The Tailwind iQ3 Offers the Widest Range of Features of Any Smart Garage Controller
Shortly after my last article on smart garage door solutions (How to Integrate the Garage into a Smart Home), MyQ changed their API (application programming interface) and broke the Crestron-MyQ driver that I wrote for that article, along with other third-party integrations.
The MyQ API is undocumented, and MyQ has a history of, without warning, changing their API in ways that break third-party integrations. Since that time, people have reverse engineered the MyQ API again and some third-party integrations have been fixed. However, MyQ’s lack of support for people writing drivers to integrate with their products left me with no choice but to abandon support of the Crestron-MyQ driver, as well.
Without a documented, and stable, MyQ API, the only practical way to integrate a MyQ garage door opener system with a smart home processor/hub is through IFTTT; which MyQ does support. The MyQ-IFTTT service works well. It supports the ability to close the garage door and receive triggers when the garage door opens or closes. However, the MyQ-IFTTT service doesn’t support the ability to programmatically open a garage door.
One of the ways I like to automate the operation of a garage door is to allow a homeowner, including myself, to use their smart phone as a secure key and open it by simply scanning an NFC tag (see the article I wrote on using near field communications tags in a smart home here) mounted on the wooden trim outside the garage door. This left me searching for an alternative way of automating my garage door.
Right before my original article on smart garage door solutions was written, my 10-year-old garage door opener died. A friend of mine owns a garage door company, and he replaced it with a garage door opener with MyQ built into it. So, I’ve experienced, first-hand, how this made integration with a smart home processor/hub challenging.
On older, or more basic, garage door openers, the wall-mounted pushbutton that opens/closes a garage door is just that — a pushbutton. By pressing the button, you momentarily “short” the two wires that are connected to the garage door opener. On many newer garage door openers, this is no longer the case. There is circuitry in the garage door button, and it sends a unique signal to the opener when the button is pressed. This makes most of the inexpensive devices, which are designed to make a garage door opener smart, incompatible.
There is a workaround for smart home hobbyists for this issue. You take a wireless remote control that is compatible with the garage door opener, open it up, and solder wires to the button contacts so the smart garage door adapter can “press” the button on the wireless remote to open/close the garage door.
This might be a reasonable solution for a smart home hobbyist who is going to maintain their smart home system over time. However, I didn’t feel this was the best solution for me, or any professional smart home integrator. At some point in time, the battery in the garage door remote is going to wear out and, without any warning, the whole system will stop working. This will probably be a year, or two, down the road when nobody remembers that the system relies on a battery in a garage door remote that is hidden in the rafters of the garage. I’m not aware of any professional smart home integrator that wants to deal with that kind of a service issue.
Introducing Tailwind iQ3
The Tailwind iQ3 smart garage controller was included in my previous article on smart garage control solutions. But, at that time, I wasn’t able to do a “hands on” evaluation of the product. Now I’m able to rectify that.
Tailwind has been in business since 2015. It is well recognized as a top supplier of smart garage door controllers and has continued to improve their product over time. In fact, they have been recognized by Wirecutter as “The Best Smart Garage Door Opener Controller” for three years in a row.
Tailwind offers the widest range of features of any smart garage controller — some of which are patented. These include:
- Support for up to three garage doors connected to a single Tailwind iQ3 controller. In addition, the Tailwind app includes the ability to integrate operation of multiple iQ3 controllers for larger installations
- Both iOS and Android smart phone apps that let you open/close a garage door and check the door’s open/close status from anywhere. Tailwind also supports the Apple Watch and Android Wear OS watches
- The ability to have your garage door automagically open when you come home and close when you leave, without having to press any buttons to control it. This requires an optional Tailwind vehicle sensor for your car, unless you are an Android phone user with your Android phone connected to your car through Bluetooth. All iPhone users must have a Tailwind vehicle sensor installed in their car. The distances from your home to where the garage door will be activated to open/close is individually configurable in the Tailwind app.
- The ability to give other people access to open/close your garage door. This is used to give family members the ability to control your garage door using the Tailwind app or, for example, to provide a maid service or contractor access to your garage at scheduled days/times as a way to enter your home.
- Cross family sharing allows trusted neighbors, who also own a Tailwind smart garage door controller, to open/close your garage door without having to log out of their own Tailwind account that they use for controlling their own garage door.
- The ability to partially open a garage door by simply pressing and holding the door icon in the Tailwind smart phone app. The number of milliseconds that the door will open when the door icon is pressed and held is configurable in the Tailwind app.
