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Design Award Winner


Generation 2 Smart Sprinkler Controller

Industrial Design, Mechanical Engineering, Technology-Based Innovation, Engineering Analysis & Optimization

A Colorado-based startup wanted to redesign their first-generation IoT product for lower cost, larger volumes, and better performance.

A thoughtful redesign turned a great concept into a flexible, scalable product, while reinforcing the brand behind it.

Typical sprinkler systems waste up to 50% of the water they use, and the founders of a Colorado startup called Rachio wanted to change that.

With some custom-designed software and an initial round of funding, Rachio had already put a revolutionary product on the market: a small, wall-mounted controller that works with existing electronic irrigation systems to make watering smarter and more efficient.

More than just a handy way of turning sprinklers on and off, the WiFi-enabled Rachio system gives owners full control via a dedicated smartphone app. The app uses real-time local weather data to make automated sprinklers wastefully watering in the rain a thing of the past.

But as their product gained popularity, Rachio realized they needed to redesign if they wanted to scale up and head off potential competitors. Their founders approached Bresslergroup with a challenge to design Generation 2 with technical upgrades and a lower price point that is also easier to manufacture, install, and use. (Read our reasons why — and strategies for how — to go next gen.)

They needed to redesign if they wanted to scale up and head off potential competitors.

In response, we assembled a project team combining industrial design expertise with mechanical and electrical engineering to make sure all of Rachio’s goals got full consideration.

Creating multiple concepts helped determine the right design direction.

Bresslergroup saw an opportunity to design sustainability into this consumer product. While doing so can be challenging, given the necessities of delivering a great user experience at a competitive price, there was the opportunity to make a huge impact. When multiplied by hundreds of thousands of units, a sustainable consumer product can have a resoundingly positive effect.

Our team redesigned the first generation of Rachio’s smart sprinkler controller to use half as many parts as the original, reducing harmful waste and allowing Rachio to keep production in the U.S.

Our team redesigned the first generation of Rachio’s smart sprinkler controller to use half as many parts as the original, eliminate screws and external fasteners, and condense three PCBs worth of electronics into one. This eliminated harmful waste, and it reduced product complexity and assembly costs to allow Rachio to keep production in the U.S. And by consolidating connectors into a single array, the device is easier to setup, and easier to reconfigure.

An improved visual display lets users see at a glance that everything’s working — indicator LEDs integrated into the Rachio logo on the unit’s face are a sleek way of letting users know which zones are running. The front cover incorporates subtle texture variations to convey the concept of “digital rain.”

As a play on the company’s name, the device’s proportions and features were re-situated according to the golden ratio. The optional weatherproof housing got a redesign, too, to be more compact and to set the Rachio brand apart from generic-looking alternatives.

A Focus on User Experience

A lot of human factors considerations went into developing the wiring layout. Generation 2’s wiring bay is more clearly labeled. It’s also bigger to leave more room for wiring and to fit even the largest gauge wire while still leaving room for the installers’ fingers and tools.

Bresslergroup’s electrical engineers added sensor inputs to support rain and freeze sensors as well as flow sensors to collect accurate data on water consumption.

They swapped out the original chipset for a more cost-effective Marvell module to make Wi-Fi setup easier. The new module also future-proofs Rachio by making it compatible with other IoT hardware.

Midway through the project, a competitor promising additional features showed up on Kickstarter. The Bresslergroup team quickly pre-empted the challenge by upping the number of watering zones from 8 to 16, and keeping installation down to a simple 30-minute process that requires no special tools.

Released in early 2016, the second-generation Rachio system offers dramatic improvements in function, and looks the part as well — while holding to a lower retail price as before ($249.99 as opposed to Gen 1’s $299), with no upper limit on production volume.

Rachio users have saved more than 120 billion gallons of water so far, and counting! 

The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) selected the Rachio system as a 2016 IDEA Finalist, and appliance DESIGN honored the product with a 2016 Gold Excellence in Design (EID) award in its Outdoor & Leisure Appliances category. The Design Management Institute recognized the development team behind the system with Second Place in their 2017 dmi:Design Value Awards.

Rachio continues to win accolades from the media, and it has the distinction of being the first smart home company to earn B Corporation certification for its commitment to sustainability and smart water usage. Best of all, Rachio users have saved more than 120 billion gallons of water so far, and counting!

Bresslergroup went on to help Rachio develop its third generation smart sprinkler controller, the Rachio 3, which launched in spring 2018, earned “Editor’s Choice” in PCMag and was named best in category by the New York Times‘ product review website, The Wirecutter, in 2018 and again in 2021. The Rachio 3 is also a Featured Innovation in America By Design, a TV series about American innovation, ingenuity, and design excellence.

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