In the Garden of the Future

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The Smart Garden Hub – STIHL GCI 100 – shows the potential for connected products. It not only sets new standards for the networking of products and online services, but also brings ­together the know-how of the Waiblingen-­based founding company with that of garden­ing equipment experts at ­VIKING in Austria.

Dr. Konrad Christ and Harald Aschaber know the way from Waiblingen to Langkampfen and back again – almost by heart. While 350 kilometers and more than three hours drive normally separate them, these two colleagues have been drawn much closer together for a project that previously had never been attempted either at STIHL, where Christ leads a software development group, or at VIKING, where Aschaber works in product management. Under their leadership, the STIHL GCI 100 – also known as the Smart Garden Hub – was developed. This product not only makes garden irrigation more efficient and intel­ligent, it also represents the STIHL Group’s vision for the smart garden of the future.

EXPLORING NEW DIRECTIONS

“At STIHL and VIKING, new products normally follow a relatively simple principle: higher power with less weight.” As Christ says that, he has to smile because the Smart Garden Hub is not a “normal” project. Through this collaboration, bright minds from Baden-­Württemberg and Tyrol reached out in new directions. Not only is this innovative product the first completely digital offering from the Waiblingen-based company, even the area of application is new territory. It is all about automatic and resource-saving use of water in the garden.

In summer we often see a familiar scene: Get the hose out of the shed, first unroll it, then roll it up again, drag the watering cans around the garden and then carefully water one flower bed at a time. Today those who prefer a more convenient solution might already use an automatic irrigation system. That means no more hard work or asking your neighbor to water while you are on vacation, but, according to Aschaber, “these systems are usually outdated and have a very big disadvantage. They are not ‘smart.’” They water at fixed times and at specific intervals. Weather conditions or current soil moisture level are not taken into account – not to mention other variables, such as the type of plant or the amount of expected evaporation.

“With the STIHL GCI 100, we are setting out in a whole new, very exciting direction. Our goal is for the device to become the central access point in the garden.”
DR. KONRAD CHRIST
Harald Aschaber (right) and Dr. Konrad Christ are the leading figures in the STIHL GCI 100 project. Within the space of a few months, they developed the Smart Garden Hub, which, among other things, makes intelligent irrigation possible.

And that is exactly where the STIHL GCI 100 comes in. Connected to the home Wi-Fi network, the device can identify the garden’s exact location and record the irrigation requirements. Not only can it retrieve weather reports and use moisture sensors, it can create an entire digital ecosystem. “Our device can fully connect with the digital world,” explains Christ. “In that way, irrigation is precise – cost-effective and resource-efficient.”

A NETWORKED TEAM

The idea of networking products and making the entire garden “smart” has existed in Waiblingen and Langkampfen for quite some time. At VIKING, robotic lawnmowers will soon no longer work on their own, but will buzz over the grass as a team. “The team will be controlled with an app via smartphone or tablet,” explains Aschaber. Intelligent software connects the robotic lawnmowers via a cloud system. Once the mowing plan has been created, the server automatically transfers the data to the entire team. The result: In the future, large areas will be managed simultaneously. The STIHL iMow robotic mower is a flagship project and shows the future potential of connected products. In addition, they are the first products that can connect via the internet to the STIHL GCI 100 – ensuring that mowing and irrigation intervals are perfectly coordinated.

“Through the collaboration with GreenIQ we have learned a lot. The special way of thinking and working has shaped the entire development process a great deal.”
HARALD ASCHABER
The STIHL GCI 100 is the first fully digital product jointly developed by STIHL and VIKING. The basis is an app from the Israeli start-up GreenIQ.

INTERNATIONAL BRAINSTORMING

In parallel to this ongoing effort in Austria and Germany, the Israeli start-up GreenIQ developed a network-based platform for efficient irrigation. The system controls irrigation using online weather data. “This will enable us to conserve water by reducing waste,” says company founder Odi Dahan proudly. His innovative work did not go unnoticed. In January 2017, STIHL acquired a 35 percent stake in GreenIQ, a development that is a perfect fit for both sides. “My team and I are proud to be part of STIHL’s vision for ­a smart garden,” says Dahan. And on the other side, the much-praised start-up mentality is catching on. After all, it’s about thinking and acting outside of existing structures and sometimes pushing existing limits in order to succeed. “It’s about speed and pragmatic approaches,” agree both Christ and Aschaber. The outstanding dynamism of the start-up partner has more than once rubbed off on them.