- The Tailwind iQ3 saves a history of the date, time, who, or what device opened/closed a garage door. For example, it may include in the log that Susan opened Dad’s car garage door at 10 pm.
- The Tailwind iQ3 sends notifications to your smart phone when the garage door is opened/closed. In addition, these notifications can be scheduled so, for example, they aren’t sent late at night. There is also the ability for the notifications to be “spoken” by your smart phone, so you don’t have to pull the phone out of your pocket and look at the screen.
- The Tailwind iQ3 includes “night mode” where it can optionally be configured to automatically close a garage door five minutes after it was opened during the night. The hours of what is considered night can be configured in the Tailwind app. Some smart garage door controllers include the ability to set a time, for example 10 pm, when they will automatically close the garage door if it was left open. However, if you come home after that time and forget to close your garage door, then it will remain open for the rest of the night. Tailwind’s “night mode” overcomes this issue.
- In addition to night mode, the Tailwind iQ3 includes the ability to notify the homeowner any time the garage door is left open for a configurable period of time during the day, or night. Optionally, the Tailwind iQ3 can also be configured to automatically close the garage door after the notification is sent.
- The Tailwind iQ3 includes the ability to disable the operation of the garage door. This is useful to keep the door from being closed while you are working in the yard or being opened while you are working in the garage and have equipment where your car would be parked. For added security, it is also valuable to disable the operation of your garage doors when you are away on vacation.
- If the Tailwind iQ3 doesn’t successfully close your garage door (possibly the neighbors cat ran through the safety beam while the door was closing — yes I’ve seen it happen), it will try a second time. If the door can’t be closed a second time, then the Tailwind will send a notification to your smart phone.
- The Tailwind iQ3 includes the ability to allow other family members to open/close the garage door without giving them the ability to change system settings or even to view the history of when the garage door was opened/closed.
- Installing the Tailwind iQ3 doesn’t in any way disable operation of the garage door using either the wireless remote controls that came with your garage door or the wall mounted pushbutton in your garage. Should anything go wrong with the product these are always available as a backup.
- There are no subscription fees for any of the above features
- The Tailwind iQ3 includes a one-year warranty and lifetime product support
Support for the Professional Integrator Channel
Tailwind is further differentiating itself by working to support the professional integrator channel. Tailwind, like other smart garage door controllers, uses a sensor to track whether a garage door is open or closed. Tailwind has recently released the iQ3 PRO Door Kit designed for the professional integrator channel. The PRO sensor features rugged aluminum construction with the sensor and magnet sealed to protect them from moisture and rain. It can sense the garage door when it is up to two inches away from the sensor. This provides accurate sensing even on a loose garage door in windy conditions.
In addition, Tailwind offers adapters to integrate the iQ3 controller with garage door openers that can’t be controlled by a simple contact closure, including newer garage door owners that have a yellow learn button. This relieves the individual installing the Tailwind system from having to solder wires to a compatible wireless garage remote control. Today, the Tailwind adapters do require a battery to operate. However, Tailwind recognizes the issue I described earlier where this adapter will eventually stop working when the battery goes dead. They are in the process of developing a new version of their adapter that will be externally powered. Prototypes of the new adapter are being tested, and it is expected to be available soon.
In the near future, Tailwind will be releasing a very bright (6000 lumens), four-foot long, ceiling-mounted, dimmable, LED garage light. The light will include both motion and ambient light sensors and can be configured, in the Tailwind app, to automatically turn off after a delay. It also can be configured to only turn on when the light level in the garage is below a certain threshold. This keeps the light from turning on when motion is sensed in the garage and sunlight is shining into the garage through a window, which would be a waste of electricity.
The light will be controllable through both the Tailwind app and the Tailwind local control API. More on the API below.
The Tailwind iQ3 smart garage controller integrates with a wide variety of smart home platforms. For Alexa, Tailwind offers a custom skill and a smart home skill (both can be enabled if desired). The custom skill requires that you say, for example, “Alexa, ask Tailwind to open garage door 1.” If you use the smart home skill, Amazon treats a garage door as a lock. You can eliminate saying, “Ask Tailwind” and say “Alexa, lock garage door 1” to close the garage door. Tailwind has a video to help homeowners choose how they want to integrate the operation of the Tailwind iQ3 with Alexa. That can be found here.
Tailwidn iQ3 also integrates with Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, SmartThings, Hubitat, Home Assistant, and IFTTT.
