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The real danger of DIY smart garage door opener

I recently came across such products sold in Australia like:
https://www.amazon.com.au/Lomota-Garage-Opener-Control-Assistant/dp/B086MKP14K/ref=sr_1_14?crid=3PGO8FI1XHIBS&dchild=1&keywords= smart+garage+door+opener&qid=1619614085&sprefix=smart+gar%2Caps%2C332&sr=8-14

How it works is that a third-party device controls the a nromal garage door opener by connecting to the built-in switch. Then the device is connected to both LAN and internet to control the garage door remotely via mobile app and voice control.

Many consumer reviews praised the simple and inexpensive upgrade of the old garage door into an intelligent one.

I even had the urge to buy it because I always wanted to use my phone to monitor and control the garage door remotely.

When I researched further, I found that big names like Chamberlain and Merlin also offer such devices, but both come with a Safety Beam, which is an infrared sensor that ensures that the garage door will not be remotely closed if there is an obstruction.

I think that makes sense, although the Australian standard only requires traditional garage door openers to come with an automatic rollback as a safety measure, it is still not clear about these smart garage doors that can be operated remotely.

It can be a risk if the garage door’s rollback function fails and the operator cannot see the obstruction to close the garage door. Even if the garage could rollback when hit something, you don’t want a 100kg garage door to be closed with a car and small children in the way. Or imagine the garage door being accidentally closed by whoever in the house using the voice control of a smart speaker, or even hackers take control by hacking the server.

This kind of cheap device without safety beam allows more people to experience the convenience of smart devices, but they do not realise the potential danger behind.

I think safety beam should be made mandatory for smart garage door openers in Australia, while banning such products with potential safety problems from being sold. I also remind people to think carefully about the possible security and safety issues when jump into smart life, not only in terms of physical safety, but also data and privacy.

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The linked example you have provided (noting that it is 120V, from the US and not designed for the Australian market) isn’t a full roller door opening unit, but a smart switch which is connected to an already installed automatic roller door. It triggers the opening and closing of the dooring using the already opened infrastructure installed on an existing door.

The sensor appears to be determine if the roller door is closed or open for remote monitoring, not to replace the roller door bump safety function.

As existing automatic roller doors have to have bump stop function, I expect that existing bump stop will continue to work unless one decided to remove it when they install the smart switch.

Removing the bump safety function isn’t a good idea or likely to be recommended. Doing so would mean that the roller door is non-compliant with Australian requirements.

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Welcome to the Community @2n7VN635z

There are some useful observations in your post.

As you noted there are a number of Australian based suppliers of remote garage door equipment. B&D Garage Doors are probably the most widely known in addition to those you mentioned. All offer complete solutions, powered openers to suit a variety of doors, or remote control upgrade kits. The last can include locking systems, remote operation via a smart device and added safety devices such as IR beams.

Our last two urban homes had remote garage doors. Being more than ten years old they were not required to have the auto reverse obstruction feature, recently added to the standard. The safety beam is a further option. It would have saved one crushed car roof, as would the now standard auto reverse.

Personal experience with remote control garage doors is that one needs to personally supervise them while they are closing. Older doors do not have the added safety features of the latest Aust Standard. The modern revision of Murphy’s Law suggests that the safety features of any device will only fail when when most rely upon them. I’d suggest we need to reconsider whether unsupervised operation should even be permitted.

It’s also worth pointing out, where ever a remote control device is sourced from, it will need to comply with Australian communications regulations. Anyone purchasing from OS or the many online sources needs to ensure the product complies.

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Here’s another one actually selling in Australia and get reviews from Australian customers.

https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07QCTN71J/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_1V9JA7RXCC73FF4Q1X1J

My point is converting a normal opener to smart one by simply adding a smart switch without infrared safety beam installed could be dangerous because you don’t know if there’s anything or anyone under the door when you hit close garage door button miles away and solely relay on safety reversal system to stop if the door hits anything or some kids talk to Siri to shut the door while your car still half outside.

Bottom line is People needs to be aware of the risk and decide if they want an extra layer of protection. And meanwhile selling such products without telling people what could go wrong without safety beam is irresponsible.

