Frisco Based Sprinkl is Revolutionizing How You Water Your Yard
Frisco Based Sprinkl is Revolutionizing How You Water Your Yard
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Scott: All right Frisco. Spring’s still a little ways off but it will be here before you know it so we’re going to get ahead of the curve and introduce you to Frisco based Sprinkl who’s going to take away those headaches associated with the watering restrictions and knowing what days you can water on and how much you should water, and all that fun stuff. This is the Frisco Podcast for Friday December 12th, 2014.
We are here today with Daniel and Noel from Sprinkl. You guys are … Is it safe to say that you’re based in Frisco?
Noel: Yeah I mean pretty much so. I mean we’ve done a lot of stuff in Frisco. Actually we shot our kick-starter video which we’ll probably talk about, in Frisco in Pearson Farms.
Scott: First of all we’re excited to have companies like Sprinkl doing things in Frisco and in the North Dallas area. Given the water restrictions that we have in Frisco, all of the things around that that we deal with. Having to change what days we can water on and all that stuff. The project you guys have going on is super, super exciting because we’re basically going to help people automate at least a portion of their lawn care right?
Scott: All right. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about the product and what you guys are doing, and how you got started.
Noel: Sure. Daniel and I actually stared about two years ago down this road; started over lunch one day. We were both complaining about the water restrictions that were rolling out at that time. It was mostly around Daniel in Richardson where they had moved to every two week watering. His existing controller much like my own couldn’t accommodate those schedules so we looked around what was out there in the market and embarked on a journey of building our own, just a one off thing. As we got further down the line I started hearing from neighbors, and talking to friends and family, and everybody wanted one. We thought why don’t we make this available to everyone and build it out as a product offering.
Scott: So that one is an intelligent sprinkler … It’s not a sprinkler system right? It’s a sprinkler controller? How do you define …
Daniel: Yeah, we call it a controller. We don’t make the valves or any of the piping or anything like that. It’s a controller retrofit.
Scott: OK. This is going to replace that ridiculously hard to understand that box I have in my garage right? With the dial, and turn it this way, turn it that way; up, down, left, right.
Daniel: Right. Hold it fifteen seconds to set it, and those kinds of things; exactly.
Scott: OK. What is going to make your controller so much better, so much easier for people to be able to manage this stuff? Walk us through the product a little bit.
Daniel: Our product is based off of an Android platform. It has a touchscreen controller, it runs Android. Android has a large presence in the Smartphone market and so a lot of people are familiar with its user interface; the way that you use the buttons and scroll through the different configuration settings. It’s a very approachable type system.
Scott: OK, so we have a touchscreen interface, we’re going to replace that box. How easy is this thing going to be to install though?
Daniel: It’s a very straight forward retrofit so basically you have typically a PVC pipe that comes out of the wall and there’s eight or ten different colored wires that are coming out of there. What you’ll do is you’ll unscrew your old unit, you’ll take it off the wall, Actually, the first thing you’ll do is take a picture of it all so you can recreate this. You’ll see the yellow goes to zone one, red goes to zone two. You’ll read off those numbers, and then on our controller you’ll set in a mounting bracket. On that mounting bracket has a terminal block that each of the different colored wires will land on. They’re labeled one, two, three, four, master or pump. Then you’ll just place those wires in each of the different slots just like it was on the previous one. Then you’ll set the controller face on it and it’ll boot up. At that point you’ll start naming each of the different zones.
Scott: OK. This is going to be a very easy install so I can remove the unit that I have now, the dial box. I don’t know what else to call it.
Noel: The legacy controller.
Scott: Yeah thank you, the legacy controller, and we’ll put the Sprinkl intelligent system on the wall, then I can take my legacy controller out in the backyard and take a baseball bat to it, and when I’m done with that what happens next? Now I’ve got this controller and I know it’s smart, but do I have to set it up? What else comes with it?
Daniel: Right. There’s a couple of different ways. You can, if you want to stick to a certain schedule, you can program a schedule and there’s various; every other week, every week, each of these different days, every so many days. All the different permutations that you would expect from a smart controller or you can set it in a more autopilot mode. One of the things that we haven’t talked about yet is that this system also includes wireless sensors. These are sensors that communicate wirelessly through our wireless mesh network to the controller, and they report back the soil moisture and temperature. The controller knows what your lawn needs much better than just a flat time type calculation.
Noel: I see it time and time again in my neighborhood, just water running down the street when everybody has their watering day. With this method we think we can cut down water usage by up to 50%.
Noel: Instead of just flooding the zone it’ll take into consideration how much it needs to water to meet that goal that it needs, and only use that exact set amount of that measurement.
Daniel: Right. Since its web connected as well, its Internet connected, it’s pulling down forecast as well. If there’s a 90% chance of rain tonight and this is your watering day, it may not water this time. If it didn’t actually happen to rain it knows how to make that up and how much moisture needs to be added back into the soil the next time it does water.
Scott: OK so this is going to make it a whole lot easier for me to water my lawn. Not only when I’m supposed to be watering, but at an appropriate level because usually for me, the rain sensors have historically not worked very well.
Scott: We’re going to actually have a sensor that we put in our yard and there’s going to be one in each zone that we have right?
Daniel: Right. You know your frustrations with the rain sensor, it almost never works. That actually uses a conductive path inside the rain sensor module. That actually is a bit different from how our moisture sensors work. Other moisture sensors or other sensors that do exist on that market, they use a resistive type measurement. If there’s even a thin layer of water across maybe the top of the soil connecting those two terminals, it’ll peg out. It’ll say, “Hey this thing’s completely saturated,” because it can’t really tell the difference. You get this all or nothing bang, bang type control.
