Rachio's IRO is the 'Nest' of Irrigation Control

January 8, 2015

Gordon van Zuiden (gordon@cybermanor.com) is president of cyberManor in Los Gatos, California.
At cyberManor we consider ourselves to be the digital consultants and curators for our clients’ homes. One of the key values that we offer our customers is the ability to vet the products that we consider to be the best of breed in a given product category. In our multiapp solution strategy we look for vendor companies that have demonstrated that they are platform leaders in areas such as whole-house music, TV, lighting control, or HVAC control. For years we have been looking for an equivalent leader in residential irrigation control, and we strongly believe that we have finally found that platform from a Denver-based company called Rachio.

For cyberManor’s clients and in my own home I have always wanted an intelligent irrigation controller that was easy to connect to a browser and/or mobile controller. My home’s first irrigation controller, like in almost everyone’s home, had to be programmed using an archaic rotary dial and push button keypad and would water our lawns rain or shine. With the broadband connection we had in our home 15 years ago and our company’s ability to connect intelligent devices to the home network and the internet, the search was on for an intelligent irrigation controller that would at least stop watering the lawn when the local weather forecast called for rain. I found one such intelligent system in the early 2000s, and while it accomplished the task of only watering our lawns on non-rainy days it was still very difficult to program, because it was engineered as a commercial irrigation controller, not for the simpler needs of a residential system. Plus, it cost more than $2,000, meaning that it would take a lot of water savings to justify its price point.

Over the years I replaced that early intelligent controller with two subsequent intelligent irrigation systems that got closer to my goal of intelligent irrigation control and an easy to use and program browser and mobile interface. Unfortunately, they still were relatively primitive. The controller apps were rudimentary and limited and the browser interface required a browser plug-in that was slow to load on most desktop or laptop computers. I had gone through this same iterative process with intelligent thermostats until the Nest came along and finally got it right–a well-orchestrated blend of elegant hardware and software engineering. In my opinion, Rachio’s IRO irrigation controller is the Nest equivalent for engineering excellence in the irrigation system category (see www.rach.io)

Rachio’s IRO irrigation controller is the Nest equivalent for engineering excellence in the irrigation system category.
Three months ago I installed the $249 eight-zone IRO controller at our cyberManor Smart Home Experience Center to control our outdoor irrigation zones. It has lived up to, and exceeded, all of my expectations as to what an intelligent irrigation controller should be; it’s easy to control and program from the web or a mobile device, reliable, responsive, and offers local weather forecast intelligence. The company has gone several steps further, as Rachio is a “Works with Nest” and IFTTT partner. If a Nest Protect is installed in the home and the IRO detects a heavy amount of smoke indicating a fire hazard, then the sprinklers will turn on. With IFTTT integration, you also can track IRO’s wateri ng times in a Google Spreadsheet.

Rachio is evaluating a Pro Network program for 2015, and I am hoping they will be selling their products through distribution to offer professional integrators some margin for the resale and installation of their product line (Nest followed a similar path, first selling the product direct via the retail channel and then providing distribution to the custom integration channel.) But we don’t stay in business from the margin we make selling Nest thermostats, and the same will be true from the margin we may earn selling the Rachio IRO line of irrigation controllers. We stay in business because our knowledge about this product complements our fundamental added value to our clients, namely to be their digital expert and concierge for all of their smart home products. If purchasing the app controlled IRO irrigation controller leads our clients to want app-based lighting control, whole-house music and installed TV systems, then the IRO irrigation controller has been the Trojan horse that has paid for itself many times over.

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