Smart blinds hark back to the days of luxury home automation, but there are now stylish and simple options that don't cost the earth.
There are now a host of different options open to those looking to control blinds and shades remotely â and as youâd expect, compatibility with the latest smart speakers and voice assistants including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri via Apple HomeKit is the hot topic.
However â choosing, and then installing, the best smart blinds isn't always easy task.
If you're doing it properly, you'll need to speak to some of the brands below and really get a bespoke option â and we're not just talking about colour and size, and whether it fits inside your window frame, or over the top.
A lot of the big players are still pretty old school in terms of the tech - so bear with us while we try to unpack that. Also, in many cases prices depend on so many factors, you'll need to dive in and explore.
Smart blinds: What are your options?
You can go out and order made-to-measure electric blinds and roller shades â but thatâs the expensive option from the likes of Lutron and Somfy. There are always boutique options out there for home automation, but increasingly, older, analogue, motorized, blinds can be reverse engineered into being smart.
Taking advantage of these generally means having a roller blind with a chain mechanism. There a handful of motors on the market which can be used to automate the process â which you can then start integrating with your smart home tech.
Ikea has also entered the market recently, albeit with a slow roll out of its TrĂ„dfri connected electronic blinds.
Finally, you can do this yourself from scratch. With a motor, a couple of sensors and a controller you can effectively make your own smart blinds as a weekend project.
More on that later. In the meantime, hereâs your smart blind picks.
Soma Smart Shades 2
Buy now: somasmarthome.com | ÂŁ129
If youâre looking for a retrofit option, Soma is the avenue to explore.
Now out with a second edition, the Smart Shades 2 are visually unchanged, but address our main complaints with the original.
These little units attach to your wall, and chow down on your blindâs link chain, essentially replacing your hands in the equation. There's no need to buy new roller shades or get a bespoke fitting, as long as your blinds have link chain it should be plug and play.
We've been testing them and they're so easy to fit â and once the unit is charged up, it took next to no time to hook it on and use the sticky pads to mount to the wall. There are also holes to screw in the unit too for a more sturdy fit.
Once Soma is fitted you can control the blinds from your smartphone â but there's no button control on the unit itself, which is a shame.
The first generation was noisy and really really slow â comically so. We're pleased that the Smart Shades 2 are 4x faster than the original, and a little quieter as well.
It's far better to set up schedules and triggers in the app, rather than do it manually â as one small blind took around 5 minutes to fully open or close. You can trigger around sunrise and sunset, which is pretty neat.
Soma has the complete suite of smart integrations, with Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit in the line-up. This requires the Soma Connect ÂŁ99.99 module to be plugged into your router, which is in turn connected to your chosen Assistant.
While the Soma set up was seamless for the main, Soma Connect was more fiddly. We got Alexa to use the "Alexa, ask Soma to open/close blinds", but blinds don't appear as a device in Alexa's list, so it can't be implemented as a Routine.
Buy now: Powered Blinds | ÂŁVaries
Somfy is a giant name in smart blinds on both sides of the pond - the French company is actually a motorized motor specialist. This means you it will sort the mechanics and you can choose from hundreds of designs, sizes and materials from a large range of suppliers Somfy has partnered with.
We've tested the Somfy Roll Up Wirefree; a battery powered quiet drive motor, along with an all-in-one grey roller blind. The motor is part of Somfy's RTS range and doesn't have to be smart at all. There are a range of Somfy RTS controllers that can be used to move the blinds up and down, and you will also find an up/down remote control boxed with the blinds. Somfy also has a huge array of of sensors that can be paired up to move the blinds - movement, sunlight and more.
Things get interesting when you start controlling the blinds with connected apps and voice assistants - especially as the Tahoma skill has recently been updated so as Somfy blinds are recognised as devices within Amazon's ecosystem. Google Assistant, which has only recently been added, is also straightforward when it comes to smart speaker control.
Simple open/close command work a treat, and it's easier than ever to include opening or closing within automated routines. I've got it so that when I say, "Alexa, I'm going to work" to the Echo speaker in my kitchen, my office blinds open alongside Alexa firing up my computer, speakers and the like at the same time.
IFTTT recipes can also be found to combine to open and close the blinds depending on geolocation, sunrise/sunset, motion detection and more.
