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IoT & Smart Devices can become Monthly Costs at any time.

My Dad has kind of a green thumb. He loves planting all kinds of exotic crap in his backyard. I’ve never really had the knack for keeping our yard 100% maintained but would still keep a majority of the plants alive haha. I’d say every summer for the past decade I’ve probably lost at least one plant. Now I could attribute this to poor maintenance but the water clock was always a PITA. Around the time I had this epiphany that I don’t know how to take care of plants; My dad told me about a device called SkyDrop. It was a smart watering controller that you could use from your phone. I’m a computer programmer but for some reason walking up to an old school watering clock gave me nightmares. Eventually I got the hang of how to use these things but they’re always very clunky and in the worst spots in your garage when you’ve got tons of crap right in front of it. Southern Nevada water Authority is giving a rebate for any qualifying devices that you install. You can see the $100 smart water controller rebate and list of approved smart water controller devices at this link here. No where on this list is this project I just found recently called which only costs $150.

A service man who was a contractor for SkyDrop came down and installed the device. From the beginning it was a pain to get working… We first installed the Halo model which was the UFO looking device. It didn’t work with my Wi-Fi at all for some reason. He said my router was too far even though my garage door is working just fine with it. He then instead pulled out a different older model that he called the Legacy unit. He stuck it on my wall and went about his way. At first I had the smart watering feature on in the app that is supposed to detect the weather but in Vegas this is a terrible idea. You really need an external device that truly detects if it is raining. Going off the weather station isn’t reliable in places like Vegas where it rains very spotty throughout the valley. I had plants start to die on me because of this feature (not so smart now, huh). I turned that off and try to remember not to water when it rains but yea…

Then I get this email…

TLDR; In less than two weeks they will implement a monthly fee to use the device from your phone. This not only completely deceives the purpose of why I purchased the device to begin with; but feels like a complete bait and switch campaign to pull profits from customers. These devices installed in homes were being pushed through poorly structured rebate programs to ended up costing you more than saving in water. The fact that a public program was used to push these devices out there to only turn around and turn these damn things into dumb bricks. They took away the basic feature of controlling the device with your phone! I’ve got to pay $2 a month for that which I am not going to do with all the other options out there. Not only can anyone not get a refund, but upon asking about the new cost and lost features; I got a “too bad” response from the company. (I guess I was at least expecting some discount or other app to use the device without weather data…)

We are sorry we are now charging you to use basic features of your controller…

SkyDrop should have offered basic features on the app but charged for cloud features/data. Also blame to be made at SNWA for not properly overseeing this rebate program and using their customer pool as chum buckets for private companies. The fact they don’t even cover OPEN SOURCE PROJECTS LIKE “OPEN SPRINKLER” should go to show you that Southern Nevada Water Authority needs to be washed clean of it’s executives and re-organized. The people who set this program up and who architected the approval process needed to be investigated for fraud.

I’ll make updates with how I make out with other solutions like Open Sprinkler.

UPDATE 6/20/19

I’ve looked around a bit and heard Racheio was a good option but I found and I love source code so I bought that. Installing the device was super easy, I’ll make a YT vid and link here once I get around to it. I purchased the AC model for $150 and took me about an hour to install/configure.

I also got another email from skydrop with the real behind-the-scene story. Apparently they’ve been run by a few people since the end of 2018 as they have had money problems. Sounds like the company might be on its way out… too bad they didn’t just be honest and upfront about what’s going on in the first email.

A few weeks ago, we introduced Skydrop Plus, a subscription service to provide additional features and better-quality weather data to all Skydrop customers. We anticipated and have received plenty of push-back. If nothing else, we learned Skydrop Nation is extremely passionate. Your feedback helped us realize that complete transparency is the best approach. We would like to be more forthcoming about the situation for Skydrop, its continuing operation, and the compulsory nature of the Skydrop Plus subscription.
In 2014, our founders set out to create the best smart sprinkler controller on the market and help the world save one of our most precious resources — water. After 5 years, we believe we have achieved part of that goal. We feel strongly that the Skydrop Smart Watering algorithm is the best available. Although all products have their strengths and weaknesses, we believe Halo and Arc are “best of breed” as evidenced by thousands and thousands of happy customers. Unfortunately, a great product alone doesn’t make a business. Despite great efforts from many individuals, we were not able to secure the right funding to grow Skydrop to the point where we could revolutionize the irrigation market as we intended.
At the end of 2018 and after exhausting all options, Skydrop ownership made the difficult decision to discontinue operations. The immediate concern was for the many loyal customers that would see their smart controllers reduced to being dumb traditional timers when the Skydrop Cloud ceased operating. A few of the passionate (former) employees wanted to find a way to maintain the Skydrop Cloud and determine a path forward so that customers could continue using the devices and services they have enjoyed. The owners agreed to allow us to at least maintain the cloud services and retain a single full-time customer support employee.
For the last several months, as we have transitioned to positions at new companies, we have volunteered our time and personal resources to keep the cloud services up and available. Of course, this is not a long-term solution. We need to get Skydrop onto reasonable financial footing so it can either be acquired or continue operations with a few full- or part-time employees. Our options were: 1) increase sales (hard to do with no sales or marketing team); 2) ask the existing customers to pay a minimal fee to support the continuing availability of the cloud services or 3) shut down the cloud services immediately.
We sincerely apologize for this unwelcome news. Our hope is that our customers will see the value in the service and be willing to contribute to the ongoing costs of the system. We’ve also decided to disable, for now, the option to pay the yearly fee with an in-app purchase. We want to avoid the situation where the company accepts money for services they are unable to deliver.

Sad but it is what it is. In the meantime, I know a few people who will pay the 2$ a month until they find other options.

Where do you think things went wrong with SkyDrop?