A look at the simple Alottazs Labs Garageio smart garage door opener
As with a lock or a home security system, it's easy to imagine adding intelligence to your garage door opener.
The market is also surprisingly populated. Craftsman and LiftMaster both have smartphone-based control systems for certain models. Arguably more interesting is the suddenly crowded field of add-on controllers.
I recently had a chance to check out one such controller, the $149 Garageio, from Alottazs Labs (a reference to CEO Zak Dziczkowski's surname) in Columbus, Ohio. Similar to other smart openers, Garageio connects to your existing garage door opener and lets you open and shut up to three separate doors via your iOS or Android-based mobile device, from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.
There's a bit more to it. Thanks to a sensor you attach to each door, Garageio will let you monitor their open/closed status so you can check whether you remembered to close up before bed. You can also grant access credentials to other smartphone users and track their comings and goings (did your son really come home at 4:00 p.m.?).
A lot of this will sound familiar if you check out the rest of the add-on smart openers. GoGogate ($179), Mobile GDO ($149.99), SecuRemote ($149), and others all offer the same basic functions via a smartphone-based control scheme. Like Garageio, they all claim to work alongside most existing openers, and in conjunction with existing remote controls or wall switches.
How can Garageio stand out, then? According to Dziczkowski, ease of use and the Wi-Fi connection will separate Garageio from its competitors. The benefit of Wi-Fi over Bluetooth is clear. With Wi-Fi, you can check status and control your doors from almost anywhere. A low-energy Bluetooth-based system will restrict your control range to about 50 meters.
Garageio can't really claim Wi-Fi as a distinct advantage, though. I count four other Wi-Fi-based devices, GoGogate, Mobile GDO, MiDoor, and NiOgarage, and that doesn't include the build-it-yourself hardware kits.
The company might have an edge on the ease-of-use side. The beta version of Garageio's iOS app I saw looks clean and intuitive. You swipe from left to right to move between the control screens for different doors. A tidy rolling-door animation accompanies any open and close action. GoGogate's app has similar polish, but MiDoor and Mobile GDO's both look rougher. Hardware installation, wireless network setup, and responsiveness and reliability all play into ease of use as well. I can't judge any of them on those standards without diving into a full review.
Another potential issue for Garageio, or any standalone smart home product, is app fatigue. Without connecting to a hub system like Insteon, Nexia, or some other smart home network that supports multiple connected devices, each separate device needs its own app. A universal hub and app environment like Revolv might solve the problem, and Garageio could add hub support before launch, or retroactively. In any case, app consolidation is something to consider before introducing any smart home device.
Right now Alottazs Labs says Garageio is in beta. And although the company is accepting preorders, whether Garageio comes to market will depend on its forthcoming crowdfunding campaign, launching soon on Fundable. Whether it makes it or not, we'll be looking into reviews of these smart garage door openers soon.