That powerful little computer we carry on our hips or in our pockets is a marvel of technology. In the vernacular we call it a smartphone, although we’re not always so smart in how we use it — not in the context of being wise or even thoughtful.

The same goes for smart controllers now so familiar to landscape irrigation professionals. Like our (seemingly) do-everything cellphones, a smart controller is a remarkably advanced tool — but, in the end, it remains a tool. That’s important to remember.

What makes an irrigation controller smart? Richard Restuccia, vice president at Jain Irrigation and a longtime water management professional, says it must perform these five basic functions.

1. The ability to adjust watering run times based on weather data or soil moisture data on a daily basis. A smart controller makes adjustments daily, which can amount to thousands of gallons of water saved over a year.

2. The ability to view and make changes to a controller from my computer, tablet or smartphone. For contractors managing multiple properties, the ability to monitor and manage controllers without having to drive and touch each controller saves time and money. More importantly, because they can evaluate data and make changes from the office, the evaluation process happens more frequently.

3. The ability to sense flow. This allows users to see real time how much water is being used. It also provides the ability to measure the flow of water for better water management and access to make changes easily.

4. The ability to sense high flow and shut a system down when high flow is detected and send an alert, either via email or text message, to a technician to let them know there is a problem. Anyone who has experienced a high water bill as a result of a water line break that went unnoticed understands this value.

5. The ability to generate reports so you can analyze data to make better decisions about water management. It is important to know how much water you used this month. It is even better to be able to compare that with how much you used this same month last year. Good data allows you to make comparisons leading to more efficient irrigation.

In spite of the incredible technology embedded within today’s smart irrigation systems — wireless operation, flow sensing, automatic trouble-shooting, etc. — they still need the knowledge and oversight of skilled irrigators to keep them performing up to their promise.