Buying plants is easy. Growing them is hard. The whole joke about the “green” thumb and lack of same in TV shows and movies is usually relegated to men, but there are also few women who really know how to make a houseplant or garden look its Sunday best. That’s where Parrot’s Flower Power Indoor Outdoor Bluetooth Smart Plant Sensor comes into play.
The basic purpose of Flower Power is to provide the kind of information that otherwise took patient looking, experience and trial and error —such as figuring out how much sun a plant is getting (and whether that’s good/bad for it), the amount of moisture in the pot or ground and others. The Flower Power app (Apple/Android) takes care of all this since it’s a computer program at heart devoted to the proper upkeep of plants. And while in the past that meant that the computer did all the computation for the program, now it’s done through the computing power of a smartphone, but not alone. Similar to how Apple’s Siri voice program calls on servers in the “Cloud” to provide computation power, the Flower Power app does the same. And since the use of WiFi to access the “Cloud” can be replaced by a cellular signal which can take over when a network isn’t available, Flower Power isn’t restricted to indoor use alone. That’s more than convenient in my case, since my wife’s plants, which I have been given caretaker status of today, are now in her brother’s backyard due to the fire our apt building had a while back. So I didn’t have to be concerned with accessing a WiFi network.
The app has a number of functions but realistically two modes: the first is information,such as the type of plants that Flower Power might be called to service, with the second being a “Live” mode which allows for real-time (or nearly anyway) monitoring. I had taken the Flower Power out of its flowerpot-like packaging and twisted off a knob in one of the two “stalks” to insert a “AAA” battery into the battery compartment (the manual doesn’t say this is waterproof but I bet it is). A small LED in another stalk began to blink blue, and so I followed this up by pairing it with my iPhone. The LED went out. I then went to one of the plants and thrust the bladed ends of the Flower Power deep into the soil.
Returning to the app, I watched as information was gleaned and transmitted to the iPhone and displayed through the app. As I hadn’t watered any of the plants as yet, I was curious to see how much moisture was left — so as to get a better idea as to how often I needed to come to water them, and also whether the amount of watering I had done was sufficient. The reading came back as being 24% which, while not heinous, seemed a bit low to me. The app also noted that information was being sent to the “Cloud” and that in about a day I would receive more detailed information as to how the plant was doing (the free account on the website also provides more information about how best to use Flower Power). The blades in the soil also provide details about the fertilization that the plant has, while the above-ground parts of the Flower Power dealt with the temperature as well as sunlight levels. All this information can be compared with the “ideal” amounts as per the app’s understanding of the plant in question.
I took the Flower Power out of the pot and inserted it into other plants — altering the profiles that the app was reading to accommodate a new plant. Once I had finished doing this for a number of plants, I watered and left. I returned a few days later and the iPhone synced with the Flower Power once I came into Bluetooth range. I checked the readings of the same plants as before — to find that the moisture level had increased to what I felt were more acceptable limits. I also viewed other statistics and saw where I could improve things by moving some plants to take more advantage of sunlight and the occasional rain that we in southern California have been getting recently. And consulted the app which had made predictions based on how they would be over a few days time. This affected when I went back, by the way.
Bottom line: The Parrot Flower Power Indoor Outdoor Bluetooth Smart Plant Sensor is a clever and sophisticated plant sensor within a whimsically shaped construction. In use with the app, viewing and planning for the health of your plants becomes less a chore and more an easy path that doesn’t require a “plant doctors” degree. Bluetooth thumb, anyone?
6000+ plant database, App alerts
LED hard to see in daylight
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.