Back in October of 2014 I backed my first kickstarter project - a set of devices to make blinds "smart". A little earlier this year, the fruits of this particular project started to arrive and now that I've been using them for a couple of months, I'm ready to show you how MySmartBlinds are working out.
MySmartBlinds are exactly what they sound like - they're devices that you put into your slatted blinds to make them controllable via a mobile device. I've got 3 sets installed - 2 in the bedroom and one in the office. They require no hardwiring, but do require a bluetooth compatible iOS or Android device for setup and control.
Firstly - they're a lot better than I expected. After installation, they've basically worked without interference since. To me, this is a good sign - very few of the "smart" things I've put into the house have gone in without some amount of wrangling and debugging from the start. I also misunderstood from the pitch that they would require removing the tilt-wand - but this actually stays as part of the system and acts as a manual switch to the system - tugging the wand tilts the blinds a little in a cycle, so no need to pull out a phone to make a small change. The optional add-on remotes are nice for phone-free control, too.
I've set the blinds up so that they open in the mornings. At a time that I'd like to be waking up, the blinds gradually open up over a 15 minute block. It's a much more preferable way to wake than a blaring alarm or from up-dimming the interior lighting (I tried this for a while - the artificial light was just too jarring). The blinds then close up again at night at a set time, which is nice from a privacy point of view on the busy road we live on. I haven't tried it yet, but they also have a "sun tracking" mode, which does exactly what you think it does, enabling the system to adapt to varying light levels throughout the year.
The motors themselves are powered by a battery that lives in the top of the blinds, hidden away which are either charged over USB or with a solar powered add-on. Since I installed the blinds a few months back, I haven't had to charge them yet, and MySmartBlinds promise a rather vague 6-12 months of charge with "average" use.
Some caveats to that, however - the android version of the app seems buggy and I had issues using that to setup and control the blinds. The iOS version seems to be a lot more functional. I also had some difficulty updating the firmware on a couple of them, which necessitated removing and re-adding them to the app.
The app itself is rather amateurish looking and seems out of place along side more polished-looking apps on my phone. I also, as always, wish it had a) a web-based version because it's 2016 and b) had outside application connectivity - this is yet another siloed system that can't communicate with my other IoT home devices. It means I can't change behaviour based on whether we're away or have guests, for example.
They're also loud. I mean, they're pretty mechanical, so of course they make a noise, but I didn't realise how loud they'd be. It's not a deal breaker since opening and closing happens so quickly and mostly not when I'm right next to them. Here's a video, though, to give you a better idea of what the motors sound like, as well as latency between app and blind (which is actually pretty decent).
I love 'em. I've still got one kit left that I haven't been able to use anywhere - but I would definitely get a couple more kits for upgrading all windows in the house when I eventually get around to replacing the roller blinds in those rooms.
Price points? Well, the kits I have (enough for 4 windows, plus 2 remotes) cost me $249 via kickstarter. I didn't get the solar powered option - I got the set that included some very long USB cables for each window.
The equivalent currently retails for $99 per basic kit (everything you need to control a window via your phone), $60 per remote, $14 for the long USB chargers and $45 for solar panel add-on. Of course, unlike Somfy, or another built-in system, they're restricted in regards to the type of blinds they work on but a Somfy system starts at around $270 making this is a pretty cost-effective, easily temporary, entry-level option.