SmartThings Community

BLINDS // Who is winning the race?

I recently bought the Soma Smart Shades and am VERY disappointed. I had really high hopes for this, but unfortunately, this product is not close to being ready for the public. Here’s my review of the product:

The good: the package was small, convenient, and simple. Setup was pretty easy. The bad: 1) After installing my item, the unit would no raise and lower the blinds to the stored heights. After removal and reinstalling it on the app, the same issue. The blinds would move to the proper top/down location 1 out of 5 times. The rest of the time, it would pull up too high (and get stuck and stress out the chain), or lower way too much 2) After a week, the blinds would no longer raise as the motor was too weak, even at full 100% charge. The blinds were within spec of Soma’s recommendation 3) The sprocket would fall off the motor after a few runs 4) After contacting customer service, they said I would be responsible for return shipping. It was about $40 to ship it back because they are located in Estonia, Europe.

I really wanted this to work, but was extremely disappointed at the product.

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So much for Soma, they sound bad!
Here’s another similar one, Brunt Blind Engine, from Korea, looks like they are shipping already.

https://brunt.co/en/be.html

I am frankly amazed that blinds are so expensive to begin with, let alone automated blinds.

I can get a smartphone with no contract and the latest Android OS for $20 at BestBuy or Walmart. How can some slats of plastic attached to strings and a zwave motor be so much more expensive than that?

I feel the same about greetings cards. I always feel like I’m getting abused when buying a birthday card.

The price issue is what is stopping me upgrading my aging blinds in the house.

I ended up resigning myself to $99/window (kickstarter promo) with mySmartBlinds. This is an automation kit that includes a solar panel and a motor unit. It uses Bluetooth, but I also purchased their new hub that should allow ST control. It will arrive in March. But yeah, I was originally hoping a solution would only cost $30/window. I just got tired of waiting for it. There are some DIY solutions out there, but I really didn’t want to be troubleshooting a different window every other day after spending a ton of time to set it all up. In the end, I decided my sanity has a price greater than $30/window.

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I am interested in these, too. Would you mind to keep us updated (on this thread) with your thoughts and whether or not you were able to get it working via SmartThings? Thanks for being the guinea pig for all of us!

I should have an update in March. So far I like that I now have all my blinds scheduled to open and close. However there is an issue with the android app communicating consistently with the blinds. @JDRoberts pointed out that there are known issues with Android and BLE communication. The android app also has a bug that makes it hard to enable schedules that have sun tracking. Sun tracking automatically adjusts your schedules based on the sunrise/sunset time at your geolocation. I’m hopeful their hub that arrives in March will help overcome these issues.

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@tylerdurden Any news? :slight_smile:

I’m still experiencing issues with the scheduling and the sun tracking feature. I currently have some scheduled activities that won’t go away. I’ve been too busy or lazy to work with their tech support on it. (They have been responsive.)

I did recieve the “bridge” device that allows me to control the blinds from the internet, or Alexa, etc. (And they promise Smartthings later this year.) The bridge is a little inconsistent… I mostly use it with Alexa. But often I have to repeat the command a second time for the bridge to do the requested job. It seems to be hit or miss as to whether the targeted blind(s) receive the command. This could be an issue with the bridge range, but I’ve had issues when the blind in question is a few feet from the bridge.

I plan to “reset” all my blind devices and “start over” when I have the time. I’m hoping that cleaning the slate might improve the situation. If it doesn’t, I will work harder with mysmartblinds support to troubleshoot… but I’ll probably wait until ST integration is avavailable since that’s really the functionality I care most about. Then the only thing I will concern myself with is the ability to open and close blinds via ST and the mysmartblinds bridge. Everything else will rely on ST.

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I’ve had very similar experiences thus far…

I have all Bali, (Somfy). Costco, great warranty, sells them and they run specials at times. Z wave integration was painless with ST.
They are pricey but I love them and consider them an investment in the home. I have them come down when the sun beats on the house and the AC is on and vise versa in the winter. Makes the home so much more efficient and comfortable. They also can be programmed into routines, along with the lights, easily when on vacation to make the home looked occupied.

I have not looked at any other options lately but I don’t regret them at all.

