To operate, the motors inside motorized shades must be given commands from a button, switch or keypad of some kind. These commands can travel over wires or wirelessly to interface with the motor and give it instructions. Wireless operation implies radio or infrared. The difference between the two technologies is simple to explain; infrared is like a television 433 mhz remote control remote, radio is like a garage door opener. Infrared requires pointing (also called ‘line of sight operation’) – radio does not. Today’s consumers are not interested in aiming their remote to control shades and this is rarely used except in single shade applications.
Wired control is either analog or digital. Analog means simple contact closure, basically no more advanced than a simple light switch which touches two wires (or ‘closes’ two ‘contact’ points) together or separates them to give an on or off command (raise and lower replace on or off). Digital implies that data is traveling to (and from) the switch and a small brain inside the motor. Data means information – and that is what is transmitted to the motor’s internal mini-processor and received from the data processor/computer in the control room. The major difference between analog and digital is that the processor will know where the shade is and can align the shades perfectly regardless of tube size.
Somfy’s ST30 (low voltage) and ST50 (line voltage) motors can be controlled wirelessly via RF or wired via analog control, but only the ST50 motor can be controlled digitally via wire. Somfy’s digital Sonnesse motor is known as the IST50 (I stands for intelligence). Since the ST30 is not able to be controlled digitally, it is rarely advisable to have a smaller, ST30 motor operating a shade in the same room as an ST50. Recall that the ST30 and ST50 series motors have different motors sizes and therefore tube diameter. Physics tells us that a smaller diameter tube will turn faster than a larger diameter tube – this does not mean it will roll the shade up faster (since the tube is smaller) but it does mean that the differing tube sizes will result in shades rolling up at slightly different speeds. This is a consideration for the motor provider to be aware of; nothing the consumer needs to worry about.
Lutron’s QED Shades can be controlled wirelessly via infrared and recently via RF. Initially, RF was only available with a Homeworks processor which made smaller jobs uneconomic, but very recently, Lutron has introduced a line of RF Shades that can be controlled without requiring a processor. This is just now being released and will be open up several large segments of the market for Lutron, namely; retrofit situations and smaller sized shade systems.
QEDs can also be controlled using a wired solution, both analog and digital. Controlling a QED shade with analog wires is a shame because the expense and inconvenience of wiring has been endured but the mini-processor in the motor (QED) is not being used. The analog, wired solution is simply telling the QED to move up, down or stop. No shade alignment, no feedback. The only reason analog wired control is available is to integrate Lutron QED shades into overall control systems/home automation systems (processors) that are not made by Lutron.
How shades are controlled is a key determinant of the type and degree of wiring required. Wired control solutions must be homerun from the shade motor location to a central control room. These power and control wires connect with a processor that in turn has control wires running out to keypads or switches. A button press or switch flip will send the relevant command back to the processor in the control room which relays the command to the motor which raises, lowers or stops the shade. Though the routing is circuitous (questionable word choice), this all happens instantaneously.