• Boolean IP Team

Self-Watering Technology - Patent Filing and Innovation Trends



Executive Summary


This report is commissioned to examine the global innovation & patenting trends in the domain of Self Watering Technology, in particular based on study of patent filings between 2010 - 2020.


Self-watering domain has seen patenting activity mostly in the last 10 years and most promising patents have been filed in last 5 years only. Accordingly, this study was restricted to patents filed after 2010. Looking at high number of filings happening in this domain by enterprises of all sizes, universities, and researchers etc., it becomes much vital to have a keen evaluation of the patenting activity to understand the innovation trends.


The initial research aims to give the readers a clear insight regarding the comparative patenting activity among different players in the domain. A closer look at the patenting activity demonstrates a constant rise in the filing specifically after 2015 wherein a steep rise globally can be observed.


This motivated us to take a deeper dive and analyze critically the various parameters and aspects of Self-watering technology. Further, country-wise (CN, KR, US, JP, TW etc.) patent filing trends in Self-watering techniques were also evaluated while also revealing the major players in each category. A comparative analysis of R&D strategy and portfolio strength for few major players was also evaluated.


Finally, a few prominent recommendations were identified for the players in Self-watering technology that shall help them evaluate the scope of their innovation & opportunities of expansion.



INTRODUCTION


Deforestation and rising pollution are driving the current problem of Global warming and Climate change. As per the World Bank, the world lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) of forest between 1990 and 2016.


The problem of climate change is not hidden as every year its consequences are faced by the world in various forms like Floods, rising environment temperature, earthquakes, etc. Understanding the situation, the United nations had initiated a convention, named Paris Climate agreement on climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance in 2016. Many countries have shown commitment to save environment through various ways in which Reforestation or planting more trees is the major step.


However, the major challenge in reforestation is management of plants and trees to protect them from dying due to lack of water and other required nutrients. It has been noticed that many programs throughout the world are being run to mark planting large number of trees but after the plantation drives, many plants die due to lack of care. To mitigate this problem, self-watering technology is being used and researched to manage reforestation drives efficiently. This study discusses some of the recent patent and technology trends in self-watering technology.


OVERALL TECHNOLOGY ANALYSIS AND TRENDS


Below chart shows the patents categorized in different technology areas in the domain of self watering technology.

It is noteworthy that more than 50% of the share is captured by patents published related to self-watering technology in which water reservoir and main part of it is located wholly around and directly beside the growth substrate whereas the controlling techniques take the second place.

Above chart shows a continuous rise in patent filing trend from 812 patents filed in 2010-2011 to 4,438 patents filed in 2019-2020. This shows the importance of Self watering technology domain in the last 10 years because the investment is continuously rising till 2020 though the graph shows a decline from 4,438 patents filed in 2019-2020 to 2,713 patents filed in 2020-2021. However, the decline may be due to those patents that are filed but not published yet.


OVERALL GEOGRAPHICAL COVERAGE OF PATENTING ACTIVITIES


Share of favourable markets in Patenting Activities

The charts below shows the number of patent families published in different jurisdictions. The technology is being protected in these countries which may denote that the innovators are seeking these geographies as most favorable market for their invention.



Maximum of the patents (around 90% of total filings) have been published in China, South Korea, and USA. It shows that these are the favorable marketplace for Self Watering Products.


Share of active innovation countries in Patenting Activities

The charts below shows the number of patent families first filed in different jurisdictions. The technology is being first protected in these countries which may denote that the innovations are originating in these countries.


Similar to top jurisdictions in last 10 years where most patents are published as shown in previous section, the top research origin jurisdictions are China, Korea, United States, Japan, and Taiwan. Out of 17,747 patents filed between 2016 to 2020 years, China carries out nearly 90% of the total research in the last 5 years in the self-watering technology.


ACTIVE PLAYERS AND INNOVATORS


The two graphs shown below represents top 5 academic assignees and top 5 corporate assignees as per the patent filing trend of last 10 years, respectively. Sichuan Agriculture University is the top academic assignee with 167 patents filed in the last 10 years and Zhongyi Ecological Environmental Engineering is the top corporate assignee with 34 patents filed in the last 10 years. This shows that academic section of the world is focusing more on self-watering technology as compared to corporate assignees as more patents have been filed by the former.