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Hey @TylerDurden. I was thinking of getting the Brunt blind engine, but, seeing as you’ve brought this one to my attention, which I wasn’t actually aware of, what are your thoughts on them. And the bridge, now that you’ve had it for sometime?

At this moment in time, I will only ‘automate’ a single blind, and depending on how things go, then do others, too.

The brunt engine seemed pretty darn great, but, that could just be their marketing team in giving that perception!

Hi Jeff,

Sorry for the long reply, but I feel there’s a lot to tell…

I’m still using mySmartBlinds with the hub. I was still having scheduling problems with their sun tracking feature. The idea behind sun tracking is that once you set the schedule to close at say, 6pm, the schedule will automatically change that close time to adjust for the seasons based on what time the sunsets relative to your initial scheduled time. And same for opening in the morning relative to sunrise. The feature would work for a while and eventually get completely mixed up and open and close at inappropriate times. I eventually gave up on the feature. But I also have had issues with the schedules not being properly removed. So I had ghost events from schedules past. I eventually got rid of them by hard resetting all my units. I probably should have done that sooner, but I was reluctant to dismount each blind to get access to the unit again for the hard reset procedure on all 9 blinds. I now avoid schedules altogether.

Now as for the hub, I have one hub and nine blinds. Arguably, the hub should be close enough to all of them, but I have the occasional issue of a blind not responding. I’m unsure if another hub would improve this. But I also think the Alexa integration has a limitation controlling more that 7 blinds at once. So this could also be an API related problem.

Right now there is no official ST integration but this should entirely be possible with the hub and their existing API that they are using for their Alexa skill. They just need to do it. Oh, and that Alexa skill is so cumbersome to interact with. “Alexa, tell mysmartblinds to close the kitchen window.” I believe ST integration would make all these pain points mostly evaporate because you could use ST scheduling, rules and Alexa commands that are more natural.

With all that said, I like the low profile of the solution. You can’t tell they are there… except for the slim solar panel if you look closely. But I really like the solar panel feature. No wiring to a power source and no recharging needed.

I did have to reset a unit because it had a power problem, but it was a glitch. I think somehow the unit was draining power faster than it could recharge despite plenty of sun. I also did have to manually recharge two other windows this winter because the lack of sun and I may have been using the units more than usual because of the ghost schedules. I may need to place the panel on those windows a little lower down the window to catch more sun.

So yes, a lot of complaints. I think ST integration (a so far, undelivered promise) is essential to make the solution live up to smart home enthusiasts expectations. I’m also not sure how much I’d be willing to pay for the experience I’ve had. I also would be wary of any new product for blinds… I think they’ll all have these growing pains.

I get the sense that a lot of mySmartBlinds issues could be resolved with better developers. It seems like they probably outsourced the software development to a company who also outsourced it, and there may be no budget to keep improving the software.

You are probably taking the right approach by dipping your toe into this with only one window. It might even be worth trying a few solutions. You can probably recoup some of your cost on the second hand market if you don’t like something you try.

Are the blinds available as a target for an Alexa routine? If so you could set up switched virtual contact sensors in ST and have Alexa open/close them accordingly. If they show up as dimmers it looks like you can even adjust “brightness” in a routine.

Unfortunately not.

But looks like they’re still promising to get the ST integration out.

If your blinds have bead chain or cord loop you should also consider Axis Gear. The unit might be considered a bit spendy, but does Zigbee, AA Battery/solar/plugin power, can be exposed or hidden, custom DTH or default Zigbee dimmer or Zigbee switch DTH, can handle any shade/curtain/blind with a cord loop or bead chain.

I’m very disappointed with MySmartBlinds, they promised integration with ST in 2018 and nothing happened. Should have known better to purchase their crap!
On top, their service is non existent, replies are from 15 year old kids… just general useless answers.
AVOID!

@sidjohn1. Axis Gear - does this work well for you with ST integration? It seems to be great for what we have, price is a tad high, though, and, unsure if they ship to the UK. Anybody purchased an Axis Gear in the UK?

I own 3 and use the default Zigbee switch DTH to control them and yes i am very happy with this hardware. They just work, i don’t have to mess with them, i cant ask for much more. So much so that i’m redoing all my window coverings to support AXIS gear ie no more wands.

I’d buy an axis. But it’s like 350+ aud right now. Plus shipping internationally. So at least 400 aud per device.