In addition, Tailwind has just released a new version of their integration API (available here). The API is well designed, easy to use, and well documented. It is also a local control, not a cloud, API. This makes it ideal for integration with professional smart home platforms. I have written a free Crestron-Tailwinds driver module that can be downloaded from my GitHub here. Tailwind is working to get drivers written for other professional smart home platforms
The Tailwind iQ3 can also be integrated with a Control4 smart home system using the driver developed by Intrinsic. That can be found here.
The soon-to-be-released Tailwind LED garage light is already supported by the Tailwind API. This will allow it to be independently controlled by a smart home processor/hub if the homeowner has unique requirements that are not covered by the feature set Tailwind has built into the product.
The new API is another way that Tailwind is working to better support the professional integrator channel.
Installation of the Tailwind iQ3 is pretty straightforward. To begin with, Tailwind provides a nice YouTube video that demonstrates the installation process. That video can be found here.
As with almost every IoT device, the first step is to download the Tailwind app from the appropriate app store.
Before beginning the physical installation of the Tailwind iQ3, you should unplug your garage door opener so there is no chance of the door accidentally being opened or closed and potentially causing an injury. Then you can mount the iQ3 control module. Typically, the control module is mounted on the side of the door opener where the door sensor will be located. I was installing the Tailwind iQ3 on a garage door opener that required a Tailwind adapter, which was included with my order.
With this adapter, the Tailwind iQ3 was going to communicate wirelessly with the garage door opener, and there wouldn’t be any direct wiring between the two. So, I chose to mount the Tailwind iQ3 and the wireless adapter on a piece of plywood that was screwed to the brackets that mounted my garage door opener to the ceiling of my garage. This seemed to make for a very clean installation. It also provided easy access for plugging the power supply for the Tailwind iQ3 into the outlet in my garage ceiling.
If your garage door opener doesn’t require a Tailwind adapter, then there will be a wire that connects the Tailwind iQ3 to the garage door opener and your decision on how to mount the Tailwind iQ3 will probably be different than mine was. Tailwind includes a 3M double-stick pad so the iQ3 can be easily mounted to the garage door opener. The case of the iQ3 also includes slots for using two screws, included in the box, to mount it. I used these screws to mount mine to the plywood.
Next mount the garage door sensor on the garage door’s J-Track and the magnet that trips the sensor onto the garage door. Tailwind provided me with the “Pro” sensor that has been designed for installation by integrators. It very easily clamps to the garage door’s J-Track with a single screw. The magnet must be mounted on the garage door within two inches of the sensor using either two self tapping screws or a 3M double-stick pad, both of which are included.
Tailwind includes a selection of zip ties, self adhesive wire clips, and nail-in cable staples for running the cable from the door sensor to the iQ3 controller.
If you want the installation to look professional, running the wire from the door sensor to the controller takes a bit of time and care but isn’t difficult. With the wire plugged into the controller, I connected the wireless adapter to the controller using 3M Scotchlok connectors. If I didn’t need a wireless adapter to connect the Tailwind iQ3 controller to my garage door opener, at this point I would have to connect the two wires from the controller to the same connectors as the wall mounted button in my garage. Instead, I had to use the learn button on my garage door opener to add the wireless adapter as a trusted, wireless, controller of my garage door opener.
Finally, I connected the controller’s power supply, plugged my garage door opener back in, and the physical installation was completed. At this point, I was ready to complete the rest of the installation process using the Tailwind smart phone app.
The first step when using the app is to scan the QR Code on the back of the Tailwind controller. Here is an example of how Tailwind has done an excellent job of thinking ahead and taking steps to avoid customer problems with their product. If you have already installed the Tailwind iQ3 Controller, then you can no longer access the QR code sticker on the back of the unit. However, Tailwind has you covered. There is a duplicate QR code sticker on the front of the installation manual that is included with the product.
After scanning the QR code, the app takes you through the process of connecting your phone to the Tailwind iQ3 Controller and connecting the controller to your home’s Wi-Fi network.
At this point, the app did something unexpected. It asked me to stand 20 feet in front of my garage door and, using the phone’s GPS, came up with the street address of my home. Other apps have always required me to manually type in my address. The rest of the registration process was as expected; including validating my email address and creating a password.
In case you started working with the app before doing the physical installation of the iQ3 controller and the garage door sensor, the app displays videos demonstrating how to perform the physical installation.
Next, the app displayed instructions for where to find the Apple HomeKit setup code in the app in case I wanted to integrate the operation of the Tailwind iQ3 Controller with the Apple Home app.
Finally, the app allowed me to do a firmware update on the controller. At this point there were just a few additional steps to test the installation before the Tailwind iQ3 system was ready for general use.
