes from its place in the Internet of Things: devices that can tap into local weather data and make adjustments as a result.

About to rain? Then don’t water your lawn. The clouds above will take care of that for you because your sprinklers are talking to a cloud of another type.

Greenbox tells TechCrunch that this kind of smart thinking lawn irrigation system can save you up to 50% on water consumption.

“Greenbox has a simple interface with remote access,” says Dior. “It programs itself based on weather. It learns and improves over time, conserves water, saves money, and above all it will have a fun UX made for real people.” That UX, he notes, comes courtesy of modern and ubiquitous smartphone platforms like iOS. “Since the advent of the smartphone, home automation technology is booming indoors and accessible to the masses. The same need for automation exists in the yard,” he adds.”

Do You Lust After a Feature Set?


Nest is one of the early winners on the consumer-facing Internet of Things. Starting with a thermostat, and now offering a smart looking (and acting) smoke detector, they’ve set the bar for how the Internet of Things might look (when they need to look any way at all – a lot of IoT is invisible), how its interfaces are designed, and how to handle usability.

But these are early days. Days when the focus is on making things smarter and, for the user, making them easier or creating utility – like saved costs on heating or reduced water consumption.

With so much focus on the mechanics and narrow use cases, we end up with connected devices that sound a little like how computers used to be sold: filled with features and specifications with maybe a nod to design.

Nest in part succeeded, I think, because the object itself was a thing you could lust after. You kind of want to have it in your home in the hope that your friends will notice it and ask about it when they come over for drinks in your perfectly-adjusted temperature-controlled living room.

Looking for Stories on the Internet of Things
But I’ll be curious to see the next layer of these kinds of narrowcast smart devices:

– When will products like Greenbox be able to “talk” to other devices like Nest? What happens when they share data with each other? Why do I need 2 dashboards (or 5 or 20) when they might all be pulling down the same weather data?
– How can user intent become ambient in reply? Maybe I’m planning a house party which is in my calendar and all my devices and gizmos can kind of read my ambient intent and make little adjustments on their own – turning the sprinklers off before the BBQ without me needing to poke around on my phone to find the damn sprinkler app?

As we start to think about people as devices on the Internet of Things we’ll start to see really rich emerging use cases. I know – it sounds kind of creepy, I’m a person afterall! But right now, a lot of devices focus on the user as being, well, a user…which is fine, but there are interesting innovations that come from thinking of people as beacons who carry around their own little tags and data packets of intent.

But the main thing I’m waiting to see are stories.

Look, saving water is great, and who really LIKES to go out and drag a sprinkler across the lawn, or rush out and turn it off when it starts to rain?

But wouldn’t it be great to see a time lapse series of photos, a little storyline on the history of a particular plant, or how well your lawn has done over time, or what you did there on the Fourth of July?

What about little links to how other people have solved a particular problem with their lawn – a sort of shared, collective story powered by the Internet of Things?

As I say…it’s early days. We’re getting better and better at creating smarter and smarter things. But those things have context, life and history. I can’t wait to see where products like Greenbox take us as we move from watering the lawn into building a narrative architecture for the Internet of Things.


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