Ikea Fyrtur and Kadrilj smart blinds
Buy now: ikea.com | From ÂŁ90
Ikea's motorized smart blind pair are essentially battery-powered blinds that interact with the Ikea Home smart app and the TrĂ„dfri gateway; that also means they can sync up with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit.
Both Kadrilj and Fytur look fairly similar to your regular blinds - not a shock, obviously - with the differentiator coming in the form of a small compartment for the battery. Fyrtur are also block-out blinds; so are more suited for bedrooms. Both ranges come in an array of different sizes.
The Fyrtur blackout smart blinds come in eight different sizes; ranging from 23 to 48 inches in width. They all have a maximum drop of around 77 inches.
Like the rest of Ikea's smart home range, you have the choice to control them using a paired remote control or making them genuinely smart by syncing them with the TrĂ„dfri Gateway. If you do the latter, you open up the likes of Google Assistant, Alexa and HomeKit voice controls, routines and the like.
The smart blinds themselves operate using Zigbee so, in theory, you could also add them directly to a smart home hub - although you might find the process a touch fiddly; on SmartThings, for example, you'll have to make use of a custom handler, you won't be able to simply add it as a device as you would a Zigbee smart bulb or plug.
The Ikea Fyrtur blinds are now available from furniture giant's online store in the US - previously you had to go to a store to get them.
Aside from the smarts, you can operate the blinds with the included remote control and one remote can also operate multiple blinds.
Buy now: serenashades.com (US) | ÂŁVaries
Controllable via Amazon Alexa, HomeKit and Google Assistant, Lutron offers smart blinds off the shelf. Its website has a tool that enables you to design your blinds, window by window. Itâs surprisingly easy and you can select any size of window, colour and roll-type - there's both honeycomb and roller available - before getting to the all-important tech choice.
You can choose the company's own remote control, the smart home option which requires the purchase of the Lutron Smart Bridge, or both. The Smart Bridge works with Nest, SmartThings, Wink, Logitech Harmony and Sonos â so you can really get your home working together. Want your blinds to go down at sunset? Itâs all possible.
Pre-order now: sunsahomes.com | From ÂŁ65
The Sunsa Wand, which originally launched on Indiegogo for pre-orders last year, is a battery-powered device that simply replaces your wand/tilt mechanism on your existing blinds.
Dubbed, "the world's simplest smart blind", the Sunsa Wand can be installed in less than 2 minutes, with no special tools needed. You simply have to remove your existing tilt mechanism and pop the Wand into place.
The Sunsa Wand is able to work with horizontal, vertical and mini blinds, and you are able to control and adjust the opening and closing settings, set schedules and the like all through a connected smartphone app.
With Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, the possibilities to sync up your Sunsa Wand smart blinds with the rest of your connected devices are pretty limitless.
Velux Active with Netatmo
If you're looking for something incredibly fancy and smart, this new partnership with Velux and Netatmo is where you should set your gaze. However, be warned that it could be very expensive.
That's because you first have to purchase and install Velux Integra roof windows, blinds or shutters. This itself varies on the style of window you want, the type of blinds, the color, the motor options and the rest.
Once you do all that, you can get the Velux Active starter pack - which is now available in the US. It monitors humidity, temperature, and CO2 via sensors and takes care of ventilation all by itself. So if it needs to air out your home, it'll open the windows. The Active also makes all of this compatible with HomeKit, so you can get Siri in on the action too.
Buy now: luxaflex.com.au | ÂŁVaries
If you're down in Australia, Luxaflex is your best option. Not only does Luxaflex offer a whole host of shutter and blind options to choose from, making it easy to find a style that best fits your decor, but they can integrate a host of third party services and brands to make it happen.
There are a number of motorisation options, for instance, from PowerView to QMotion to another option on this list, Somfy. There are even motorised blinds that are solar powered by the sun. Most of Luxaflex's options work with Google Assistant, Zigbee systems and IFTTT, so there are plenty of smart control options too.
No, thatâs not the name of a cool SF startup, we literally mean DIY. Earlier on we mentioned the option of making your own smart blinds and we werenât lying. Weâre going to get our spanners out and give this a go for a proper how-to in the coming weeks.
All youâll need is a power adapter, some blinds, some tape, an RF device, a motor and an âAndroid Boxâ and youâre away. Good luck.