INSIGHTS & RECOMMENDATIONS


Out of 24,351 patents filed between January 2010 and January 2021, there have been 14 litigated families. In which, 6 litigations are recorded in United States and 4 each in China and South Korea. It can be deduced that United States, China, and South Korea are the emerging markets, as these countries seem to have players working on products in this domain.


The significance of the intellectual property of Self watering technology inventions is quite evident from the innovation trends witnessed across all sub-categories of domain in major countries and globally. This can also be made from the fact that self-watering products are already available on various e-commerce portals.


Apart from that, engineers at The University of Texas at Austin recently developed a new type of self-watering soil that can pull water from the air and distribute it to plants, potentially expanding the map of farmable land around the globe.


Also, according to a recent report from the Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s (NMC), India, their decision to opt for self-watering tree guards in 2018 has starter yielding results. Over 90% of the 447 saplings planted by the civic body’s garden department are now at least 25-30 feet tall.


The global smart irrigation market is estimated to be USD 1.0 billion in 2020 and projected to reach USD 2.1 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 15.3%. Major factors driving the growth of the smart irrigation market include increasing government initiatives to promote water conservation, rising demand for food production, and automatic scheduling of irrigation, leading to reduced labor costs. In addition, the increasing importance of effective irrigation solutions and watering practices has stimulated the smart irrigation market growth.


IoT device installations in agriculture farms around the world are projected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 14%. COVID-19 is further expected to accelerate the installation of IoT devices in agriculture farms across the world to optimize irrigation scheduling with reduced labor requirements in the field. The number of connected agricultural devices is expected to witness a promising growth in medium to long term.


The demand for smart irrigation systems from the agriculture application has been on the rise in the recent years, and is expected to grow at the highest rate during the forecast period. Major factors contributing to the growth of the smart irrigation market include the number of initiatives undertaken by various governments to promote water conservation, a surge in farming operating costs, decreasing cost of sensors and controllers, and growing emphasis on increasing farm productivity and profitability of farmers and growers using smart irrigation solutions.


The trend of smart cities is rising across various countries in the world. These smart cities make use of smart systems in commercial as well as residential places. The adoption of smart irrigation controllers is expected to increase in smart cities. Therefore, the growth of smart cities is expected to generate opportunities for players involved in the smart irrigation controller market. A number of countries in the world face extreme weather conditions. The irrigation systems in these regions need to be highly efficient. The implementation of smart irrigation systems with soil and weather sensors can lead to highly efficient irrigation systems as compared to the conventional systems. The need for advanced irrigation systems is another factor pushing the growth of the smart irrigation system market.


The penetration of smart phones in developing and developed countries, has increased over the time and are incorporated with several user-friendly application related to agriculture and are becoming more powerful with easy-to-carry tools for homeowners, turf managers, and smart home contractors. Currently, there are a few irrigation controller providers that provide automated irrigation scheduling based on voice assistance service. For instance, Rachio launched a voice controlled Rachio 3 smart sprinkler controller and Rachio 3 wireless flow meter. The use of smartphones by farmers can help in getting precise information on climate data and weather changes enabling them to plan the irrigation schedules accordingly.


The smart irrigation devices make use of various interfaces, technologies, and protocols to communicate. These communication devices lack standardization and may result in data misrepresentation. The lack of standardization with respect to technologies complicates the integration of systems and hinders the plug-and-play capabilities between unrelated systems. For example, most equipment manufacturers use their own interface protocols for communication. This affected the communication between devices belonging to different equipment manufacturers. In addition to the use of different equipment, the problem faced by software and system developers is the access to the data related to points. It is in the absence of this critical information that devices lack standardization and interoperability metrics.


It is hard to say at this stage when in the next few years, we will find the technology capable enough to completely replace the traditional watering systems. But when we do, we can expect the speed of growth to be potentially faster than typical technology-adoption curves, which are already accelerating. Without a massive upfront cost being borne by consumers, there is a strong potential for growth metrics.



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