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.
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.
Controllable via Amazon HomeKit, Alexa 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 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.
Somfy is a giant name in smart blinds 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.
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. They’re solar powered, thanks to their natural position by a window, and work with Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa for voice control.
At just $129 they're not a huge commitment, and you can fit them yourself. Nifty.
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.