Alexa™ controls blinds, lights and window openers with Node-RED graphical dashboard designer

Alexa™ + Node-RED + BroadLink™: A Dashboard for Controlling Blinds

Adrian Biffen, Senior Partner

Please Note: This article series assumes you have set up your BroadLink™ hub with the phone app (see home theater article series), and you are running Node-RED IoT visual design on the Raspberry Pi (and you have an Alexa™ voice control device, like the Tap or Echo).

The previous Part 6 of this series discussed how the Node-RED system has a dashboard design system for operating lights with a "virtual switch".

In this article (Part 7), we'll examine how to enable dashboard buttons that will control blinds in your home automation system. The dashboard will be visible on any wifi enabled device on your local router system by using the characters "UI" tagged onto your local Node-RED design screen link (eg. http://192.168.1.179:1880/UI).

Insert Dashboard Display BUTTON Nodes Into the Visual Design Workspace

The picture below adds 3 UI BUTTONS to the setup in part 5 where we were able to control blinds. Now the DASHBOARD USER INTERFACE will be able to control the blackout blinds too. The three DASHBOARD BUTTONS are labeled Blinds Close UI, Blinds Open UI, and Blinds Stop UI.

Node-RED dashboard for blackout blind control with Alexa

The dashboard buttons automatically create 3 virtual buttons on the UI (User Interface), as shown below. This can be seen in your browser at the same address as the design screen, except that you add a "/UI" designation to the link:

placing 3 UI BUTTON nodes on design area adds virtual buttons to the user interface for blackout blind control

The buttons don't move like the light switch does, so there isn't a synchronization issue like the light switch in the previous article. Nevertheless, we treated them the same way with the 3 button nodes placed INLINE with the PASS-THROUGH setting enabled. This insures that if we decide to make them change color or do something to indicate the state of the blinds, we will already have that capability in place.

At this point we have created the button controls for the blackout blinds in the Node-RED dashboard interface. If you have followed along and built a similar system, you should be able to click or tap the buttons in the user interface (UI) to make the blinds retract and deploy, and stop anywhere in between. You could also build timers into the program for part-way stops too.

Is This A Real Project?

Alexa blackout blinds with side guides have very good light seal Indeed it is! In our great room, we have a projector that displays a 1080P picture on a 12 foot screen. We will soon be upgrading to a new 4K DLP projector, but there's no hurry as the picture quality from our BenQ projector is already superb.

The 8.1 Dolby sound system puts out great sound too, with a sub-woofer that will shake the room if there's an earthquake or explosion on the screen.

We have used this system for many thousands of hours of great entertainment, and we also use it for staff workshops (there's nothing much better than having a 12 ft. monitor for training purposes).

However, when we are not using it, we want the room back! The screen retracts and the blackout blinds open, giving us nice views of our moss covered rock gardens and trees on 3 sides of the room.

This is an actual picture of the installation, and it works very well, with commands from Alexa, or by using the dashboard. You can clearly see the side guides and bottom hem bar (with brush) that help give it a very good light seal.

The motorized blackout blinds (with side guides) are an essential component of this system, and can be purchased on our custom shade website. Connie is our expert custom shade specialist, and she will be happy to help you with your own set of specifications.

We had just installed our blackout blinds (that we manufacture) in our great room, replacing our DIY home built units. The DIY shades worked quite well, but the near 100% light seal of our manufactured shades is most definitely better.

The room was already automated with Home Assistant running on a Pi, but we never much liked the HASS configuration files that use the YAML syntax. We liked how easy the Node-RED system is with its drag 'n drop visual design screen, so we decided to set up a second Pi running Node-RED to see how well it works. This article series is the product of that effort.

We will soon be publishing an article about how we installed the blackout blinds with the side guides, brush hem bar, and upper valance. These units provide an excellent light seal, and the Flocke material hangs perfectly straight (and flat), no matter how many times it is rolled up.

We will also discuss the various elements of the theater system, and how they are automated with the Raspberry Pi.

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Buy The BroadLink™ Hub and Accessory Modules In Our Online Store

In the meantime, we have the excellent BroadLink phone apps that are very capable, and they may very well be all you need (they work stand-alone, the RPi is not needed). This will give you direct control over our blind motors and window openers. Please note that you will need to set up the phone app if you want to implement the system described in this series.

If you are interested, you can purchase these products in our DIY online automation store.

Articles in this series:

Part 1: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink™ Hub + Node-RED: Blind Control Introduction

Part 2: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink™ Hub + Node-RED: Installing Node Components into Node-RED

Part 3: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink™ Hub + Node-RED: Configuring Nodes in Node-RED

Part 4: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink Hub + Node-RED: A Simple Flow Example: Light Control

Part 5: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink Hub + Node-RED: Control Blind & Shade Motors

Part 6: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink Hub + Node-RED: Configuring the Node-RED Dashboard Light Switch

Part 7: Alexa™ + RPi + BroadLink Hub + Node-RED: Configuring the Dashboard Blackout Blinds (you are here)