Guides and Reviews

SOMA Smart Shades 2 Review

Posted by Mike Lim

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.

Unboxing

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

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.

Configuration

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.

Soma Connect

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.

Conclusion

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.

Source : Domotics

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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.

Unboxing

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

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.

Configuration

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.

Soma Connect

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.

Conclusion

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.

Source : Domotics

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IKEA Smart Blinds Review

Posted by Mike Lim

We love to paint the picture of the blinds automatically rising in the morning to kick start your day. Unfortunately, smart motorised blinds aren’t cheap. No, I’m not even talking about Somfy which cost close to grand in SGD. Even the china OEM blinds cost up to SGD300 (including installation) without factoring the cost of the fabric yet. I know the pain because paid about SGD 600 for motorised blinds and installed the Fibaro Roller Shutter module to control it via Homey hub.

With the introduction of the Fyrtur and Kadrilj range in Singapore, IKEA is changing game. A DIY install motorised roller blind, including fabric can start from only SGD139. Even the biggest size black out blinds cost SGD259. It even comes with 5 years warranty!

 

The IKEA motorised blinds is battery operated, thus do not require any running of power cables to the windows. The rechargeable battery comes with a micro USB slot for charging purpose.

Users can control the blinds with the remote button (shipped together) as well as mobile phone via the TRÅDFRI gateway (sold separately). If you are using the gateway then you can use the IKEA smart home app for scenes, routines and also other IKEA smart devices. The only major drawback is that the blinds comes in a variety of fixed dimensions. So if your window doesn’t really fit any of the available dimensions, it is going to look pretty odd.

Being a Homey user, we already know that Homey works with out of the box. In fact you can checkout this link for all the Homey compatible IKEA smart home products. Pairing of IKEA blinds to Homey is quite straightforward. Simply select the IKEA TRÅDFRI devices in Homey and select the Fytur (or Kadrilj) Roller Blind to set Homey into Zigbee pairing mode. Press and hold the 2 buttons right beside the battery compartment.

Within 15-20 seconds, the blinds should be paired with the Homey hub and you are good to go. We can also know the battery level within the Homey app to know when we need to recharge it. With the integration to Homey, you can now use Xiaomi or other Z-Wave sensors together with IKEA blinds to create scenes to block out the sun during a hot afternoon.

Conclusion

Being one of the most affordable motorised rollerblinds, you can almost fully fit out motorised blinds for 4-5 windows at the cost of single Somfy blinds. If you like grey-ish fabric (the only color available now), your windows fits the limited predefined dimension of the IKEA blinds and you already have a Homey, why wait?

Automate Asia Team (source : Domotics)

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We love to paint the picture of the blinds automatically rising in the morning to kick start your day. Unfortunately, smart motorised blinds aren’t cheap. No, I’m not even talking about Somfy which cost close to grand in SGD. Even the china OEM blinds cost up to SGD300 (including installation) without factoring the cost of the fabric yet. I know the pain because paid about SGD 600 for motorised blinds and installed the Fibaro Roller Shutter module to control it via Homey hub.

With the introduction of the Fyrtur and Kadrilj range in Singapore, IKEA is changing game. A DIY install motorised roller blind, including fabric can start from only SGD139. Even the biggest size black out blinds cost SGD259. It even comes with 5 years warranty!

 

The IKEA motorised blinds is battery operated, thus do not require any running of power cables to the windows. The rechargeable battery comes with a micro USB slot for charging purpose.

Users can control the blinds with the remote button (shipped together) as well as mobile phone via the TRÅDFRI gateway (sold separately). If you are using the gateway then you can use the IKEA smart home app for scenes, routines and also other IKEA smart devices. The only major drawback is that the blinds comes in a variety of fixed dimensions. So if your window doesn’t really fit any of the available dimensions, it is going to look pretty odd.

Being a Homey user, we already know that Homey works with out of the box. In fact you can checkout this link for all the Homey compatible IKEA smart home products. Pairing of IKEA blinds to Homey is quite straightforward. Simply select the IKEA TRÅDFRI devices in Homey and select the Fytur (or Kadrilj) Roller Blind to set Homey into Zigbee pairing mode. Press and hold the 2 buttons right beside the battery compartment.