CONTROL FROM ANY LOCATION

This international collaboration has resulted in an app that allows the Smart Garden Hub to be controlled and programmed from anywhere in the world. All that’s required is an internet connection. The application primarily is still based on the GreenIQ software. “Based on this, we have developed some specifications for our device, but do not want to get in the way of the original idea of the app – because it is good,” emphasizes Christ. The design of the hub is very much an in-house project, which reveals its origin through the typical orange and gray coloring. Specifically, the hub has a built-in transformer in addition to the central control board, cable ducts on three sides with the appropriate seals, and plenty of storage space for valve cable lines. The IP 55 protection class makes the hub outdoor-ready. It requires no additional surface-mounted boxes and, with only two screws, can be easily wall-­mounted.

“Thanks to digitalization, we can not only make de­vices smart, but also the ­entire garden.”
DR. KONRAD CHRIST
Behind Christ (left) and Aschaber is an intensive, international and interdisciplinary collaboration. The success of this is now manifest in the ­STIHL GCI 100.
At VIKING in Langkampfen, ground-supported garden equipment – and also the ­STIHL GCI 100 – are inten­sively tested

NEW PRODUCT – NEW TARGET CUSTOMERS

The innovation from STIHL is intended to appeal to a whole range of target customers. “Thanks to the success of the iMow, we know that there is not just one smart target group,” explains Aschaber. Rather, it’s about different approaches, ranging from the merely curious to the digital-savvy hobbyists, and more cautious “optimizers.”

They should all feel drawn to the STIHL GCI 100. “How they ultimately make use of the possibilities offered by the product is very much up to them,” says Aschaber.

Interest in the Smart Garden Hub is particularly strong in southern Europe. Many STIHL dealers in that region already possess expertise in irrigation systems, and many routinely advise their customers regarding efficient and responsible water management, sometimes in areas where water is a scarce resource. “We are convinced that the STIHL GCI 100 will be successful. There are plenty of advantages. The intelligent control system and considerable savings potential offer added value to our customers,” emphasizes Christ.

WWW.VIKING-GARDEN.COM
WWW.GREENIQ.COM

In the Garden of the Future

It’s all about the right mix. The garden of tomorrow is controlled digitally, but managed in an analog way. True to the principle of “making it easier for people to work with and in nature,” connected products and services create real customer value.

Click on one of the Hotspots to get more information.

STIHL GCI 100

The STIHL GCI 100, the Smart Garden Hub, has everything it needs to become the central access point in the garden of the future.

SERVICE & ORDER

List of run times and service intervals.

ANALYSIS

GROUND SENSOR / IRRIGATION

Measurement of relevant values for optimal and ­efficient irrigation.

IMow / “SWARM INTELLIGENCE”

For large areas up to ten net­worked iMow robotic mowers can take care of the lawn together.

LOCATION / GPS

ONLINE WEATHER DATA

ONLINE WEATHER DATA

Connection with the STIHL app, which can be used, among other things, to control the irrigation and iMow mowing intervals.

BATTERY STATUS / CHARGING

Timely information on current battery charge levels and required charging times.

CONNECTED PRODUCTS

For better fleet management: Devices can be tracked.

Please use a desktop computer or a tablet in landscape mode to see the interactive graphics.

READY, SET, GO

With an audible “click” the sprinklers in Odi Dahan’s garden turned on. In the middle of the night, as was scheduled – but with the rain pouring down. This waste of water annoyed the electrical engineer and at the same time marked the birth of his own start-up company. A search for apps that would allow irrigation systems to be controlled intelligently and efficiently did not yield any results. So Dahan himself worked on a solution to connect his garden to the internet. The result: GreenIQ Ltd. – a global company based in Tel Aviv. GreenIQ connects the garden via the app, controls and manages irrigation intervals with the help of weather and soil data, and provides information about possible cable damage. “This will enable us to conserve water by reducing waste,” says Dahan proudly.

The desire for resource conservation is no coincidence: “Our country is mostly desert and yet today it is very green. Israel knows its stuff when it comes to the efficient use of water.” Dahan’s commitment did not go un­noticed: STIHL became a partner of the successful start-up in 2017 and now owns around 35 percent of GreenIQ Ltd.

Odi Dahan (49) founded GreenIQ Ltd. in 2013. Today, it employs 16 people and distributes products worldwide.

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