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Smart Home

Smart blinds by Ikea? FCC filing suggests they're coming soon

A listing spotted in the FCC product application database suggests that a Tradfri-branded smart blind system from Ikea is in the works.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Editors' Note, September 19, 2018: An Ikea representative confirmed the existence of the smart blinds to CNET over email. They're launching globally in 2019. The original story on the FCC filing follows. 

One of the fanciest, most ooh-and-aah-worthy tricks in the CNET Smart Home goes a little like this:

"Hey Alexa (or Google or Siri) -- open the shades."

"OK!" (*all of the blinds slowly rise at the same time, filling the room with light*)

Automating those shades and controlling them with voice commands is a nice, futuristic luxury, but it doesn't come cheap. Popular systems from names like Somfy and Lutron can cost you thousands of dollars if you're looking to outfit your whole house -- and that's why a new FCC filing for an Ikea smart blind system is so interesting.

First spotted by Dave Zatz, a blogger with a very good track record at spotting upcoming gadgets before they launch, the new smart blind system appears to share the "Tradfri" brand name used by Ikea's existing smart light offerings, and comes with a wireless push-button remote for quick adjustments. Along with a dedicated smartphone app, Tradfri products already work with Alexa, with Apple HomeKit and with the Google Assistant, so the odds are quite good that this still-hypothetical smart shades system would support voice controls, as well.

Found in the FCC's database of product applications, this appears to be a label for an upcoming switch from Ikea made to control motorized smart shades.

FCC, Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Of course, the exciting part about all this (at least, exciting for smart-home geeks like myself), is that Ikea is in a good position to undercut the competition and push prices down. Aside from budget-friendly furniture, the Swedish retail giant was one of the first to offer truly affordable LED lighting options, and its Tradfri smart bulbs are reasonably priced, too.

If an Ikea smart blinds system is indeed in the works, I'd put it at a near certainty that it'll cost less than high-end competitors like Lutron, but how much less remains to be seen -- as does the actual makeup of the product itself. Some smart blinds replace your entire window shades with new, battery-powered versions. Other systems act like retrofit kits, with motorized arms that open and close your existing shades upon request. The latter seems like the more likely approach to me, but we'll have to wait and see.

And that's the last question -- if they're really on the way, when should we expect to see these smart blinds? Again, the FCC database might hold some clues. 

The filing's letter of agency from Ikea was dated Aug. 24 and submitted earlier this week along with several other items, including external product photos and test reports. Some of those elements are marked permanent or short-term confidential. The short-term confidential items include the product photos -- and that confidentiality expires after six months, in March. 

I'd call it an extremely good bet that we see these shades well before then, and perhaps as early as October, when Ikea is also reportedly set to debut new Tradfri smart plugs. Another piece of evidence to that end: Ikea's letter of agency to the FCC also includes an expiration date of October 31, 2018. We'll keep an eye out for more -- stay tuned.