Within 15-20 seconds, the blinds should be paired with the Homey hub and you are good to go. We can also know the battery level within the Homey app to know when we need to recharge it. With the integration to Homey, you can now use Xiaomi or other Z-Wave sensors together with IKEA blinds to create scenes to block out the sun during a hot afternoon.

Conclusion

Being one of the most affordable motorised rollerblinds, you can almost fully fit out motorised blinds for 4-5 windows at the cost of single Somfy blinds. If you like grey-ish fabric (the only color available now), your windows fits the limited predefined dimension of the IKEA blinds and you already have a Homey, why wait?

Automate Asia Team (source : Domotics)

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Review : FIBARO Walli Switch and Dimmer

Posted by Mike Lim

Singapore is currently undergoing a period of “circuit breaker” in a bid to contain the COVID19 situation. As we are mostly working from home, our team decided to resume some of our reviews on smart home products, especially those that seems to not have much reviews or coverage on the web. At the end of the review, we are also letting go the review set at a price for DIY smart home enthusiasts.

The first product we are reviewing here is the FIBARO Walli switch and dimmer. From all the product pictures we can find online, it looked gorgeous and minimalist. After all, it is a trusted brand with a great marketing team. We also had quite a number of enquiries on the FIBARO Walli, thus we got our hands on a set to try them out.

Form factor

The form factor of the Walli switch and dimmer looks exactly the same, except for the way the button works. The Walli switch is actually a 2 gang switch even though it looked like a single button. Pressing the top of the button turn on/off the first load, and bottom of the button for the second load. For the Walli dimmer, pressing the top and bottom of the button turns on and off the load respectively. You can also dim and brighten the load by pressing and hold the top/bottom part of the button.

What we have noticed here is the faceplate is very plastic and flimsy. Sometimes we are not able to click properly especially at the bottom part of the button. Removing the faceplate actually clicks much better.

Connection and Installation

We kind of like the improved connector ports at the back of the switch. If you have personally wired a FIBARO module before, you will find it difficult to stuff in 2 wires into a single port. For the Walli switch and dimmer, each port actually has 2 connectors, making it easy to work with when you need to connect 2 wires into 1 port. Another clever improvement is that the Live and Neutral is no longer side by side, reducing the chance of short circuit due to stray wires.

Even though is more suitable for European wall boxes, it is still possible to fit into a UK flushed wall box that has a 40 mm depth. For UK surface wall box, a 40mm surface box  will be required (surface box for Singapore is usually around 30mm).

Pairing and Configurations

     

We are using a Homey hub which also have a full set of configuration options available on the Home Center for pairing. After pairing the Wall switch, you operate the 2 load independently.

For the Walli dimmer, it works just like the usual FIBARO Dimmer 2 on Homey. The interesting part of the Walli series is that, unlike other Z-Wave switches, you get quite a wide range of control on how the the LED indicator ring should behave when it is on/off/dimmed/brightened.

  

Check out the video review here.

 

Conclusion

A good looking Z-Wave switch with great LED indicator ring but there is definitely room for improvement for the build quality at SGD140 (90 euros). The Walli series also included a model for controlling roller blinds/curtains and power outlet (unfortunately is only for euro 2 pin).

The Pros

  • Minimalist design
  • Comprehensive LED ring configurations
  • Improved connectors for ease of installation

 

The Cons

  • Flimsy faceplate
  • Too plastic for our liking
  • More suitable for European wall boxes

 

Automate Asia Team

PS : Now, if you like to take over this review set for SGD70 each, please contact us.

Read more

Singapore is currently undergoing a period of “circuit breaker” in a bid to contain the COVID19 situation. As we are mostly working from home, our team decided to resume some of our reviews on smart home products, especially those that seems to not have much reviews or coverage on the web. At the end of the review, we are also letting go the review set at a price for DIY smart home enthusiasts.

The first product we are reviewing here is the FIBARO Walli switch and dimmer. From all the product pictures we can find online, it looked gorgeous and minimalist. After all, it is a trusted brand with a great marketing team. We also had quite a number of enquiries on the FIBARO Walli, thus we got our hands on a set to try them out.

