It's hard to imagine a smart home without motorized window shades and self-adjusting blinds. Unfortunately it's hard to track down smart window treatments that aren't either extremely expensive, require a specially qualified installer or both. Startup company Axis says it has a solution, the $195 Axis Gear.
Designed to convert any existing shade or blinds apparatus into one that's automatic and smart, the Gear squeezes all the essential components to manipulate window dressings independently into a small wall-mounted box. This includes an electric motor, rechargeable battery, light sensor, even a solar panel to provide a cordless power source.
The Axis Gear device
Though it may sound like the name for some sort of a fearful doomsday weapon, the Axis Gear unit is in fact envisioned as physically sleek, compact, even elegant. A white rectangle with silver highlights, the gadget is also meant to unobtrusively attach lengthwise and vertically alongside widows.
The top-most edge of the Gear houses a receptacle in which you insert the beaded chains or corded loops from your current shades and blinds. Once properly hooked up, the Gear then has the power to open and close blinds or raise and lower shades on command. Axis plans on offering many methods for operating the Gear too, the simplest being a capacitive touch control on the front face of the product.
There's an embedded Bluetooth radio as well, which Axis says enables the Gear to wirelessly communicate with smartphones within the home. What I find most intriguing, however, is the Gear's light sensor. This electronic eye will conceivably enable the Gear to automatically shut the drapes at night and open them during the day -- or vice versa.
Also interesting is that Axis claims the Gear will, "integrate with leading smart home systems and other connected devices." As to which specific platforms and products these will be remains unclear as is the stated time frame of, "in the coming months" which is vague to say the least.
If you're itching to get your hands on an Axis Gear unit, you'll have to be patient. While the product's Indigogo campaign has just officially launched, Axis doesn't expect to sell the product to ordinary consumers until "late 2016." Of course if you support the Gear's crowd sourced funding project to the tune of $95, you'll enjoy a substantial discount over the regular $195 retail sticker price.
Axis better hustle to bring its gadget to market though because other companies have big plans to play in the smart window space. For example, another startup, MySmartBlinds (previously TiltMyBlinds), is working on a similar crowdfunded product that was originally slated to ship in October 2015.
Another solution, the, requires a professional installer but its shades are available now and can be controlled via mobile app. There's always the reigning king of the automated and shade and lighting empire, Lutron, which makes the Serena line of remote controlled window shades. Of course while this option does offer smartphone control via the device, the motorized shades themselves are only available through official channels and are strictly not DIY.