Plants-as-a-Service: Office Plants Made Greener with the IoT

Office plants need water and nutrition. We automated it.

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September 30, 2019

We spend 90% of our time indoors. Plants make the indoor environment feel better.

But plants need to be tended to. This has spurred a market for companies that rent out plants to offices. As a customer, you do not need to worry about watering and tending to the plants – this is done by plant care specialists, as part of the plants-as-a-service.

We have built a plants-as-a-service system that optimizes the efficiency of flower rental companies with a mobile app that guides the plant care specialists to the places that need tending to and wireless sensors that track the humidity in each flower pot, in each office installation. This makes it possible to offer flower rental services at a lower cost, to a larger market.

We spend 90% of our time indoors. Plants make the indoor environment feel better.
Source

Office plants, as a service

Having plants in the office provides several benefits:

  • Improve worker productivity
  • Improve air quality
  • Reduces office noise
  • Conceal unsightly or boring areas

But plants do not take care of themselves. Someone needs to cater for them.

This has opened up a market for companies to provide plants-as-a-service. As a customer, you pay a monthly fee and get well-cared for plants that keep your office green and healthy.

To deliver always-green plants, plants-as-a-service companies have plant care specialists that drive around to customer locations to inspect, water, nourish, and dust off the plants.

But plants may not always need to be watered, thus maintenance trips may be taken in vain. Depending on where each flower pot is placed, the watering needs differs. Moreover, customers may be watering the plants on their own, making it more difficult to know when each flower needs to be tended to.

Plant care specialists drive to customer locations to inspect, water, nourish, and dust off the plants. Our system makes this more efficient.

The Solution

We developed an IoT system that keeps track of every installed flower and their status – when they were last tended to by a plant care specialist and when they next need looking into.

The system consists of:

  • A mobile app, for the plant care specialists as well as installation personnel
  • Wireless soil sensors, that keep track of the status of each plant
  • A backend database and scheduling system, that produces a daily schedule for each plant care specialist

The solution is built with the Thingsquare IoT stack, which means that the wireless sensors run with batteries and use an automatic wireless IPv6 mesh network.

The system produces a daily schedule for each plant care specialist. Because each flower is placed in different types of locations in terms of lighting and air humidity conditions, the schedule is a combination of regular trips and reactive trips.

Wireless sensors are inserted into each flower pot to keep track of the humidity level of the soil. These sensors detect if a plant needs to be watered or if it should be left alone. The system uses this to schedule the maintenance trips of the staff.

Installation and Maintenance

When installing a new site, the sensors are installed via a special installation mode in the app. The installer adds each new sensor in the app, and sets its location. The app identifies the installed sensor via Bluetooth.

Each site has an access point for the wireless network that the sensors create. The access point is connected via a 4G connection to the Internet.

In large sites, the installer can test the wireless network to ensure that every sensor is connected to the network. If a sensor, or a group of sensors, are out of reach, the installer can add wireless extenders.

If a sensor would break, the plant care specialist may replace it in the app, through the same installation mode that the installation personnel uses.

Technical Details

Software The Thingsquare IoT stack
Custom web frontend
Custom mobile app
Custom backend application
Hardware Custom sensor hardware
Wireless IoT technology 868 / 915 MHz IPv6 mesh
Network size 100+ sensors in each deployment
Wireless range 100+ meters
Deployment type Indoor
Device power Battery powered

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