For the past two years I’ve been looking for a solution to automate my blinds without having to replace them with new ones. I would love to have Serena blinds by Lutron to integrate into my existing system, but those would set me back anywhere from $500-$800 a window. I just can’t justify that. Luckily now I don’t have to. I stumbled upon the MySmartBlinds Automation kit. MySmartBlinds allows you to automate your existing traditional horizontal blinds. I have 24 windows with these blinds already installed. No need to replace the blinds. I can just pick and choose which windows I want to automate and install the MySmartBlinds kit.
How hard are they to install?
It takes about 10-20 minutes to install the kit on one set of blinds. I can do it pretty quickly now that I’ve done about 10 of my windows. Here’s a video of how the installation and setup in the app works:
I’m a huge fan of automation in general especially when it comes to smart home stuff. My new home was built two years ago in May 2016. I got the chance to start with a clean slate and put in all the smart home tech that I wanted pretty much from day one. Sadly the builder wasn’t really into smart homes (aside from running ethernet drops) yet so I had to do it all after the house was completed. When people think smart homes one of the first things that comes to mind is lighting and that is pretty much where I started too, but it didn’t stop there. Since most of the things in a smart home are controlled via your mobile devices I also wanted to make sure that most if not all things I did worked with Apple’s HomeKit since I’m an iOS user.
When I had my house built last year the one thing that I was excited about was being able to take advantage of all the cool smarthome options out there. When it came time to buy garage door openers the main thing I wanted was ones with a battery backup. I wanted to be able to still open my garage door in the event of a power outage. When I looked I was pleasantly surprised to find the Chamberlain model that not only had a battery backup, but it was also WiFi and smartphone enabled. Chamberlain has their own app “MyQ” and it works fine, but it’s yet another single purpose app. It would have been nice to be able to also control my openers in the Apple iOS Home app. They kept promising that HomeKit compatibility was coming and they were even featured on the slides in Apple’s keynote address on more than one occasion.
Well it’s been a little over a year since I bought my openers.
Chamberlain Keeps their Promise and Delivers a HomeKit Solution
When it comes to home security cameras I have pretty much standardized on Google’s Nest Cams. However, the one thing that is not likely to appear in any Nest products is HomeKit support. HomeKit is the standard that Apple created for home automation and is supported in iOS, Siri, Apple TV, and the Home App that’s now built-in to iOS 10. So that means that you either buy accessories that work with HomeKit or competing platforms. Since until now there were no shipping HomeKit enabled security cameras, it really didn’t matter which platform you went with. However, that has just changed now that D-Link has shipped the Omna 180 Cam.
The 1st shipping HomeKit enabled security cam is lacking features that other cams have…
I’m a fan of just about all things smarthome and my digital assistant of choice is Amazon Echo. However, I do like Google products too and decided to give the new Google Home a try. I wanted to do a side-by-side comparison in the areas that matter most to me and the people I talk to. To give you a better idea of how these products work, I recorded this video so you can judge for yourself:
Continuing my Smart Home Product Review Week it’s time to talk about the smartest garage door opener I’ve ever seen and it’s by Chamberlain. When I moved into my new home one of the things that wasn’t included was the two garage door openers I’d need. I thought this was a weird item not to include, but when I saw the price that the builder wanted to install theirs, I decided to just go get my own. This was another one of those things that I hadn’t had to shop for in over 25 years. I hadn’t realized how far they’ve come. The first option I noticed was a battery backup and I definitely wanted that. There had been times where storms had taken out the power in my studio (10′ door) and that while I could get up on a ladder and use the manual release to raise the door, it just wasn’t worth it. My car remained trapped until the power came back on. Having a battery backup means that the garage door opener will still work even if the house loses power.
Chamberlain Smartphone Controlled Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener offers everything in one box
It has been a while since I’ve looked at smart universal remotes. I’ve been happily using my Harmony One for years. However, it was time to setup a new room with HDTV, Apple TV and TiVo Mini. This means either using 2-3 remotes or just ONE! However, I didn’t want to go with another high-end Harmony, yet I wanted something that was still very good. This lead me to check out the Harmony Smart Control. This setup offers the best of both worlds. You get a regular remote control with physical buttons as well as a “hub” that allows you to control everything with your iOS or Android based smartphone or tablet. While I’ve used this hub before, I like the option of having a physical remote for those times when my iPhone is in use or not handy.
How to set it up
The setup was pretty straight forward. You plug in the hub to AC power and then download the Harmony Control app. Since there are no controls on the hub you first have to get it on your WiFi network either via your computer via a USB connection to the Hub or wirelessly to your smartphone via bluetooth. I opted to set it up via my iPhone 5s. The App found the hub and allowed me to key in the password to my WiFi network. Once it was setup on the network the App continued to allow me to set it up. The setup was very typical to Harmony remotes. You simply enter the brand and model names/numbers of the devices you wish to control. Believe it or not, that’s the hard part. Who remembers the model number of their TV? Once I tracked down the info I needed to enter, it was easily able to control each device. Then I setup “Activities” such as “Watch TV” and “Watch Apple TV”. Activities allow you one button options to turn on all the appropriate devices and switch to the appropriate inputs on your TV or receiver. Lastly I added my “Favorite” channels.
How does it work?
Once I set up the Harmony Smart Control, I now have the option of controlling my TV and components via the supplied physical remote OR via my iPhone or iPad using the Harmony Control App. It definitely beats having to have the TiVo remote, TV remote (to properly switch inputs) and the Apple TV remote. Either the App on my iPhone or Harmony remote can control it all. The App is pretty slick too. Not only do you have multiple screens for various controls, you even have a “gesture” screen that allows you to swipe up or down to control TV volume or left or right to change channels. I also like the one touch access to my favorite channels.
The Bottom Line
Logitech has hit the right combination of hardware and software with this combo. You have a physical remote that anyone can use AND the ability to use your mobile device to control it via WiFi from any room. I’m happy with this setup and I’m considering getting another one for another room of gear.