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How might smartwatch tech be developed to support the needs of gardeners? Toby Buckland shares his thoughts:
I recently trialed a Sekonda Smartwatch in the garden, which got me thinking about future smartwatch and gardening tech that could help me with my gardening work. Here are my ideas about how smartwatch technology could be developed to better support gardeners:
For one thing, surely the broad-brush weather forecasts found on current watches could be honed from just the next few days to more granular weather guidance, including real-time weather forecasts; in my case... when gardening or filming, knowing when half-hour windows between showers might appear is invaluable - both for sowing seeds on an allotment or filming ‘pretties’ such as close-ups of flowers. Or how about a biodynamic function for those of us who garden by the cycles of the moon (yes, it’s a thing!), advising what to sow and when?
The temperature gauge is also useful in these peri-Covid times... before going into the studio to broadcast my radio show, a machine in the lobby takes my body temperature, and tells me whether I’m safe to go through the security door. I now know my temperature is ‘safe’ from the reading on my watch. Extending this to gardening, it would be interesting to be able to measure ambient temperatures…
In Victorian times, gardeners were known to drop their trousers and sit on the soil to check its temperature; if it was comfortable for a naked derriere, it was also warm enough for a tender seedling. Replicate the technique today and you’d probably get an ASBO, but... if the watch took a reading, or even better channelled temperature data from the soil or inside a greenhouse, not only would it save the neighbour’s blushes… gardeners would find it really useful.
Planting out warm-blooded tomatoes, chillies, petunia or begonias in spring is always a gamble, as if done too early they’ll be killed by the cold. Temperature sensors connected to a watch would give a snapshot of when fleece (basically a blanket bunged over plants) is required, as well as warning when it’s time to open up the greenhouse windows before the plants inside get too hot.
Sensors already exist for robotic mowers, measuring the height of grass and allowing for remote activation - in fact, I’ve a friend who cuts his lawn with a robotic mower, controlled via an app on his smartphone. Here lies further smartwatch potential: lawn growth monitors measure ambient temperatures and soil moisture – the two drivers of fast grass growth... pushing this gardening tech info to smartwatches would be ideal.
Similar sensors could also interlink smartwatches with general garden irrigation too; I have a tree fern in my garden that’s kept in a fog of moist air by a mist unit (greenhouse growers use them to keep cuttings moist, and cafés in the Med even use them to keep alfresco diners cool). Mine is attached to a timer - but if it was raining… just think… I could turn it off from my watch to save water!
Some smartwatches have a compass function to help ultradistance runners navigate their way across wildernesses. Yet, instead of helping gardeners survive the Serengeti, this compass function could be adapted to help identify parts of the garden with a sunny south or west facing aspect; useful when planning seating areas or planting vegetables, while knowledge of the cooler north or east facing borders creates the opportunity for a different palette of plants.
Meanwhile, apps that recognise plants via a phone screen would also be useful for identifying unlabelled plants when out. I flatter myself that I’m pretty good at this already, yet an additional feature I could use is a GPS marker – as, although I don’t have a huge garden, I do look after landscapes that cover hundreds of acres, so marking where trees, drifts of bulbs or wildflower seeds are planted by tapping on a smartwatch would be a fast way to record their exact location. And in a smaller plot, knowing where something that dies down for winter is planted would mean you’re more likely to be able to protect it from slugs or drought when it raises its head in the spring.
Mobile phones have brought together so much digital gadgetry: from compasses, to calendars, to maps and radios - but the downside is these rectangular boxes are just another thing to carry around, and in my case lose. Maybe it’s because I’ve always worn a watch - but on-the-wrist feels just the right place for your gardening tech.
Your own futuristic ideas for gardening with smartwatches
Perhaps you have some futuristic ideas for gardening with smartwatches, or you've already found some smartwatch gardening tech solutions to my futuristic ramblings? Drop a note below with your thoughts and ideas.