About this project
We own a house in Denver, Colorado where our sprinkler controller is located in the basement. Each May, we would turn our sprinklers on for the summer and would consistently have broken sprinkler heads or some other problem. We would also need to turn the system on and off during those torrential down pours in monsoon season and for the random summer rain storm. (No one likes to see sprinklers on while it's raining!) This would become an unintended and annoying workout up and down the stairs. The same would happen in the fall when we blew the sprinklers out for the winter. Up, down, up, down, up, down- cycling, stopping or adjusting each zone.
About 3 years ago, I needed to buy another sprinkler controller to handle a different watering schedule for our garden. My husband said, "Find one I can run from my computer." It was then that I realized the lack of advancement in sprinkler controllers.
I brought this up to my business partner. As software developers, we believed it should be easy to control your sprinklers from a device you already own and decided to enter into this untapped market.
We asked an electrical engineer friend to partner with us and design the hardware. Then we asked a sales friend to partner with us to help with sales and marketing. This was the inception and beginning of Raincommander. The four of us designed and created the software and hardware, gave 20 units to our friends and supporters in the spring and summer of 2013 to test and are now ready to produce it for our future customers who are ready to water from the "cloud."
The patent-pending RainCommander RC1200 is a 12-zone sprinkler controller that has no annoying dials or screens on the unit itself. We use a unique WiFi logon technology that allows you to configure RainCommander to become a device on your existing wireless network through a website or phone/tablet app. So it doesn't matter if your sprinkler controller is located in your basement, in your garage behind those big shelves or outside in the elements. You can setup and manage your sprinklers from the comfort of your own home or from anywhere you happen to be.
Then we decided to take it one step further. We know several people that live in planned communities where HOAs or landscapers are in charge of watering the yards of each house. If it should happen to rain for a week the landscaper or HOA has no way of pausing all the sprinklers in the community without going to each house and turning the controller off, then returning to each house to turn the controller back on. That is a lot of work for communities that have as many as 800 homes. RainCommander will allow homeowners to give control of certain zones to third parties. So at an enterprise level, the landscaper or HOA will be able to manage sprinkler controllers for all of their customers right from their office or anywhere.
Our goal in designing the software was to make it easy to use on multiple platforms without compromising the quality of a robust application. We have developed several software and web applications that are on the market today, so we understand the need to start with a strong foundation of core functionality, but not overdevelop and make things more complicated than they need to be. We decided to start with an HTML5 website because the goal of HTML5 is to be consistent across all browsers including browsers on mobile devices.
Once we had the website developed, we turned our attention to developing native apps for Apple and Android mobile devices that will be available as a free download through the respective stores.
The most challenging part of developing the software was figuring out how to connect a device to a WiFi network when there isn't a display on the controller with which to choose a network and enter in the passcode. Shortly after we figured that out, Google released its Chromecast device that does exactly what we just implemented so we knew we were on the very cutting edge of technology.
With RainCommander, you only need to handle the actual controller one time - when you install it - and then you don't revisit it again. Because of this, we felt like the hardware didn't need to be bulky, but instead be discreet and efficient. Hardware components are getting smaller and smaller so that most mobile devices can fit in your pocket. Why would your sprinkler controller need to be any different? The RC1200 is less than 5 inches wide, less than 4 inches tall, and less than an inch deep and can accommodate up to 12 zones.
Here are some images of the circuit board progression from initial design and testing to our latest version.
Although it may seem simple there were several iterations and prototypes developed to complete the streamlined vision for the RainCommander enclosure. Photo's below help demonstrate the process of our case design.
Putting It All Together
Marrying robust and easy to use software with efficient and solid hardware was the key to developing a successful RC1200 Sprinkler Controller. We are excited about the convenience RainCommander gives to our customers, but moreover, we are motivated by RainCommander's vision to conserve water – protecting one of our most precious resources – while saving money along the way!
See it in action
Production and Fulfillment Plan
We wanted to make sure we had a solid product, robust software and the best possible production process before we asked potential backers to give money. In fact, we even built our own test equipment to make sure the initial circuit boards worked correctly when they arrived.
We now believe that we have all these things and are ready to show you the future of sprinkler controllers.
Once funded our development team will finalize software enhancements based on initial test results.These include cycle time adjustments, bootloading capabilities, multiple controller interface and a new schedule function which runs every x number of days. We expect this to take no longer than 1 - 2 weeks.
We have worked with US companies to coordinate the assembly, packaging and shipping. We have already completed a small run of units that we sold to some of our family and friends. Because of this, our parts company and board house have quantities on hand and have given us a 10 business day turn around once the order is placed. That means you will have a RainCommander in your hands in plenty of time for the spring season.
Risks and challenges
We are ready to go! The hardware and software are created and a diverse group of people with different routers, devices and housing situations beta tested the product, so we are confident that we have a solid product that works in many different situations. The parts company, board house and assembly company are standing by waiting for our order so we can have a RainCommander in your hands by the time you are ready to turn on your sprinklers for the spring.
As a new player in the existing irrigation market, we do not have long standing relationships within this business. This could be a potential risk, but because RainCommander re-defines how to control sprinkler systems and provides an easy to use platform, we believe it will be an easy leap for our customers to make from the old way of doing things to a mobile “control from anywhere” platform. We are consulting with multiple contacts in the irrigation industry to overcome some of these initial hurdles. We are also encouraged that the KickStarter community and other “early adopters” will help us launch this great technology into the market quickly! Now consumers will have a choice over the “old school” sprinkler controllers and we are confident they will love how easy it is to “Water from the Cloud.”Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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