Motorized roller blinds are usually the more costly component of a smart home. Typically a decent brand from Somfy or Dooya would set you back around SGD1000 including fabric and installation. Of course, you could also get some generic brands online for around SGD500 per set including installation, they usually come with shorter warranty. IKEA smart blinds set another bar in terms of affordability when they launch their FYRTUR and KADRILJ range in 2019 at up to SGD270, without any length customisation.
Personally I have a set of motorised curtain and a set of motorized roller blinds installed at my place. I also have 2 sets of manual blinds which I’d like you be included into my smart home system.
To change them into motorized blinds, I’ll have to first arrange to install a power socket/point. IKEA blinds are not an ideal choice for me as their fixed options do not fit my window length. On top of the power socket, I also need to take down my existing fabric from the manual roller, purchase a motorised system and roll the fabric onto the new tube before mounting them on to the window.
SOMA Smart Shades 2 by Wazombi, a company from Estonia, offers an affordable way of motorizing your existing roller blinds. This kind of product that turns existing pull cord into a motorized system is not new. Even SOMA first generation of this product didn’t really hit the mark due to slow speed or wonky mechanism. However, I’ve read many good review for the generation 2 of the smart shade system and decided to try it out.
SOMA has 2 products, Smart Shades 2 and Smart Tilt 2. We are just going to focus on the Smart Shades 2 in this article. For SGD170, it comes with the white Soma device that perform the magic, a solar panel that charges the device with direct sunlight and an additional bead cord in case your pull cord doesn’t fit the mechanism. SOMA works with endless or beaded loop cords and you might need to check if your loop cords have any connectors or bead stops that can prevent the cord from moving around the gears.
Installation is rather straightforward, simply unscrew the front panel, power up the device, follow the wizard in the app to roll your loop cord onto the gear before attaching the white box onto the wall. The solar panel that comes in the box saves you the trouble of locating a power source for the device to plug-in to. Simply stick the solar panel onto the window for frequent charging. Note that only direct sunlight works, so if you are using it on windows that don’t get any sunlight at all, you probably have to connect the device to a USB adapter or get it charge once in a while. So far I tried without charging for 3 weeks with 2 schedules of up and down everyday.
SOMA Smart Shades 2 works over bluetooth, thus the first calibration and operate can be done easily with the mobile app. Their installation video below:
The key improvement for this generation 2 of the SOMA Smart Shade mainly the speed. However, this improvement comes with a louder sound when operating at full speed. I suggest to use the morning mode when scheduling as the device as you can use the slowest RPM to open the blind in the morning with minimal noise. Otherwise the noise from the full speed is sure to wake you up in the morning.
Most of the time, you can operate the device in close range with the Soma mobile application. Operating the blinds remotely or with voice assistant would require the SOMA Connect. SOMA Connect is a software which can be used to control the SOMA Smart Shades 2 and the SOMA Tilt 2devices through your favourite voice assistant or home automation platform. The good news is, it is actually a Raspberry Pi model B+, so if you already have spare lying around, you can load the the SOMA Connect software onto your Pi for Google Assistant, Alexa and HomeKit integration. The SOMA Connect software also provide local API for http integration to hubs like SmartThings.
Integration with Homey
As always, my interest with this product stems from its ability to directly integrate to Homey via bluetooth directly, bypassing the need to have another hardware or hub. Once it is in Homey, it is automatically exposed as a device in Google Assistant, Alexa and Apple HomeKit as well.
I do actually have a spare motorised blind system lying around. On top of that, I had also prepared a power socket so that I can motorize this particular roller blind one day. But the effort required to remove the existing manual blinds, roll the fabric onto the motorized tube + drilling and tidying the wires made me procrastinate until SOMA Smart Shade 2 appeared. So for SGD170 to get around all the above with an included solar panel seems like a no brainer. Yes, it is not a full fledge silent motorized system but I simply wanted to schedule the opening and closing of this particular blind, integrated to Homey.