Going on holiday? Now you can follow your plants on Twitter

29 May 2015

Greg Larkin (left) and Kieran Small with the plant system.

Greg Larkin (left) and Kieran Small with the plant system.

A plant system that tweets its owner when in need of watering or additional sunlight has been developed by three students at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

The Automatic Plant Care System, created by third-year BEng Computer and Electronic Systems Engineering students Greg Larkin, Kieran Small and Scott Cairns, could revolutionise the way plants are looked after.

The students were tasked to design something ‘useful or helpful to people in the home’ as part of a programme project, before settling on a system that uses sensors to monitor and maintain ideal conditions for plants.

Greg said: “We thought about what happens to house plants when the owner goes on holiday, or even if they’re busy at work. A lot of plants just don’t get watered or they wilt in the shade.”

The system prototype houses the plant or plants in a wooden unit, which also contains water storage, a multi-spectrum light and a web cam.

Greg said: “Sensors tell the system when action needs to be taken. If the soil is too dry, water is released; if the light isn’t right, it’s rectified. We use a multi-spectrum bulb, as some plants like UV and some prefer infrared.

“Any action taken by the system is then sent out via Twitter to the owner, letting them know what is happening.

“Our prototype also includes a webcam which, three times a day, photographs the plant and posts it to Twitter. The idea behind this is that it charts a time-lapse from bulb to fully-grown plant.”

It is hoped that the system will become versatile enough to be tailored to an individual’s needs.

Greg said: “The idea is that the system is scalable. You don’t need to have all of the components, or even the unit itself. You could, for example, just have the sensors in an ordinary house-plant pot, which will tweet you when it needs watering or more sunlight, and the owner can take the action themselves.

“We even aim to develop soil pH sensors that you can put in your garden plants. It all depends on the level of support you need.”

The trio are now looking to harness any opportunities their invention may create.

Kieran said: “Over the summer, our plan is to look at the possibilities of manufacturing and marketing the product. Ultimately, we want to develop an app for the system, so that multiple plants can be managed from the one account.

“We’ve also carried out extensive market research, which showed thousands of people in the UK are waiting for allotment space to grow fruit and vegetables.  Our system would allow them to do this in a confined space – even in their own home.”

The Automatic Plant Care System was showcased at Caledonian Creates, an annual celebration of work from GCU’s creative programmes, which include graphic design, interior design, games design and product design, electronic systems, 3D computer animation and computer games art and animation.