Form factor

The form factor of the Walli switch and dimmer looks exactly the same, except for the way the button works. The Walli switch is actually a 2 gang switch even though it looked like a single button. Pressing the top of the button turn on/off the first load, and bottom of the button for the second load. For the Walli dimmer, pressing the top and bottom of the button turns on and off the load respectively. You can also dim and brighten the load by pressing and hold the top/bottom part of the button.

What we have noticed here is the faceplate is very plastic and flimsy. Sometimes we are not able to click properly especially at the bottom part of the button. Removing the faceplate actually clicks much better.

Connection and Installation

We kind of like the improved connector ports at the back of the switch. If you have personally wired a FIBARO module before, you will find it difficult to stuff in 2 wires into a single port. For the Walli switch and dimmer, each port actually has 2 connectors, making it easy to work with when you need to connect 2 wires into 1 port. Another clever improvement is that the Live and Neutral is no longer side by side, reducing the chance of short circuit due to stray wires.

Even though is more suitable for European wall boxes, it is still possible to fit into a UK flushed wall box that has a 40 mm depth. For UK surface wall box, a 40mm surface box  will be required (surface box for Singapore is usually around 30mm).

Pairing and Configurations

     

We are using a Homey hub which also have a full set of configuration options available on the Home Center for pairing. After pairing the Wall switch, you operate the 2 load independently.

For the Walli dimmer, it works just like the usual FIBARO Dimmer 2 on Homey. The interesting part of the Walli series is that, unlike other Z-Wave switches, you get quite a wide range of control on how the the LED indicator ring should behave when it is on/off/dimmed/brightened.

  

Check out the video review here.

 

Conclusion

A good looking Z-Wave switch with great LED indicator ring but there is definitely room for improvement for the build quality at SGD140 (90 euros). The Walli series also included a model for controlling roller blinds/curtains and power outlet (unfortunately is only for euro 2 pin).

The Pros

  • Minimalist design
  • Comprehensive LED ring configurations
  • Improved connectors for ease of installation

 

The Cons

  • Flimsy faceplate
  • Too plastic for our liking
  • More suitable for European wall boxes

 

Automate Asia Team

PS : Now, if you like to take over this review set for SGD70 each, please contact us.

Read more

Most of the ceiling fan, especially in Singapore comes with an RF remote. We usually control the power to the fan by connecting it to a smart switch such as MCO Home, FIBARO. By controlling the power to the fan, we can turn them on and off. However some ceiling fan doesn't remember its last setting and still require the need to press the RF remote after it is powered up by the switch, making it pointless to automate.

Controlling fan speed from home automation is another common requested feature. Previously we have also tried several ways to control ceiling fan speed. We have tried controlling the fan speed with Broadlink's RF capability, we have also tried to wire up a Aeotec Dimmer to a fan with regulator. Both methods have it pros and cons but generally they are not a plug and play solution.

Recently we came across this 2 local brand of fan named Eco Airx and Po Eco (for simplicity, we call it Eco fan) that is wifi enabled. The fan is already compatible with WYFY mobile app, the same app that works with WYFY Beam - Smart AC Controller. Out of the box, we can already control the power, fan speed and even dim the attached LED light from the WYFY mobile app as well as Google Assistant. 

 WYFY Eco Fan

Since WYFY is already compatible with Homey, might we well try linking it to Homey and control the entire home with a single app. Here's a video of how it works and how to add it into Homey.

 

Conclusion

Since this solution is plug and play, you don't wire anything or use a RF blaster. The price of the Eco fan starts from SGD519 (a fraction of Haiku fan) including installation and is also available at WYFY. With this kind of integration in Homey, you can now, for example, have a master kill switch near your door to turn off lights, AC and the fan with a single tap or even control the fan with Apple Homekit!

Automate Asia Team

 

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Most of the ceiling fan, especially in Singapore comes with an RF remote. We usually control the power to the fan by connecting it to a smart switch such as MCO Home, FIBARO. By controlling the power to the fan, we can turn them on and off. However some ceiling fan doesn't remember its last setting and still require the need to press the RF remote after it is powered up by the switch, making it pointless to automate.

Controlling fan speed from home automation is another common requested feature. Previously we have also tried several ways to control ceiling fan speed. We have tried controlling the fan speed with Broadlink's RF capability, we have also tried to wire up a Aeotec Dimmer to a fan with regulator. Both methods have it pros and cons but generally they are not a plug and play solution.

