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Hands on ... Parrot Flower Power

French wireless firm Parrot, perhaps best known for its hands-free phone kits for cars, has a new wonder gadget.

This one doesn't play music, handle phone calls or fly. Instead, Flower Power sits in a plant pot, silently monitoring the health of plants.

The device is 20cm tall, about half of which skewers down into the soil next to the plant to be monitored. The 10cm or so that sticks out of the soil is shaped like a twig, with a small LED that only very occasionally blinks. The model I tested had a subtle grey-brown finish; sky blue and forest green versions are also available.

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Setting up Flower Power is fairly straightforward: insert the AAA battery, stick the device in the soil and download the free smartphone app. Flower Power then gets to work, monitoring sunlight, temperature, water and fertiliser levels 24 hours a day. When the phone is within range of the sensor - around 10 metres in practice - plant data is automatically synced with the Flower Power app.

The mobile app is handsomely designed. On first launch it asks you to identify the plant from its database, then Flower Power not only graphs all of the plant's vital signs, but also how well its levels are doing for a plant of that type.

Predictably in a Scottish winter, my plant never reported issues with water or (indoor) temperature, but it regularly complained about a lack of sunlight, suggesting I should move it to a brighter spot. The plant was already on the windowsill, so perhaps Barcelona was what it had in mind.

For now the app is only available for Apple devices that support the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard - the iPhone 4S or later, the iPad 3 or later and the fifth-gen iPod Touch. Parrot says it's keen to support Android devices, but variations in how BLE is supported across Android devices and versions means there's no guarantee on when that'll happen or which devices will be supported.

The Parrot team make some of my favourite gadgets, from the AR Drone flying quadricopter to the mundane but no less brilliant MK series of Bluetooth car audio systems. While I applaud the thinking and design, I can't help but think Flower Power is a little pointless. If I have to be close to the plant and remember to open the app from time to time, wouldn't I be better sticking my thumb in the soil? And at £50 a pop, it's not something I could add to every plant.

That said, everything about Flower Power - from the app design right down to the packaging - is brilliantly done, so if you're looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for the green-fingered geek in your life, this could be it.

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