Last Wednesday, I found myself hiking around in the hills above Silicon Valley, tramping down dried grasses and keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes, as warned. I was trailing Adam Wolf and Nona Chiariello as they hunted for a good spot in the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, 1200 acres of chaparral, redwood forest, and grassland owned by Stanford University, where Chiariello serves as a staff scientist. Their mission: to find the perfect location in which to pound in a metal post and mount the latest gadget to join the Internet of Things: Wolf’s Pulsepod.
The Pulsepod is a sleek puck, about the diameter of a dessert plate, packed with sensors and communications gear, intended to watch plants grow (literally) as it simultaneously collects data about the environment around them. Wolf and his startup, Arable, intend to market the gadget as a $500 replacement for $10,000 weather stations with $5000 net radiometers. They expect the first users will be agricultural researchers and specialty crop farmers eager to monitor microclimates and plant growth in order to predict both long term effects of the environment on plants and to make short term decisions, like when to water and when to harvest.