RainMachine Can't Make It Rain, But Helps Homeowners Keep Gardens Growing

By linking home irrigation systems to weather forecasts, the new solution saves water and money.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jul 07, 2015

Andrei Bulucea says he can't make his rain machines fast enough. The drought in the Western United States is making consumers far more conscious of the amounts of water they use on their lawns. As a result, RainMachine, for which Bulucea serves as the chief technology officer, is having a banner year.

Engineers from Sun Microsystems and Nortel Networks founded the company in 2011 to develop a product that could leverage the Internet of Things, in order to help homeowners more easily conserve energy and natural resources. "We chose to work with water," Bulucea explains, "mainly because we noticed that so much city water was being wasted by legacy home irrigation controllers, including the ones that were running our homes."

The RainMachine system accesses the NOAA-managed National Digital Forecast Database every six hours to download the latest weather data based on a user's GPS coordinates.
RainMachine began rolling out products in 2013, and now offers two models that can manage how much water is used to irrigate between eight and 12 individual zones around a user's property. A third model, which can control 16 zones, is slated to be made available on July 10. The RainMachine replaces a homeowner's existing irrigation valve controller.

The Wi-Fi-enabled RainMachine system uses the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which the RainMachine monitor accesses, via a homeowner's Wi-Fi router, every six hours in order to download the latest weather data based on the user's GPS coordinates. It then updates every zone's watering schedule, based on both the water needs of the plants within each zone and the seven-day forecast regarding temperature, wind, moisture and rainfall levels.

The RainMachine device, which runs a full Linux operating system, performs calculations locally (as opposed to within a remote cloud server) to determine an appropriate watering schedule. More specifically, RainMachine uses the NDFD data to determine the evapotranspiration rate, or the movement of water into the atmosphere from soil and vegetation, at the user's home.

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