Posted by Jim Martin 03 January 2014
Parrot Flower Power review: a wireless Bluetooth plant monitor
Price: £50 inc VAT
The internet of things is one of the trends you’ll see emerging in 2014, but Parrot’s Flower Power doesn’t quite qualify. It’s a Bluetooth sensor which you stick in the soil of your favourite pot plant.
See also: Flower Power first-look video
It monitors temperature, amount of light, fertiliser levels and soil moisture - synchronising the data to your iPhone or iPad. It comes in brown, green or blue.
It’s great for those without green fingers as it takes the guesswork out of figuring out when to water your plant. Experienced gardeners could also benefit as the Flower Power could be used to monitor a valuable (either in monetary or sentimental terms) plant or tree.
The plastic device is waterproof – obviously – and can be used indoors or outdoors. It’s powered by an AAA battery which Parrot says lasts around six months.
It works in conjunction with a free iPhone app which has a database of over 7,000 plants. The app can show real-time data from the sensors as well as historical information showing how, for example, soil moisture levels change over time. (Sorry Android users, you’ll have to wait and only those with Jelly Bean 4.3 on specific devices will be able to use the forthcoming app. This is more of a criticism of Android and the lack of standardisation – it’s the same reason there aren’t many Android apps for Bluetooth activity trackers.)
When you first set up your Flower Power, you associate it with a particular plant. If you already know its botanical name, you can search the database. Alternatively you can filter results by shape, flower and leaf colour, blooming time and more. The database is by no means comprehensive – Parrot says it will develop it further to include more obscure plants as well as common ones. You can choose to take a photo of your plant or use the stock image from the database.
Once associated, the plant appears in the My Garden tab. Tapping on it brings up a real-time graph warning you that analysis won’t be available for 24 hours. You can see the immediate water and fertilizer levels, temperature and light levels, however.
The icons change colour depending on the levels, and the aim is to have four green circles meaning all is Ok.
After a few days, items might start to appear in the To do list such as an instruction to water the plant in 4 days. New plants might have too much fertiliser in the soil and you’ll receive a warning to flush the soil with lots of water.
During our testing, we found the Bluetooth connection was sometimes unreliable and the sync would fail. It’s also worth pointing out that unlike some other Bluetooth devices we’ve tested, the Flower Power doesn’t automatically sync when in range of your phone: you have to manually start the sync from the app.
That’s a pain as if you’re the sort of person who forgets to water their plant, you might also forget to sync data with the app and be unaware your plant needs watering.
Once the data has been synched with your phone, it’s then sent to Parrot’s servers for analysis, then the results posted back to your iPhone. Currently, there’s no way to access the data via a web portal, but Parrot says one will be launched soon.
The elephant in the room, however, is the fact that the Flower Power can monitor only one plant or a group of plants in the same container. If you wanted to monitor all your houseplants, everything in your greenhouse and garden, the cost is prohibitive.
Flower Power: bottom line
It’s great to see technology finding its way into new areas, and for some people, the Flower Power is exactly what they need.
It’s unmistakably a first-generation product, though, and we sincerely hope that Parrot can develop the idea and produce a Wi-Fi version which can upload data to its servers at regular intervals. That would eliminate the problem of having to traipse down the garden to get the data via Bluetooth. It would and also vastly increase the number of devices and people who can use a Flower Power. Currently you need an iPhone 4S or iPad 3 or later.