Feedback on New Smart Retrofit Blind Motorization


#1

Hello everybody,

I have been working with a new start-up based in Toronto, Canada that is developing a new smart home product that essentially motorizes existing blinds, allowing you to control and schedule your blinds via Bluetooth on your mobile device.

While the product is in development, you can take a look at its concept at http://axis.life/gear/.

I just wanted to share the concept with you and to hear your thoughts/feelings and any suggestions about the product and how it can be integrated with your current devices.

All feedback is warmly welcomed!


(sidjohn1) #2

Shame you are using Bluetooth, instead of zigbee or zwave. The solar recharge is a nice touch. Until our hub v2 comes out i don’t see a way to integrate the 2 or even have the blinds open/close when i’m not home. If you have plants this would be important.


#3

Sorry, maybe I should’ve clarified. We are planning to use Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Z-Wave for different models depending on residential or commercial use.

Thanks for the reply. Any additional feedback regarding integration, uses, and suggestions are welcomed.


(Keith Croshaw) #4

I’ve been on a DIY blind motorization crusade for a while now. Most blinds at least in my area in the US are opened (tilted) with a twist wand, not a chain like your product seems to do. I’m planning to interface with the twisting mechanism whenever my Particle Photon boards arrive.

I don’t understand why everyone is going with Bluetooth, I feel like everybody has their own protocols for home automation equipment so by the time SmartThings has bluetooth each integration is going to as tough as Harmony or Sonos as opposed to z-wave and zigbee it’s just a matter of deciphering the commands and status. I understand the power advantage but I’m not convinced controllers like SmartThings are going to be able to integrate them seamlessly. I don’t want to have to take my phone out to open the blinds with yet another app.

Good luck! Hope some of this feedback helps.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #5

I have solid wood slat venetian blinds. Super heavy.

Tilt control is via pair of cords, and second bundle of cords used raise / lower.

The latter function is hopeless for automation.

Tilt control would be sufficient, but even that is tough to motorize due to slats often getting stuck on window edges.

Very difficult physical problem.

Electronics / connectivity is trivial.


(Keith Croshaw) #6

I too came to the realization that pulling the whole stack of blinds was going to be more than I felt like figuring out. I too would be completely fine with tilting them open. The current industry offers automated roller shades but I don’t find them particularly attractive.

Hopefully before Halloween I’ll have a nice write up of a successful venetian blind tilter that doesn’t look terrible. Now if only Particle could find a reliable source for voltage regulators… :frowning:

June ship date got moved to August…


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #7

That’s the bottleneck?

I have some original Photons waiting for a use, but I don’t have the mechanical engineering skills to build a workable tilt mechanism. Or not without a lot of focus, and failures.

I’d be motivated if I had a team that would make a saleable product. Heck… Might even sell on Etsy!


(jotto) #8

I have the exact same blind setup, fairly common in the US. Agreed raise / lower via automation is never happening due to weight.

With that said it would be great just to have Tilt Control of the blinds. I would absolutely buy a product to do this.

@axis_life do you think this is something your product could support?

Essentially with cords equally the blind slates are horizontal, allowing all light in. Pull one cord ~1.5inches tilts blinds down to fully closed. If you pull second cord ~1.5inches brings the blinds back to original horizontal full light or can continue pulling additional 1.5inches to close light with slates in upward position.


(Keith Croshaw) #9

I guess looking at @jotto and @tgauchat 's blinds I remember that some are pull cord to tilt as well.

This is what I have throughout my house, which I plan to put a U bolt through the loop attached to continuous rotation servo.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #10

Right … even for horizontal Venetian blinds, there are two common mechanisms (twist pole vs. pair of pull cords).

I’m guessing that the twist pole is not effective on heavy wood blinds due to torque issues.

Again … given some focus, I’d disassemble a set of my wood blinds and examine the gears and cord placement, etc… The ideal engineering might be from inside-out (i.e., ignore the current “user interface” and redesign it), or from the outside-in (i.e., just figure out a way to motorize the cords). The latter is easier and safer but likely less reliable.


(Keith Croshaw) #11

Yea I’ve done it once that way and interfacing with the rod is a little dodgey.


