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Potential Commercially Available 80% Solution?

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The Irrigation Caddy ( http://www.irrigationcaddy.com/index-6.html )may address many of the wants in the project scope as it has a web interface, can handle up to 10 zones and accept one rain gage input. It also works with a smart phone home automation program EZ-VRC (http://www.ezvrc.com/ezvrc/Home.html) which can probably control some of the other sensors we are considering.

Timothy Weber's picture

I think the main drawback of the Irrigation Caddy is that it requires direct wiring from the central controller to each of the valves. But that may not be a problem for you, Andy, since you've already got a lot of wire runs.

But it could also be adapted fairly easily for ZigBee use by connecting their valve controllers to a "virtual wire" made up of a Zigbee transmitter, and then a node like Louis's on the other end that's connected to the valve. The XBees support this kind of usage directly without an additional microcontroller - there's some configuration, but you can essentially say "Make this switch output on this remote node mirror the state of that input on the home base." Digi used to sell individual XBees in sealed enclosures, so that could be the glue that makes it wireless.

Louis's picture

Irrigation Caddy ($180):
Hardware:
- ethernet cable based
- wire up to 10 valves (including master)
UI:
- browser based
- allows user to create up to 4 programs that can then have up to 5 start times

Above is my summary of irrigation caddy. It does seem to have some of the elements that we discussed, but it doesn't include sensors and it is all wired. EZ-VRC (with its own subscription and which isn't even accepting new subscribers) might fill that void but now you have two seperate user interfaces, one for irrigation control and one for sensors. How do you use the sensors to dictate your watering schedule? Build a layer on top of both UI? Not to mention that you're cloud-dependant with this EZ-VRC. Same deal with bringing in wireless - you'd have to hack a black-box and figure out how it works so that you could integrate an Xbee.

The end-result is you've cobbled together a few proprietary devices to make the device you actually want. That solution isn't optimized and it's not scalable. It might work fine for one person and it might work especially fine for Andy since you have everything wired up already, but I am interested in developing an application that can easily be replicated and expanded upon.

Timothy Weber's picture

Yes - I agree that it may be an improvement on Andy's current situation (wired valves, scheduling, just one rain gauge), but does not serve the more general vision we were describing. And I think the flow sensor may be a must-have - and I missed that EZ-VRC is not accepting new subscribers! (?!)

It might be interesting to contact both of these companies to see what their stories are. They might not want to talk to or encourage a potential open source competitor, but then again they might. The relationship between the two would be particularly interesting to hear; looks like EZ-VRC may just be a value-added reseller, but I'm not sure I understand what value they're adding beyond cloud hosting.