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In the garden with: Heribert Wettels (Gardena)

Heribert Wettels – Photo: A. Riemer

Innovative technologies and smart solutions for outdoor lighting, lawn care and irrigation will once again in 2018 be the focus of the IVG Power Place AKKU and the Smart Gardening World at spoga+gafa. Due to the huge success last year, the presentation area of the themed islands has indeed been expanded by around 50 percent. The company Gardena is also on board again this year. In the run-up to the trade fair we spoke with Heribert Wettels, Director Public Relations at Gardena (Husqvarna Group), about the development of the market and about his own garden.

Mr Wettels, smart gardening solutions are becoming increasingly popular with the customers. What does this mean for the specialised trade? Have the players of the green industry have to develop more and more into IT specialists?

Wettels: In the year 1983 the American TIME Magazine elected a machine as “Man of the Year”, namely the computer, instead of a person. The editors were at the time in agreement that in addition to the fridge, washing machine and TV, the computer had conquered our households on a widespread basis. This was viewed with scepticism by some people. Today, we find it matter of course that there is at least one computer in every household. Just two years later, in 1985, Gardena had introduced its first electronic watering control system onto the market and in calling with the times named it an “irrigation computer” – even if this term perhaps seems slightly overexaggerated for this type of appliance today. At the latest when smartphones had asserted themselves, the computer was firmly integrated into our everyday lives – across all age groups and ways of life. What I would like to say is that technology continually moves forward and further develops. What today is still new and perhaps unfamiliar, can tomorrow be matter of course. For the retail trade this means that one has to get to terms with the at the time still new technology and should particularly train its sales staff carefully, but in principle this applies for every new product. However, especially among the younger colleagues, this happens extremely intuitively and arouses their curiosity and interest.

 

To what extent can smart gardening products already be integrated into smart home systems? And when will Alexa, Siri and co. also start controlling what is going on in the garden?

Wettels: The Gardena smart system is such a platform which applications of our partners can also be integrated into. The outdoor security camera Presence by Netatmo kicked everything off here. The camera grants one a view over the entire garden and which can also turn on the lights. But the camera also offers numerous other functions. Further such partnerships will follow, but I can’t reveal anymore as yet. On the other hand, we also aim to integrate our system into the platforms of the big suppliers, where this makes sense. And there will be some news on this front soon. The possibility of voice control as an integral part of these platforms more or less goes without saying. The automowers of our sister brand Husqvarna can already be voice controlled via Alexa today. Finally, the benchmark can and should never be the question as to whether something is technically possible, but whether it also offers the user actual added value.

 

Robotic Lawnmower – Photo: Gardena

Let us try and take a look a few years into the future. What form do you think smart gardening will take on in the near future? Will there be drones for instance that watch the public green spaces and if necessary independently request transport drones to deliver a robot lawn mower?

Wettels: I wouldn’t like to take on the function of an oracle. Of course, a lot of things are conceivable, but whether the user accepts all of this and sees an added value for himself which he is prepared to spend money on, is another matter altogether. We observe the market and the consumer needs very closely and draw our conclusions from this, which we in turn translate into products and services. The speed is very fast here, but one simply takes one step after the other. The destination of the journey is to an extent uncertain, but that is precisely what makes it so exciting. In any case, the saying nothing is as old as the forecasts of yesterday certainly applies. The iPhone came out onto the market just over ten years ago. Who would have thought that it would influence and change our everyday lives that much within such a short space of time? Vice versa, this also means however that the thing or concept that will significantly determine our everyday routine over the coming ten years, presumably hasn’t even been invented or thought of yet. So, things stay exciting…

 

How smart is your own garden already? Do you still use a garden hose now and again and put on the outdoor lights by hand? Or is all of the work controlled fully automatically already?

Wettels: I have always been extremely technology-minded and was what one refers to as an “early adopter” in the case of many technical innovations. I like trying new things out, because I am curious. Some appliances bring an advantage and are beneficial and one discards other things again because they simply offer no extra benefit. But every individual has to work that out for himself. For example, I hesitated for a long time before buying a Smartwatch, because I couldn’t really recognise a personal benefit for myself. In the meantime, I find several of its functions thoroughly useful and practical. I do indeed still turn the lights on and off outside in the old-fashioned way if you like using a classic light switch. But on the other hand, I haven’t touched my old records and CDs for ages. Everything was digitalised a long time ago and the songs are available everywhere and at all times via my NAS that is connected to the Internet. Nevertheless, I still do appreciate a nice printed copy of a book, because for me the haptic experience is important. As you see, it doesn’t have to be a contradiction. One can pick the best out of both worlds at will. And that mostly happens totally intuitively.

 

For further information: gardena.com/int

 

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