Smart home enthusiasts who prefer Google's Assistant over Amazon Alexa can now water their lawn with voice actions thanks to an update to Orbit's B-hyve sprinkler and faucet control systems announced at CES 2019. For clarity, the change is applicable to all B-hyve branded water timers from the company. So if a homeowner or property manager is looking to replace their indoor-located sprinkler timer or the one they have outside, or if they are already using a B-hyve timer, Google Assistant can now be used to interact with the system. The same is true of the company's hose and faucet smart timer that can be synced with a B-hyve WiFi hub — sold separately — to enable smart controls of that equipment. Prior to the update, users were able to control the systems via a dedicated application or Amazon Alexa skill from anywhere. The addition of Assistant support means that users will be able to use voice commands such as "OK Google, water the garden," to accomplish the same tasks.
Connected water management
Orbit's B-hyve systems were first introduced back in 2016 and have steadily gained more connected features, alongside new offerings being announced, leading up the CES 2019 update. A total of three systems are sold by the company, including two more traditional watering system timers meant for either indoor or outdoor installation on a new or existing sprinkler system. The two products mount on a wall indoors or are installed in a locking inside or out, respectively, and support four to eight zones or six to twelve zones. All of the B-hyve systems are compatible with most rain and freeze sensors already on the market, working with those and analyzing local weather reports via Wi-Fi to adjust watering times automatically as part of a user's smart home setup. Bluetooth connectivity works with each system as well.
Bluetooth is the primary means for controlling the third entry in Orbit's B-hyve product line, the B-hyve Hose Faucet Timer. The device effectively adds the same type of functionality attained with a sprinkler system timer and the same app-based controls as other B-hyve systems but of a traditional outdoor faucet. A Wi-Fi hub can be connected to that — plugged in indoors with a range of 200-feet — to add more control and voice commands to up to 64 individual B-hyve faucet timers, letting users create their own automatic sprinkler system with more traditional hardware. The faucet attachments also have the added benefit of enabling a mesh network with each timer added, so the area that can be covered is effectively unlimited as long as each timer is placed within range.
Water tech is officially cool now
Smart, connected water management systems have been smaller trends attached to bigger trends at the CES 2019 event, with new product launches covering showers, tubs, toilets, and now lawncare. Google's aptly-named Assistant AI platform has been a large part of those trends and others at the show, with company's putting Amazon's Alexa on the back burner for the time being. That may partially be because products like Orbit's B-hyve lineup already supported the competing digital helper and associated automation ecosystem going into the event. Amazon has a substantial foothold in those markets due to its early widespread support for smart home integration and its continued work in that area. That doesn't mean the addition of Google Assistant support is any less significant though since the decision to bring the search giant's AI forward ultimately means more choice for consumers and more competition in the market.