How does it work?

 

We’ve been asked this question many times. Everyone from family, friends, and investors want to know the same thing about our plant machines (AKA smart herb gardens). It’s been phrased many ways, but it usually sounds something like this: “So how do they actually work?”

The answer is a bit complicated. Our plant machines don’t get built overnight, and there’s a lot going on inside each one. But we’ll start with what happens right after you plug your system into the wall.

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The voltage supply sends current into the system, and connects directly to the printed circuit board (PCB). A PCB is used to connect one device to another. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, this electrical platform works to distribute and organize all the current that is received through the power supply in the system.

The PCB is deliberately etched with conductive paths for the electricity to travel through. We use a computer to design a schematic ourselves, and we originally etched those paths using a milling machine in-house. The milling machine draws the paths on a piece of acrylic with a conductive copper overlay. Now, we send the schematic to a vendor who manufactures and ships the PCBs to us, ready to use. An essential step for any hardware device.

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There are also many sensors throughout the system that are wired to the board. For example, there is a sensor that acts as a thermometer in the system. When it is too warm or too cool, a signal will be sent through the board to adjust the temperature. Another sensor recognizes when the water level in the system is low, and will also send a signal via the PCB.

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Signals can also be sent through the board when the physical buttons on the system are pressed, or when the user changes something in the app. This happens through the WiFi connection, but that’s a story for another day.

Back to the board. Once the signal goes through the PCB, it gets sent to the microcontroller, which is mounted on the PCB itself. This is what we refer to as the brain of the system. That means that the PCB and the sensors make up the nervous system.

The microcontroller is extremely small, about one-fifth the size of the circuit board. The most interesting part? It’s a computer. The microcontroller processes the information received from the sensor, and decides what to do, according to how it is coded. For instance, when the signal says that the system is too cool, or that the water level is too low, the computer inside determines the exact solution. Over time, the system will learn about you as the user, like when you usually dim the lights, or when you prefer to water it, and will pick up on your routine.

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The same way that our muscles move on commands from the brain, the microcontroller needs to send its commands to a component that will carry them out. This component is called the actuator, which is responsible for physically making changes to adjust an aspect of the system. And how do you think it gets from the microcontroller to the actuator? You guessed it, through the PCB.

So basically, that’s how it works. It’s incredible how technology today allows us to fit all of these components into the one-inch frame of Íko. There’s more packed inside this system than meets the eye. Our use of smart technology helps our product fit into your home and lifestyle organically, and helps you, the user, grow herbs effortlessly.

 
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