Garadget review: Open your garage door with open-source technology

Looking for an alternative to mass market (or even niche market) smart garage door controllers? Consider Garadget, which bills itself as an open-source alternative to other devices that connect your garage door opener to your Wi-Fi network and smartphone.

Garadget is unlike any other smart controller on the market for a couple of reasons, which I’ll get to in turn. First, let’s look at the hardware. Unlike most other smart controllers, Garadget is a single component—there’s no companion sensor to attach to the garage door. These sensors are normally designed to detect motion and/or position, and they communicate with the controller whether the door is open or closed.

In lieu of this sensor, Garadget’s controller includes a small laser which periodically zaps a beam in the direction of the door. You tape a small reflective disc (included in the kit) to the door where the laser beam hits. If the laser detects that the reflective disc has been struck, it knows the door is closed. No reflection, it knows the door is open.

garadget reflectors Christopher Null / IDG

You’ll stick one of these reflectors on your door at the spot where the controller’s laser hits it.

Like the Nexx smart controller, the Garadget is a wired device, so you’ll need to use the included micro screwdriver to connect two wires from the controller to your opener, so they can communicate. As is traditional in this category, the wires connect to the opener terminals used for your wired garage door opener button (the component that’s typically mounted to the wall next to the door entering your home).

It isn’t hard to wire these things together; alas, what should be fairly simple instructions are buried in a monumental setup guide within the Garadget app, and even then this isn’t entirely straightforward. While this is perhaps in keeping with the open-source DIY aesthetic, it doesn’t make for a simple setup, particularly if you’re new to this market. When an instruction manual tells you “the other end of the control wire should be connected to the terminals of the garage door opener according to your research,” you know you’re pretty much on your own. If you run into trouble, Garadget’s app refers you to a set of busy user forums you can reach right from the app.

garadget installed 1 Christopher Null / IDG

The Garadget fires a laser once a second at the door to determine whether it is open or closed.

To its credit, despite the lack of any kind of real handholding, Garadget’s app is fairly simple to set up, and the hardware comes together reasonably simply, too. The unit itself is designed to be mounted directly to your garage door opener, preferably on the underside, so the laser can shoot unobstructed at the door ahead.

Sticky tape is included for this purpose, as are plenty of the aforementioned reflective discs to attach to the door. Why do you need more than one? Because the vibration of opening and closing the door repeatedly can very easily cause the laser to get out of alignment. It’s easier to just add another stick-on disc rather than trying to remove and replace one. In my testing, this vibrational wandering was common, and I ended up with three discs stuck on my door after a week of testing. What I really could have used was a large reflective sheet the size of a piece of paper.

garadget app 3 Christopher Null / IDG

Just tap the door icon in the Garadget smartphone app to remotely open the door.

Like the Nexx NXG-200 controller, Garadget is built to work out of the box with older-model garage doors. Newer Liftmaster/Chamberlain systems labeled with Security+ 2.0 are built with an encryption system that can’t be bypassed by a secondary wired button even if it’s connected directly. In this case, you must use a special wall controller to operate the opener. Like Nexx, Garadget has a workaround for this, and I discovered I needed it for the newer Liftmaster opener on which I installed the Garadget.