How to get started with smart blinds: Top brands and options for your shades

Automating your blinds isn't easy – but here's what you need to consider

The real Slim Shady: Smart blinds explained

When it comes to visions of the smart home, your smart blinds rolling up to reveal the new dawn is pretty much peak future living. And smart blinds are just starting to take shape.

There are now a host of different options open to those looking to control blinds remotely – and as you’d expect, compatibility with the latest voice assistants including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri via Apple HomeKit is the hot topic.

However – smart blinds aren't an easy fit. If you're doing it properly, you'll need to speak to some of the brands below and really get a bespoke option – 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.

Our recommended Google Home compatible devices

Lifx smart light bulb
Lifx smart light bulb
TP-Link Kasa smart Wi-Fi plug mini
TP-Link Kasa smart Wi-Fi plug mini
Philips Hue starter pack
Philips Hue starter pack

What are your options?

You can go out and order made-to-measure electric blinds – but that’s the expensive option from the likes of Lutron and Somfy. There are always boutique options out there for home automation, but increasingly, older, analogue 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 – which you can then start integrating with your smart home tech. We've picked one of those below, given some fairly shady reviews of other options.

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, here’s your smart blind picks.

What’s the deal with smart blinds

SOMA Smart Shades


If you’re looking for a retrofit option, SOMA is the avenue to explore. These little units attach to your wall, and chow down on your blind’s link chain, essentially replacing your hands in the equation.

We've been testing them and they're so easy to fit – 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 – but there's no button control on the unit itself, which is a shame.

While we had no issue with the SOMA unit itself, we did find it comically slow to raise and lower blinds. It's far better to set up schedules and triggers in the app, rather than do it manually – 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 $99.99 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. We also found the Connect to be a little flakey, and the first time we went on holiday we were rendered unable to connect.

the ambient verdict
SOMA Smart Shades
An interesting an easy retro-fit option for your existing blinds - SOMA works well in the main - even if it is comically slow to raise and lower. However, the iffy Connect module makes us slightly hesitant and we feel that SOMA could improve the connected experience substantially with little new hardware. But if you have one pesky blind you want to smarten up, SOMA will see you right.
  • Easy to fit
  • Easy to use
  • Alexa, Assistant and HomeKit
  • So slow to open and close
  • SOMA Connect is expensive...
  • ...and unreliable

What’s the deal with smart blinds

Lutron Serena


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. It’s 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 – so you can really get your home working together. Want your blinds to go down at sunset? It’s all possible.

What’s the deal with smart blinds

Somfy blinds


Somfy is a giant name in smart blinds on both sides of the pond, but hooking up your shades with them is far from simple. In fact, it’s a hark back to the bad old days of home automation – where the options are limitless and invariably complicated.

First you need to choose a motor, which is pretty cheap, and there are a host of options, which will depend on the type of blind you have. But it's the control aspect that gets shady. To start milking the smart stuff, things get complicated. The Somfy myLink app will handle the company’s RTS motors, or you can choose Zigbee/Z-Wave units, which will sync up to common smart home hubs such as SmartThings. These are all tiny, white boxes that fit onto your motors – and it's probably best left to Somfy sales staff to recommend your ideal set up. From there, should your head have not exploded, you can enjoy Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT control of your blinds.

How to get started with smart blinds: Top brands and options for your shades

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 €249 Velux Active starter pack - which isn't available in the US quite yet. 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.

How to get started with smart blinds: Top brands and options for your shades



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 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.

What’s the deal with smart blinds

Do It Yourself

Approx $800

No, that’s 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 weren’t lying. We’re going to get our spanners out and give this a go for a proper how-to in the coming weeks – but in the meantime, we’ll leave you with this handy guide.

All you’ll need is a power adapter, some blinds, some tape, an RF device, a motor and an ‘Android Box’ and you’re away. Good luck.

TAGGED   smart home

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