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The same applies for existing automatic roller door closing systems. The control remote works away from eye of sight as they work by radio frequencies and not by infrared (like say a TV remote which must be in sight of the TV when used). Radio frequency can go through walls and around corners (if reflected). As long as one is within the range of the door, it can be used to close the roller door. This can occur usually within about 20-50m of the roller door and it can be closed unseen.

The proposed smart switch only increases the potential distance that it will work from, but does not change the existing risks.

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It’s great to point out the concern some purchasers of the remote control switch products may not consider whether it’s a safe and sound decision.

Adding any form of remote operation to a garage door needs to comply with the current Australian Standards. It’s as you point out a greater risk where it is not under immediate observation, (unsupervised) or using a remote smart device over the internet.

The Australian standard mandates residential garage door openers are designed with any one of three alternative safety entrapment protection systems. One of the alternatives (common) is a force sensitive auto reversing mechanism (bump reversal). The alternatives include contact based and beam based sensor systems. It appears to be an either or.

Adding a secondary protection system other than relying in just one system.
Would that be a decision typically guided by the state building and construction safety committees as well as the Standards Australia committee tasked with reviewing the related standards?

A single beam sensor, now available as a secondary device from B&D and others may or may not be the best solution. It’s better than none. As an open question, I can just see the cat racing back in or the dog escaping too low to trigger a single beam, or one of the young family showing off as if acting out a James Bond scene. It needs more detailed and careful consideration?

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Not to the same extent though. You can’t compare being half way around the world (back in the day when you could actually travel) with being 30 metres away.

Even in the worst case, you are 30 metres away but not in line of sight, you may hear the scream of someone getting crunched and be able to call an ambulance. You won’t hear the scream from another country.

For my own needs, there’s no way that I would want a garage door that could be operated half way around the world but different strokes for different folks.

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This would only occur if someone disabled or removed the bump protection systems on the roller door. If someone or something was in the way of the closing, then the door would automatically reopen.

Trying to think why one would close the door from half the way around the world…did someone forget to ‘check the iron’ before leaving for the airport. It might be a product for a problem that doesn’t exist if it is so one can close the door from anywhere that they have connectivity.

I could see that someone may wish to open the door…say a family member who doesn’t live there wants to borrow the mower and needs the door open…but they would also be there when it closed.

Likewise…and having connected access provides opportunity for it to be hacked/corrupted losing control over the door…for example, a software bug causes the door to open randomly.

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Nor can I. Although being able to do so from your mobile phone on the way home, rather than fumbling for a remote?

Oops, I meant to say the mobile is blue toothed to the in car system and Alexa or Siri is listening to your every word. One might ask same to recheck and close the garage, as you race out of home late and wonder if you remembered to close the door as you drove off.

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From personal experience it can also happen if the down (or up) sensors fail on a chain drive opener; motors are geared and strong enough to bend the ‘track beam’ that can get cocked much like a bow (of a bow and arrow). It creates a potentially lethal weapon on the garage ceiling and has to be carefully and methodically disassembled. I cannot comment on other drives.

‘Situations’ can occur not only when something works as expected, but also when it breaks.

It is probably an extremely rare failure mode, but it happens and not being there if it does can have consequences.

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It could also lead to the kind of grisly death shown in the documentary Scream.

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If the failure is extremely rare, the chances of a roller door with a DIY smart switch will therefore be extremely, extremely rare. The risks have possibly marginally increased as more people are now aware of DIY smart switches for their automatic roller doors, by reading this thread. Maybe the risks are extremely, extremely rare less a handful.

Even with a safety beam, these aren’t fail safe and could fail at greater frequency than the required bump sensor. Beams are also more likely to give false negatives (an object isn’t in the path of a beam) and false positives (wind blows a leaf through the beam). At least with a bump sensor, if it is a solid object, the closing automatically reverses. I would rather be under a bump sensor door, rather than hoping I break the beam with a beam sensor one.

Maybe the person in ‘The Tunnel’ season 1 was a roller door victim.

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In these days of Alexa, Siri, et al being able to remotely control many aspects of the home (from distant parts of the galaxy, or in the current COVID normal from interstate) and adding remote controllable smarts to previously dumb or semi-dumb equipment seems to be a major growth area.

Therefore, may I suggest that the younger tech savvy generation will view the added smarts to control the garage door from their phone remotely as ‘obvious’ and ‘natural’, compared to the older generation to whom the push button remote is a memorable innovation.

They will see convenience, we oldies will see risk.

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