The first of these steps was to test the door sensor. This is a very simple process of opening the app, viewing the door’s current state (opened or closed), and using the wall mounted button to operate the garage door while you watch the door’s state update in real time in the app.
Next, you need to test the operation of the door using the app. When you close the door with the app the iQ3 controller will beep and flash an LED display bar for five seconds before closing the door. This is a safety feature that is required by law to alert anyone who might be standing under the garage door that it is about to close.
Now you are ready to use the system to control your garage door.
Hands on with the Tailwind iQ3 Garage Door Controller
The vehicle sensors are the real magic of the Tailwind iQ3 garage door control system. Being able to have your garage door automagically open when you come home and close when you leave is a wonderful feature. How many times have you wondered, when you are driving away from your home, if you remembered to close the garage door behind you?
Tailwind also makes the process of controlling a garage door using the Tailwind app very easy.
The Tailwind iQ3 offers a wealth of other features. There are four different menus in the Tailwind app, which can be a bit confusing. So, some features may not be apparent when you first start using the product. I won’t go through each and every menu. However, there are two key features that almost every homeowner will use.
The first thing most people will do after they have installed the Tailwind iQ3 is to share control of the garage door with other family members. The Tailwind App makes this a very simple process. First, you select “Share Device” from the menu. Next, simply enter the email address of the individual you want to share control of the garage door with. An email is then sent, to that person, which includes a link to accept the invitation and a password. They simply click on the link to accept the invitation, download the Tailwind app to their smart phone, and log into the app as an invited user using their email address and the provided password. They are then ready to start controlling the garage door. Tailwind does this rather than having the person who set up the iQ3 share their username and password, so it can include in the history log the name of the person that opened/closed the garage door and on what date/times they performed the action.
“Night mode” is just as easy to setup. Again, “night mode” is where the Tailwind iQ3 can optionally be configured to automatically close a garage door five minutes, or another time that you select, after it was opened during the night. To configure night mode, you simply select the time you want night mode to begin and end.
Suggestions for Improvement
The Tailwind iQ3 is a very well-designed product. However, there are a few ways I believe the product could be improved:
You should be able to schedule night mode based on sunrise and sunset. The times you want the garage door to start automatically closing may be significantly different in the summer versus the winter when darkness comes so much earlier.
Tailwind should add optional support for viewing the video stream from a camera mounted inside of the garage to the page in the app where a garage door can be opened/closed. For safety, the Tailwind iQ3 will beep and flash its LED light bar when a door is being closed to alert someone standing beneath the door. However, being able to see that nobody will be hurt if the door is closed provides an added level of safety when the door is operated remotely using the app.
If the Tailwind iQ3 isn’t successful in closing a garage door then the notification sent to the homeowner’s smart phone should be a high-priority notification. If a homeowner is leaving for vacation, the last thing they want to happen is to be several hours away from their home before they realize that their garage door is, for some reason, not closed.
Tailwind includes a double-stick pad for mounting the vehicle sensor in your car. However, if the pad is used then you can’t access the screws for changing the vehicle sensor’s battery. Instead, Tailwind should use an adhesive backed metal disk that can be stuck to a surface in your car. Then a magnet inside the vehicle sensor would allow it to “stick” to the metal disk but be easily removed for battery changes.
Tailwind includes small wire nuts for connecting various wires during installation. Small wire nuts are not very secure and are rarely used by professional integrators for connecting low-voltage wires. In addition to using their garage as a protected parking area for cars, homeowners use their garage for general storage. Wires can easily be pulled on when people are moving boxes, gardening equipment, etc. around a garage. For better physical integrity of the wire connections, “B” connectors (sometimes called “Beanies”), such as these, or 3M Scotchlok connectors, should be provided with the Tailwind iQ3.
The Tailwind iQ3 Garage Door Controller is reasonably simple to install, very simple to use, and offers a wealth of features that will meet the needs of advanced smart home users. That being said, the optional vehicle sensor is what really sets the Tailwind iQ3 apart from the competition. It can automatically open your garage door when you come home and close it after you leave. You never have to worry about forgetting to close your garage door again.
Tailwind is also improving the product to better meet the needs of professional smart home integrators, including the addition of the ruggedized “Pro” garage door sensor.
Integration is also a key requirement of professional smart home integrators. The Tailwind iQ3 already supports many of the most popular, consumer oriented, smart home, ecosystems and the new local control API can be used to integrate the Tailwind iQ3 with professional smart home platforms.