(sidjohn1) #12

Suggestions:

  1. If you are making a product with different models that support different protocols that distinction should be very clear on your website.
  2. Motorized blinds have a bad history of being very noisy. A video with multiple blinds in use would be very beneficial so that prospective customers can judge wether or not it will be quiet enough and wether the movement will be smooth enough to justify spending money on your product.
  3. Your Duo product also looks slick, an installation video to show how it can fit any window would go a long way and trust me you get much love if you add zigbee or zwave to it aswell.
  4. Pricing would be awesome to see.

Feedback:

  1. As i said before the solar recharge is a nice touch and separates you from other automated blinds already on the market. I hope you do this across your product line.
  2. IDK why you have your products separated into residential and commercial. Blind enhancements and blind replacements makes way more sense. If you make an excellent product, the consumer will decide the application regardless of price. Just because its ALOT more expensive does not make it commercial.
  3. If you want to make a big splash with smartthings users work with one of the developers to have a smartapp and devicetype ready before the devices go on sale. Also work with @Ben for logo use on your site. “Works with SmartThings” goes a log way.

#13

@sidjohn1 Thanks for the feedback! To answer your questions, we are launching an Indiegogo campaign in September that will outline in all details, including pricing, zigbee/z-wave, and our solar panel technology (which is a little different then the industry).

As for the finer things, the Duo is a stand-alone product that you can simply buy and install. The Gear is an external device that can motorize it or any existing chain operated shades (@jotto). The “commercial” aspect relates to a separate product where we supply blinds that can be installed without screws/nails to office buildings and commercial units. The feedback is great and we will definitely clarify these points in our website and campaign.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #14

Yup… I fear this won’t fix my problem, as wood slat venetian blinds are not “chain” operated.

Good-luck with your IndieGogo campaign (but please be very considerate to your potential backers by using extremely conservative delivery dates … hardware projects are extremely difficult and often run well over a year late … it’s really distressing to see optimistic dates).

Myself and/or other Community members might be quite interested in being partners with your Company as consultants or developers, etc… Private message me for my contact information and to discuss terms.


(sidjohn1) #15

Yikes, Indiegogo… you might want to take a stronger look at Kickstarter. I know most people on this forum have been burned way more times then we care by indiegogo projects. A lot of people including myself feel much safer funding kickstarter projects.


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #16

I don’t. Well… even if statistically IndieGogo’s are say, 5x as likely to be “flaky”, I currently consider Kickstarter to be well beyond my tolerance for risk, so 5x better doesn’t help.


(Bruce) #17

Heck, I wouldn’t even own SmartThings if it wasn’t for Kickstarter. Now, I can’t even remember how I found the Kickstarter for ST! Probably looking for something z-wave… Oh well, glad I did though…


(jotto) #18

Agreed!! @axis_life I would back on Kickstarter and try and jury-rig it to create a solution for my blinds. If its on Indiegogo I am not backing… too many bad experiences


(ActionTiles.com co-founder Terry @ActionTiles; GitHub: @cosmicpuppy) #19

Well… I wouldn’t have SmartThings, maybe.

But I also wouldn’t have (all Kickstarters…):

  • Nix Color Sensor (inaccurate first model)
  • WigWag (oops… nearly 2 years and still not delivered)
  • Radiate Athletics Shirts (1/3 delivered, loses all dye after first hand washing)
  • Instacube (oops… 2.5 years and still not delivered; major quality problems reported by early users)
  • CST-01 Thinnest Watch (oops… project folded, ran out of money due to manufacturing quality issues)
  • The Ubi (Was late, but not bad … yet nearly obsoleted already now by Amazon Echo)
  • Spark Core (Particle: Well done!)

So counting SmartThings as a success, I have 4 successfully delivered out of 8 Backed; 50% Project failure rate. NB: Nearly all the successful projects listed were at least a few months late.

Looks like Kickstarter success odds are equivalent to a coin flip.


(Bruce) #20

Hey, that’s better than venture capital!! Problem is, the one home run out the group doesn’t pay you anything, just gives you a chance to spend more…