July 20, 2020
Digital Transformation
Product Design

Helping Scotts Miracle-Gro Build a Water-Based Plant Growing System

Helping Scotts Miracle-Gro Build a Water-Based Plant Growing System

Maintaining a healthy garden is no longer an offline-only affair. Digital horticulture products, which incorporate IoT (Internet-of-Things) devices into farms, gardens, and greenhouses, turn planting and growing into an intelligent, data-driven operation. Measuring climate data, monitoring growth status, and optimizing production processes to conserve natural resources makes it possible for professionals and hobbyists alike to grow with less waste and higher productivity. 

Scotts Miracle-Gro, one of the world’s largest marketers of branded lawn and garden care products for consumers, recognized the opportunity for digital horticulture technology to address the segment of the market interested in home gardening. Combining innovations in lighting, nutrient maintenance, and indoor watering systems, the Scotts Miracle-Gro team sought to develop a hydroponic growing system that allows plants to be cultivated indoors using a comprehensive, easy-to-use water-based growing system.

Miracle-Gro Twelve, an all-in-one hydroponic growing system, ultimately emerged from a successful proof-of-concept phase and became ready for mass production. As a fully-tested product intended to make growing plants indoors in water as easy as possible, the Miracle-Gro team desired a consumer-friendly mobile app to help gardeners plant, feed, cut, and serve a full variety of herbs and leafy greens. Building a connected app, however, would require a significant amount of IoT expertise, user experience design, and the potential to scale up to a larger product family.

As Scotts Miracle-Gro carried on with product development, the company began to encounter several technological hurdles. Manufacturing needed to spend more time on firmware and hardware testing for each product, quality issues could potentially impact supplies, and infrastructure components for AWS Cloud required greater optimisation. The company needed additional support to scale up the ambitious development and production of Miracle-Gro Twelve before the product could launch. 

Scotts Miracle-Gro partnered with Ciklum to help meet the company’s comprehensive development needs on schedule. This was a wide-reaching project that included software development, firmware development, quality assurance testing, DevOps support, and product design. Ciklum worked closely with the Miracle-Gro team to stabilise the firmware, build the device’s OS and Android apps, and craft a high-quality user experience to get the product ready for store shelves. 

Ciklum’s team began to craft Scotts Miracle-Gro mobile applications using partially reused code from another of the client’s product. The newly developed apps ultimately enabled users to remotely choose different light modes for plants growing in the device, set lighting schedules, and calculate statistics for plant monitoring. Depending on the method of planting — seeds or seedlings — the app projects a timeline of growth and when to expect a harvest. The mobile apps also produce notifications to alert users of problems, such as a low water level, as well as the opportunity to customise product configurations. 

The product design team at Ciklum conducted user research and, based on collected insights, mapped the customer journey. After creating wireframes and designing the user flow, the team created sophisticated and user-friendly visuals. The Miracle-Gro Twelve app was smooth, had a fluid interface, and robust functionality. For Miracle-Gro Twelve’s firmware, Ciklum’s team integrated several mission-critical features for mass production, such as Bluetooth OTA (over-the-air) update capabilities, logging through UART (universal asynchronous receiver-transmitter) and RTT (real-time transfer) to accelerate real-time transfer speeds in the embedded apps, and an advertisement mode for iOS through an iBeacon protocol for the app’s monetisation plan. 

Additionally, Ciklum’s firmware development team modified key components of the firmware to improve reliability and prepare Miracle-Gro Twelve for mass production. Ciklum carried out a comprehensive firmware review, firmware refactoring, automated testing, logging, and created an automated tool for generating and flashing serial numbers. 

Ciklum also carried out extensive software and hardware testing, ensuring Miracle-Gro Twelve provided a high-quality user experience. For Miracle-Gro Twelve’s firmware, Ciklum’s QA experts tested Bluetooth provisioning for versions 4.2 to 5.0 and firmware functional testing. Twelve’s iOS and Android apps were tested on various mobile devices based on usage statistics, including iOS versions 9.0 to 12.1 and Android versions 4.4 to 8.0. QA and testing teams also carried out application installation testing, update testing, and usability testing.

For Miracle-Gro Twelve’s hardware, Ciklum had a team in place to verify that the device was easy to assemble and maintain according to the user’s manual. The team ensured that the instructions provided clear instructions to assemble and disassemble the device, fill and empty the water tank, maintain the water pump, and enable the light mode control. The team ultimately verified that all components were successfully integrated and interacted without errors. As a result, the Miracle-Gro Twelve application can pair with hardware devices via Bluetooth, check and update the firmware version, and receive alerts and notifications about the water level and pump failures. The mobile applications were also integrated with cloud storage and the latest firmware version.

Finally, Ciklum’s DevOps consultants helped Scotts Miracle-Gro move several database solutions to AWS native PaaS solutions, allowing applications to be redeployed as scalable, fault-tolerant solutions. Miracle-Gro Twelve’s AWS Cloud became more robust and ready to handle additional capacity when demand increases.  

Upon the project’s conclusion, Ciklum and Scotts Miracle-Gro team delivered a fully fledged solution for Miracle-Gro Twelve, including the device’s firmware, mass-production support, mobile app development, and improved cloud and infrastructure support. Since the device’s launch, the Miracle-Gro Twelve Growing System enjoys very high favourable ratings on the iOS and Android App Stores. Ciklum’s partnership helped validate the feasibility of producing a large-scale IoT solution, retune the IoT device for mass production, and accelerate digitalisation within the company. Furthermore, the partnership has led to an increase in the number of loyal users, empowered with a brand-new mobile app that makes it easier to control Miracle-Gro Twelve devices. 

Collaborating on Miracle-Gro Twelve enabled Scotts Miracle-Gro to combine its digital horticulture expertise with Ciklum’s vast array of digital solutions, which helped the company solve its complex development tasks and ultimately deliver a fully realised product. Home gardeners around the world can continue to enjoy leafy greens and delicious herbs using Miracle-Gro Twelve’s state-of-the-art hydroponic growing system.

Since 2002, Ciklum has provided a wide range of digital services to Fortune 500 companies and fast-growing organisations throughout the world. Featured by Forrester and Gartner as a leader for continuous testing and mobile application testing services, leading organisations rely on Ciklum to develop robust solutions that can handle traffic scenarios of any size and scope. Contact Ciklum today to ensure an enhanced and secure digital retail experience.