SwitchBot, the smart home company that takes robotics to places no one imagined, has come up with another ingenious gadget. The new $69 SwitchBot Blind Tilt launches today on Kickstarter, with orders expected to ship before Christmas. And, yes, it looks as ugly as you’d expect. But as an inexpensive way to replicate the benefits of smart shades, it’s a promising product.
Automated motorized shades and blinds are something of a luxury as they’re generally very expensive — starting at around $300 to $400 per window and rapidly rising from there. The benefits, though, are quite impressive: energy savings, convenience, security, and smart lighting.
Smart blinds can automatically adjust to keep your home well-lit throughout the day, keep out the hot sun, or help keep in the warm air. You can have them open and close on a schedule when you’re gone in order to mimic someone being at home, and for people with mobility issues, they are incredibly helpful, especially with voice control.
Retrofit solutions like the SwitchBot Blind Tilt are popular because they are cheaper since they don’t require replacing your whole shade. But they also look pretty clunky.
The SwitchBot is a small motor that attaches to your blinds to automatically tilt them open or closed based on a set schedule or whatever brightness level you want using a built-in light sensor. The Blind Tilt is powered by a solar panel that goes on the outside of the blind. It has a 2,000mAh lithium battery on board that can also be charged via a Type-C USB cable, and it communicates with the SwitchBot smartphone app over BLE 5.0 for programming and control.
It can work with voice assistants, including Alexa and Google, as well as Apple’s Siri through Siri Shortcuts. You can also add it to smart home routines to have your blinds automatically open when you trigger a Good Morning routine, for example.
The device only works with blinds that have an existing tilt wand (so it won’t work with pull chain models). The almost six-inch-long motor attaches to the wand to twist it open and closed. It can be paired with a $30 SwitchBot remote, and you can set schedules and control your blinds with the SwitchBot app. For connection to smart home platforms, you need a $40 SwitchBot Hub Mini.
SwitchBot isn’t the first company to come out with a retrofit solution like this, but it is one of the least expensive. Somfy, which makes connected motors for shades, has a DIY retrofit solution called Clever. This is a more elegant solution with a more involved installation — you remove the blinds and replace the tilt mechanism with Somfy’s motor.
It’s currently selling on Amazon for $230 for one motor, however. And while it comes with a remote control and works with Alexa and Google, you need Somfy’s Tahoma Gateway ($230 on Amazon) for those integrations.
Tilt has a retrofit kit for blinds that costs $199 and also needs a $109 bridge for control outside of the app. Soma Tilt is another less expensive option at $150, and that also requires a bridge for smart home control.
Smart shading is not an inexpensive proposition, and as inelegant as it is, SwitchBot’s Blind Tilt looks like it will get the job done for a lot less.