- IMG 20190110 120700 e1547659059639 - Can a pricey smart blind retrofit take on IKEA’s new shades? – Stacey on IoT
The Axis smart controller is called Gear. Image courtesy of S. Higginbotham.

Toronto-based Axis has built a to make your window coverings smart. The product is a motorized box around which you loop your shade or blind cord. From there, the motor pulls the cord to raise or lower the shade. It can also open blinds from left to right.

The company, which was founded in Toronto in 2016, had a sizable booth at CES. And it’s product is ; it can be ordered online at Amazon for $249 per controller. The app lets you group the controllers into rooms; you can also open and close the blinds via Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant.

The blind controller comes with two power options: a plug, in case there’s an outlet nearby, and a solar-panel covered power bar that can sit above the window or on the sill. The motor isn’t too loud (although I was on the show floor at CES, so it’s hard to say how it might sound in a quiet living room.) But it is slow.

Someone at the booth told me they had tested the device on shades that are 15-feet wide, which is impressive. Especially given that with motorized shades there is a tradeoff between the weight of the fabric and the size of the motor.

Despite a lot of consumer demand for smart window coverings, the market is mostly limited to the new, higher-end shades from companies such as Bali, Hunter Douglas, or Lutron’s Serena shades. Also at CES, IKEA launched smart blinds as part of its Tradfri line of home products. They will be available in the U.S. on April 1. I saw them last year in Sweden and they were sturdy, attractive, and cheap — much cheaper than the pricing for Axis or other options out there.

However, cheap shades that are new are still expensive if you want to fit out a bunch of windows. That’s why consumers are looking for retrofits. MySmartBlinds has a product that will open and close your wooden blinds and sells for $149.

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