In this Electric Imp guest blog post, Rachio Co-founder Franz Garsombke provides insight into the challenges of integrating connectivity into the Iro smart sprinkler controller and how the issues were solved through the Electric Imp platform.

With the Western US facing drought conditions this summer, the Iro from Rachio is an especially timely solution that helps track and reduce water usage, save money and keep your plants green.


As one of the co-founders of Rachio, creator of the smart sprinkler controller Iro, I wanted to share a bit of our story and experience with the Electric Imp platform, which is an integral part of our architecture. The Iro is available for purchase at Home Depot and through the Rachio website.

Do you remember seeing The Matrix movie for the first time? Well, I do. I also remember the first time I used an imp to start building our prototype. I vividly recall sending an email to my fellow co-founders at 3 a.m. with these thoughts:

“Whoa, I totally get it. This could definitely be a game changer. It’s like drinking your first Bourbon or hitting your first deep powder run. This solves WiFi connectivity, removing an LCD screen from our product, and a complete messaging infrastructure from our cloud to thousands of devices. I will begin porting our Arduino code! To the Batmobile!”

Needless to say, it was a late night. Some experiences leave an indelible impression on your psyche.

In building our smart sprinkler controller we wanted a headless device that could easily connect to a consumer’s WiFi network but did not need the traditional LCD screen for setup. We also wanted a device infrastructure that could scale to hundreds of thousands of units. These requirements are a lot harder than they appear when building a hardware startup from the ground up.

Our hardware evolution went from the Arduino microcontroller to a Atmel AVR XMEGA microcontroller to the BeagleBone (with a blur of other microcontrollers in the middle). With all of these devices came almost insurmountable challenges that included memory management, learning cryptic programming languages, device-to-cloud messaging, and the inability to have an elegant WiFi based onboarding solution.

At wit’s end, our answer came to us at a local Internet of Things meetup like a siren song. The founder of ATOMS Express suggested we perform due diligence on the Electric Imp platform since it might be a good fit for our product.

Extensive software backgrounds do not a hardware company create! The Electric Imp connectivity solution transforms software developers into hardware ninjas allowing the ability to use a simple scripting language while developing in an online IDE. The ease of deploying code directly to a WiFi connected device enabled through the Electric Imp platform is worth its weight in gold in the design/development/test software and hardware lifecycle.

One of the biggest hurdles was creating a seamless way for consumers to install and connect the Iro to their WiFi network. Without this problem solved there would be no Iro, there would be no joy. Electric Imp provided us with the revolutionary concept of connecting the Iro using Electric Imp’s BlinkUp™, a smartphone application that transmits WiFi information through a photosensor on the unit.

Electric Imp allowed Rachio to focus on its core strategy and not have to spend precious time and resources on building a device-to-cloud messaging and scaling infrastructure that does not add any intrinsic value to the underlying product. As a result, our time to market will be at least 4-6 months ahead of the competition since we only had to focus on adding customer value and important software features.

Finding the Electric Imp was truly a blessing. The traditional hardware walls that blocked smart teams from pursuing their dreams are finally coming down. With only software backgrounds we were able to build a product that spans both the physical and virtual worlds. Electric Imp solved key problems that only a year ago would require a significant investment in time, money, resources, and infrastructure.

Go build something! It’s that easy. No really. Go build something!

While you are off building something, don’t forget to purchase the world’s first smart sprinkler controller powered by Electric Imp technology. It’s your turn to fuel the revolution!