Recently we came across this 2 local brand of fan named Eco Airx and Po Eco (for simplicity, we call it Eco fan) that is wifi enabled. The fan is already compatible with WYFY mobile app, the same app that works with WYFY Beam - Smart AC Controller. Out of the box, we can already control the power, fan speed and even dim the attached LED light from the WYFY mobile app as well as Google Assistant. 

 WYFY Eco Fan

Since WYFY is already compatible with Homey, might we well try linking it to Homey and control the entire home with a single app. Here's a video of how it works and how to add it into Homey.

 

Conclusion

Since this solution is plug and play, you don't wire anything or use a RF blaster. The price of the Eco fan starts from SGD519 (a fraction of Haiku fan) including installation and is also available at WYFY. With this kind of integration in Homey, you can now, for example, have a master kill switch near your door to turn off lights, AC and the fan with a single tap or even control the fan with Apple Homekit!

Automate Asia Team

 

Read more

Since the update of Homey firmware to v2.2.0, Homey allowed viewing of camera images in Homey app (https://blog.athom.com/introducing-homey-cameras/).

The images can be used in push notification as well as to cast to other devices. At the same time, the Homey Chromecast app also undergone a revamp with some interesting features which we would like to demonstrate in this article.

In this article we are going to do a quick introduction on how we put these together into a seamless way of welcoming guest into our office. Here's the scenario:

1. Guest arrive at our office door and presses on our Doorbird

2. Google Home announces that someone is at the door

3. Homey sends the image captured by Doorbird as a notification to our phones, without the need to open any app to view the visitor

4. Homey cast the same image to a chromecast device, it can be a Google Nest Hub or a TV (in this case we are casting to our projector).

5. We say "Ok Google, open sesame" (please do not try this this outside our door), Doorbird triggers the unlocking of Danalock and the Google Home near the door announces at max volume "Door is unlocked! Come in please!

Here's a sequence of screenshots the integration in Homey and a short video:

     

 

Bonus

Recently we have done an similar integration for a landed property a mail box. The owner's Google home throughout the house will also announce when someone presses the Doorbird.

The flushed model of the Doorbird has 2 relays, one opens the main gate while the other opens the mail box (on the left) for the courier services to drop their parcel for the owner when he unlock the Doorbird.

When the relay for the mail box is being triggered, the 2 electric bolt in the photo will retract, thus allowing the mail box to be opened by the courier to drop in the parcel. This implementation of a smart mailbox allows the owner to receive his online purchases securely without the need to open his gates.

Automate Asia Team

Read more

Since the update of Homey firmware to v2.2.0, Homey allowed viewing of camera images in Homey app (https://blog.athom.com/introducing-homey-cameras/).

The images can be used in push notification as well as to cast to other devices. At the same time, the Homey Chromecast app also undergone a revamp with some interesting features which we would like to demonstrate in this article.

In this article we are going to do a quick introduction on how we put these together into a seamless way of welcoming guest into our office. Here's the scenario:

1. Guest arrive at our office door and presses on our Doorbird

2. Google Home announces that someone is at the door

3. Homey sends the image captured by Doorbird as a notification to our phones, without the need to open any app to view the visitor

4. Homey cast the same image to a chromecast device, it can be a Google Nest Hub or a TV (in this case we are casting to our projector).

5. We say "Ok Google, open sesame" (please do not try this this outside our door), Doorbird triggers the unlocking of Danalock and the Google Home near the door announces at max volume "Door is unlocked! Come in please!

Here's a sequence of screenshots the integration in Homey and a short video:

     

 

Bonus

Recently we have done an similar integration for a landed property a mail box. The owner's Google home throughout the house will also announce when someone presses the Doorbird.

The flushed model of the Doorbird has 2 relays, one opens the main gate while the other opens the mail box (on the left) for the courier services to drop their parcel for the owner when he unlock the Doorbird.

When the relay for the mail box is being triggered, the 2 electric bolt in the photo will retract, thus allowing the mail box to be opened by the courier to drop in the parcel. This implementation of a smart mailbox allows the owner to receive his online purchases securely without the need to open his gates.

Automate Asia Team

Read more