IKEA: From Smart to Dumb

Tue 8 Jun 2021

I would like to introduce this article by stating that this is just my personal experience. I do think that my experience as a programmer, tinkerer, and geeky nerd might give some more feedback on why I was not satisfied and disappointed in the product.

Excited! More smart stuff!

I've been looking forward to the IKEA FYRTUR for a long time. They are expensive and thus purchasing this, is not an everyday endeavor. These are 129,- EUR apiece. Our vacation salary came in and I ordered 4 of the website. They came in within a week. They are well packaged as you might expect with everything IKEA.

Montage

I did not run a functional test and followed the instruction booklet. Expecting the product to work as intended. The hooks that it hangs on are easy enough to place. All good so far.

Getting the blinds to register

This part is not logical. I did not expect the blinds to rely on all devices packaged with the blinds. You need the remote, the remote can register up to 4 blinds. The remote needs the repeater. Then after pairing the repeater, which is hard already, you need to pair each blind.

First off. Let me briefly explain the standard that all IKEA smart devices share. They use a protocol called Zigbee. This protocol creates a mesh network between devices like lamps, switches, outlets, buttons, speakers, remotes, and the gateway. Their ecosystem has become very complete. A rule of thumb with mesh networks is the more devices connected the more reliable. We already have plenty of devices in our house and we are very happy about the performance they have. I can easily recommend these to my friends.

The first step is to register the button. This is no effort. Hold it against the gateway with the pair button held down. It registered without problems! Great!

Mesh is great. I thought to myself, why the need for a repeater? Okay. I want these blinds to work. I will take the repeater for what it is if these will turn out to function okay. I plugged it about ~1m next to the blinds for a good and strong signal. Registering this was difficult, it made me frustrated already. The app needed about 10 tries before it registered the repeater. This step alone took me longer than an hour.

Next, I needed the blinds to register. I coudn't get these to register AT ALL! I spend almost 2 hours before getting the gateway from my attic and connecting it in the same room as the repeater 3m across. This in the hopes that the blinds would register at all. It took me another 30 minutes before the blinds registered. At least that was progress.

Then, let us configure the blinds. First, you need the button to get these blinds down. It did not do that. I tried resetting, removing the blinds altogether from the app, nothing worked. It would only move up. It would not stop and run itself until it jammed at the very top. The app would only respond for 1cm of movement in these blinds. I made sure the batteries were charged. I made sure connections were good. Made sure the repeater had signal. I could do nothing to get these to go down. It was horrible.

Also, let me explain my housing situation. I've made sure of the following things and some things are ideal for IoT devices in general:

  • We have wooden flooring - Ideal for wireless signals to pass-through
  • We have lots Zigbee devices to carry and relay signals around.
  • I've configured Wifi to go around the Zigbee channels so that radio interference should be brought to a minimum.
  • The gateway was about 3m removed from the repeater
  • The repeater was about 1m removed from the blinds
  • There is an IKEA smart lamp in the room
  • There are IKEA smart lamps in the hallway

There is not a reason I can think of why the signal should be bad in any way. I've done everything in my reach to make this as smooth as possible. Yet somehow it did not work. I've also tried interchanging components from another package to make it would without success.

Dissappointed... defeated... let me return this :(

I wanted this to work. I really do. I was looking forward to play with these and automate things with sensors like spectrometers. It just wasn't meant to be.

Returning these was a smooth experience. I felt understood. There was no resistance at the shop. He listened, noted my feedback, and gave me back my money. More shops should take note of how IKEA does its returns.

From smart to dumb

We went into IKEA to get a replacement product for the smart blinds. We went for the opposite. From luxurious blinds to cheap manual ones. We liked the cheapest blinds system the best after trying most of them in the shop. These have a stick that moves the blinds up and down. After montaging them in the room I have to say that I'm very impressed with the quality of these, quite cheap blinds. Running 20 EUR apiece.

Lots of frustration and time lost

I spent the better half of a full day getting the smart blinds to work. I honestly spent more time than I should because I wanted these to work. Frustration because it did not work. Frustration because I don't understand. I would like to finish with some feedback.

  • Why do we need a button at all to pair the blinds? Why not pair directly to the mesh network -- Let people choose. The mesh network should be capable if they have a lot of IKEA products already.
  • Why the need for a repeater for the reason noted above.
  • Make the Min-Max system available from the app! I want to be able to configure digitally. If anything, also suggest using the buttons on the blind itself to set the min-max.
  • Make the wizard easy - Way too many steps that simply do not respond like the other products do. Really. Every other IKEA product I've installed so far did not give me any problems.
  • Improve the booklet - I needed to look up a lot of things on Google, not even the IKEA website because it was too hard to navigate. Things like, when do I know when the battery is charged? Do I need this repeater?

I cannot recommend these to anybody after everything I went through with trying to install these. However, once again, this has been my personal experience, as a programmer, tech-savvy guy. If installing these blinds gave me this much trouble then something must be wrong, to be honest.

I will leave it at that. Do with this as you will. Still looking to hook these up? I've got some good video sources that will explain some things the booklet doesn't.