What our sensors use is a [inaudible 00:06:06] method. Very similar to how your Smartphone touchscreen works. It measures the difference in the dielectric in the area around the sensor. The water has a large influence on that capacitive measurement and so can measure very fine gradations of change in soil.
Scott: OK good, that’s going to help in a number of ways. Not only will it tell me in the individual zones where I need water, where I’ve got plenty of water, if I’m over saturated I can stop water the concrete finally.
Scott: The sensors are … How deep do they go into the yard and is it just a magical poke it down in down into the yard, and how do I connect it to the device?
Noel: One thing we learned while testing the unit actually is that Texas soil is extremely hard. Our sensors are 7 inches long and believe it or not you can’t just go and shove it down on the ground so we’re actually packaging our sensors with his plastic auger bit that you’ll use to make a little hole for it to sit down into. Once it’s down in there the sensor will read both around 6 inches and at 2 inches to get both the deep root system and then the shallow root system. Depending on your type of grass or what kind of landscaping you have installed in that area it’ll be sure to make those proper adjustments based on its needs.
Scott: OK very good. Now what about other things like we’re trying to get our trees in the front yard to grow and they tend to need a little bit more water. Is this going to pick up the right level in that area as well or do I need to do something different?
Daniel: It’ll measure the depletion that your tree may be taking out of the soil more, and so it will compensate for that. You’ll be able to enter in the different types of turf or vegetation that you have in each zone and that’ll also adjust the watering algorithm.
Scott: OK very cool. I’m going to backup for a minute and just paint a very nice, easy picture for everybody that’s just trying to understand all this listening to what we’re describing. The brains of it if you will, which is a unit that will go in the wall that will replace the current programming unit for our sprinkler system. There are moisture sensors that we put in the yard, and then we’ll also get a nice little auger bit so that we can easily get these things into the yard without breaking them when we buy them.
Now, the sensors themselves are going to be paired specifically with my unit. If my neighbor has the same, has the Sprinkl system, when they kick off theirs they’re not going to be programming mine right?
Daniel: Exactly. It uses a magnetic type communication with the sensor in order to negotiate the pairing. It’ll see that there’s a new sensor available and then once that pairing exchange occurs all the data that’s sent across the radio waves is encrypted. It uses an AES encryption so that the same packets that are coming from your neighbor aren’t going to interfere with the packets that your network sends and coordinates.
Scott: OK, what if my neighbor gets the same system and wants an extra sensor and they come grab one of mine out of the ground?
Noel: We’re actually going to know when they do that. When you register your sensor we’re going to push up … We’re not going to store any personal identifiable information on anyone, we’re going to push it up though that, that sensor belongs to controller with serial number X. We know when that sensor was taken and installed elsewhere. We’ll be able to report back to the homeowner letting them know that their sensor was taken, that it was possibly installed at another location.
Scott: But you’re not going to tell us which location?
Noel: No GPS tracking on that. Yeah, that’s going against [inaudible 00:09:04].
Scott: We’re not going to kick off the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s with all of this.
Daniel: Low-jacking something like that doesn’t really quite make sense but …
Noel: No drone attacks or anything to get back at …
Scott: No, all right. We have drones around here too; the fun little Quadra copters, but anyways. OK so that’s good. Now you guys are not in the market quite yet but we are launching, and by the time people hear this may have just launched a kick-starter campaign.
Daniel: That’s right.
Scott: If people want to take a closer look, they want to see more information about the product, go out to kickstarter.com and they’re going to look for … Just look for Sprinkl right?
Daniel: Sprinkle. S-P-R-I-N-K-L or you can look at our website at sprinkl, S-P-R-I-N-K-L.io.
Scott: All right, we’ll be sure to include that in the show notes. Is there anything else you want to tell us about this because I think we may have glossed over one thing that you mentioned to me earlier about city data, that to me is one of the coolest things you’ve got going on here because I can’t keep up with when I can and can’t water.
Noel: Absolutely. One thing that we thought about from the early on was let’s build a portal for all of this. Let’s take the city restriction data and whether that’s working with the cities directly and having them enter that data or if it’s us going out and finding the restrictions and entering them into our own portal, and then have our controllers subscribe to that information. During watering days it would know based on your location whether or not watering was allowed in your area.
In the case of Frisco it’s broken down by certain areas and your trash day. Based on that I would tell it that my watering day or it would know based on my area that my trash day’s on a Wednesday per say, and then it would automatically accommodate watering for that day.
Scott: OK so as long as it’s a participating city it’s automatically going to pull that info down …
Scott: … and even if Wednesday is set as a part of my schedule, if it’s not a day I’m allowed to water it’s just going to go ahead and skip over that and water on the next day I’m allowed to unless I explicitly override it because maybe I’m a new house and I’ve got a waiver for a couple weeks?
Noel: Right, exactly.
Scott: And I have a new yard.
Daniel: If you have a waiver you’ll uncheck the subscribe to or enforce the restrictions and it’ll carry on with your normal scheduled.
Scott: All right this sounds awesome guys. The way we’ve been hearing it described is if people are already familiar with the Nest thermostat system, this is a Nest type device for your lawn, your sprinkler system.
Noel: That’s what we’ve heard.
Scott: Super awesome. That’s what we’ve heard. Well it looks really good. I’m so excited that you guys are here locally, and we’re glad to have had you on the show. Everybody out there listening, go out to Kickstarter, check out Sprinkl, and give them a lift. Order your sprinkler system now and we’ll get them installed sooner than later.
Daniel: Great, thanks.
Noel: Thank you, appreciate it guys.
Scott: Thanks guys.