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Tech Corner


Cloud-connected Landscape Irrigation Control By Parry Webb, CLIA


Connecting an irrigation controller to the internet has a number of inherent benefits. A connected controller allows multiple users to monitor and change the programming. This introduces a level of accountability that is not only beneficial for the end user but also for the contractor. Essentially, it ensures both the end user and the landscape professional are on the same page regarding what is happening in the irrigation system and the use of water. Visibility to how the connected controller is programmed and whether the controller is running in smart mode or if the rain sensor is working can be monitored and remedied should any settings be changed.


Additionally, the contractor benefits from having remote access to the irrigation system, eliminating the need to drive to the location just to check the controller’s programming or make a change. The idea of a lower-cost, higher-profit virtual service call is something a contractor could offer to clients. By installing flow sensing and having remote access, the contractor has the ability to “see” what’s happening and respond proactively to weather changes and irrigation breaks, as well as be able to schedule repairs and order parts more quickly.


Technology Options


There are multiple ways to connect to the cloud. The type of connection device is largely dependent on the scope of the project and what type of internet connection is available at the location.


Wi-Fi works great in locations where a client allows access to their Wi-Fi network. Setup is typically simple by joining a Wi-Fi network and entering the network password. Connecting an irrigation controller to Wi-Fi is largely determined by the distance between the controller and the Wi-Fi router, as well as the stability of the Wi-Fi network. A Wi-Fi router using 2.4 Gigahertz typically has a range of 150 feet within a home and 300 feet in a line-of- sight configuration.


Another option offered by some manu- facturers is a 900-Megahertz controller, which can travel up to 2,000 feet. A 900-Megahertz controller connects to the same internet connection as a Wi-Fi controller but uses a standard Ethernet cable. It broadcasts its own 900-Megahertz wireless network, enabling a controller with a 900-Megahertz radio to connect to the internet.


A third communication option for connecting an irrigation controller is cellular. The advantage of cellular is that it does not rely on connecting the controller to the client’s internet connection, making it an ideal choice for locations where the client does not have internet available or does not want to allow a third-party connection to their wireless network. The range of cellular is measured in miles but is dependent on the type of cellular technology used and the location of the local cellular towers. The types of cellular technology are code division multiple access (known as CDMA) or global system for mobiles (known as GSM).


One of the areas bound to cause confusion with contractors is how a network is set up. Wide area networks (known as WAN) are a network of computers connected over a large geographic area. The biggest WAN in the world is the internet. On the other hand, a local area network (known as LAN) is a “closed” network of computers that commu- nicate over a much smaller geographic area, usually via private infrastructure using Ether- net cables, radios or other wireless devices.


The difference between WAN and LAN is important to understand because as irrigation communication technology


continues to evolve, both network options are likely to be part of an adequate connected irrigation controller platform. In other words, while a Wi-Fi controller connected to the internet (WAN) might be a good option for a homeowner who wants to give a contractor access to an irrigation system, a LAN option using 900 Megahertz might be a better solution for a commercial property whose facility management team needs a more secure, non-internet-based solution.


Summary


As the momentum for connecting irrigation controllers continues to accelerate, the irrigation industry will be challenged with getting up to speed on this technology. The tech-savvy customer will expect the irrigation professional to be more knowledgeable and proficient in implementing smart and secure connected solutions. The opportunity to provide expertise and improved water management for our customers has never been greater.


Parry Webb, CLIA, is the Western U.S. sales


manager for Weathermatic. Weathermatic has been serving landscape professionals


for 70 years and has a full line of irrigation products including software, controllers, sensors, valves, rotors, sprays and nozzles.


irrigationtoday.org 31


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