Solar-powered smart watering system promises battery-free intelligent irrigation

Blue Marble irrigation valve
© Blue Marble

The latest Internet of Things (IoT) entry into the lawn and garden market offers an automated and app-controlled watering system to "deliver the perfect drink" to your plants.

Over the last year or so, we've been seeing a whole slew of new 'smart' devices hitting the lawn and garden market, all of which leverage the connected technology of the IoT trend to save time and conserve water, and the new Blue Marble irrigation system is no different in that regard.

The irrigation controller from Blue Marble serves as the central hub for the system, connecting to the web for weather information, and to an accompanying app for controlling scheduling adjustments and viewing garden sensor data. The remote drip system and sprinkler valves installed throughout the yard are then managed by the hub according to either the actual conditions in the garden, as relayed by a system of soil sensors, or on a timer.

Those are all pretty standard features in the emerging trend of smart irrigation systems, along with the ability for the controllers to be wired to existing irrigation valves, but where the Blue Marble system seems to set itself apart is through its choice of communication method (via radio, as well as WiFi) and its claim of being battery-free.

Although the controller is powered by a standard wall outlet, the sensors and valves are energized by small solar cells, and Blue Marble's choice of radio communication between devices is said to be related to the aim of trying to "squeeze the most energy out of every photo-electron captured from the sun," as well as increasing the usable range of communication within the system. There's not much info on the gadget's crowdfunding page about how the battery-free feature is accomplished, other than a statement about using only ultra low power circuits and minimalizing the number of tasks performed by the remote units, but it does claim to be able to operate "for 48 hours in pitch black."

"One of the highest risk decisions was to make the Blue Marble system battery-free. I wanted this, very badly, as I believed that a system with several, tens, or even hundreds of unreliable chemical batteries scattered about a garden or farm, is the definition of a reliability and maintenance nightmare. I believe that, over time, any system with batteries will end up an unused and discarded relic of what might otherwise have been a great idea. I believe that a zero-battery system is the only thing that can be maintained and continue to add value for many years into the future." - Paul F. Sabadin, Blue Marble

The controller can be installed as a drop-in replacement for an existing irrigation controller, and sensors and valves can be added on as needed, or an entire system can be ordered to build a smart watering network from the ground up.

Blue Marble is currently raising money on Kickstarter to bring the devices to market, and backers can get special early bird pricing on the controller, sensors, and valves by pledging their support to the campaign. Find out more about the company behind the devices at

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