Smart home company Aqara, today revealed their latest product via the Accessories section of the Aqara Home app, namely the Roller Shade Driver E1, which seems to be part of the company’s slowly emerging E1 range. The new roller blind motor is essentially a retrofit product, meaning rather than replace your roller blinds, it works with them to add ‘smart’ functionality where there previously was none. This is achieved by feeding the beaded chain for your current blinds through the motorised cog housed within the device, which then allows said cog to pull the chain in either direction, thus allowing for smart control via voice, automations or from within the Home or Aqara apps.
This concept – at least for roller blinds – is nothing new of course, with various other manufacturers making similar products, including possibly the most well-known brand associated with HomeKit being Soma, who make products for both roller blinds (Soma Smart Shades 2) and Venetian blinds (Soma Tilt). However, these also rely on a separate hub to get them exposed to HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, which in the case of the Soma hub, is not actually HomeKit certified.
So, with the arrival of Aqara’s newest product, which has been confirmed as HomeKit compatible, and uses Zigbee 3.0, this is arguably going to be a much better option for anyone using HomeKit, not least for the fact that using Zigbee, compared to Bluetooth (which is what Soma uses) is going to be a lot more responsive.
The E1 uses a built-in rechargeable (non-replaceable) lithium battery that can be powered via the USB-C port on the device, with a suitable cable and power supply. This means, if it’s convenient to do so, the motor can also be permanently powered. It consumes approximately 5W when in use. The battery can last up to two months on standby, based on it being used with a 1.8m roller blind, used once a day – up and down.
Some of you may recognise this device, as the design has actually been used by a few manufacturers previously, although these models usually rely on WiFi or Bluetooth, and not, of course, HomeKit compatible. There’s no word on pricing as yet, but given that it’s part of Aqara’s E1 range (E = Economical…?), then it’s almost certainly going to be affordable, not least for the fact that you get to keep your original blinds.