This is Horatio, a plant who has had a troubled life. He was displaced at a very early age, ripped from the only roots he knew. Neglected and not watered for days, and with little hope to achieve his aspirations.
You’re probably thinking about how this relates to Horatio, Brian and Princess Leia? “The challenge”, the Eagle from Barclays said, “was to design a self-watering mechanism for your plant using the sensors and microprocessors located in the lab”.
As the only IT guy on the course, I was in my element. We also had people from HR, procurement, contact centres, care and support, and income services. All looked rather apprehensive when asked to play with smart-tech. Barclays didn’t leave us to our own devices though, they guided us through the day.
- We hooked our plants up to: A water sensor to measure how dry the soil is;
- A small electric pump submersed in a cup of water;
- And a Microbit.
That’s it. The remaining part of the afternoon was devoted to coding this script and playing around with the Microbit until the whole system was ready to water.
Here’s mine, completely hooked up. No one was fazed. Everyone completed the task, and I mean everyone. Even Procurement, and we did this whole exercise in a day. It’s so simple.
Everything you see in the photo, minus the batteries and the Microbit, was cheap. Also, this is tech that is ready and available in the market and has been for some time. You can connect lots of different sensors into the arrangement. You can even buy kits with instructions.
The Microbit is Bluetooth-ready, and can sense temperature and movement. I can connect it to my smartphone or a speaker. I could play classical music to Horatio through my Microbit when he needs soothing. Other microprocessors are more powerful and can connect to the internet too. Can you imagine the possibilities?
We could use this sensor to trigger repairs automatically, for example, with boilers. This could send a message through our case management systems and on to our gas contractor to make a fix. We could use this information to provide intelligence on our homes. Imagine hooking up a humidity sensor or a damp sensor. Imagine actually being able to resolve damp problems before they start? This is Smart Homes. It is achievable and it is not something from science fiction or Star Trek. It is real and available now.
Horatio is now at home. I introduced him and the Microbit to my seven-year old son. He is now thinking of ways to create automatic things around the home; a self-opening window or something to turn on the television automatically (although I think someone beat him to that). He has already dismantled the Microbit, put Horatio in a corner and started coding!
Horatio’s dreams have just been disrupted by a seven-year old boy. Oh well, back to watering him the old-fashioned way, by hand, with a watering can. Alas, Horatio!
Richard Holland is head of business solutions at Genesis Housing Association.