See Who's There
Continuing my smart home makeover, I was contacted by someone who was looking to hook up their house with cameras. I basically had an unlimited budget, but I was the one who had to troubleshoot it. There are other details I’m leaving out for privacy reasons, but I needed it simple. I’m going to be limited on pictures (and may take stock photos) due to privacy and accidental information leakage.
When I think of a video doorbell, I think of the gated communities or apartment buildings where you push a button, someone can see you, talk back, and buzz you in. I’m a little shocked that is has taken this long to get someone to mass market. An added feature I found out that I should have is motion sensing. I decided to choose the Ring video doorbell. There was the Skybell doorbell as well, but I chose Ring ultimately because 1) It had a security flaw that the properly disclosed and fixed. 2) It looks like a doorbell. As stupid as that sounds, people are not yet accustomed to new types of doorbells.
Ring has two models, the standard, which is battery powered and less feature filled, or the pro which must be hardwired.
The way the doorbell works is that it alerts you for two activities, 1) Sensing motion, and 2) Doorbell rings. The motion sensing is completely customizable, and is not as obnoxious in alerting you as the doorbell ring. The doorbell ring is loud, distinctive, and rightfully so. You obviously you want to know when someone is at your door. People say that the motion sense is generates too many false positives. It does if you don’t tweak it. Just like any new electronic, you have to spend the time reading all the settings.
When someone pushes the doorbell it generates the chime (if hardwired), and rings your phone or tablet. We found the delay to be impressively minimal. It was less than a second over a data connection. Time is very important on a doorbell push because obviously, someone is at your door. When you get the alert you can either dismiss it, or answer it. Answering it takes 3 to 4 seconds, and immediately takes you to a full size horizontal view of the camera image. You can then either talk to the person, or just watch. The sound quality is acceptable, but it can only talk or hear one person at a time. The delay is minimal, but the volume is low. I wish the volume was much louder.
In regard to the chime, you have a couple of options.
- Mechanical Chime
- No Chime
- (Sold Separately) electronic chime
Out of the two models the professional is clearly the one to buy. The feature I used the most was the live view, that the battery one does not have. I wish the option for live view was there with a clear warning that it will deplete batteries much faster, but decisions were made. The pro is more aestically pleasing . The battery powered model does not come with a chime, so you will have to buy one at $30 for the standard one or $50 for the wifi enabled one.
Which one should you buy? Well, if you have a hardwired doorbell, absolutely buy the pro model. If you are renting, travel alot, or have a different edge case, buy the standard model. A non chime doorbell is sometimes wanted.
Currently Ring integrates with IFTTT, SmartThings, Wink hubs. Locks include: Kevo, LockState, Kisi, and Lockitron. It does NOT have support with Nest. As a point of order, I would stay away from all smart locks.
Is it necessary?
You know what? Yes, now a days something that monitors your front door is necessary.
In a given day, I have had 4 to 5 people approach my door to leave packages. My mail sometimes doesn’t come on a given day, so the mail-carrier makes a morning (1) and afternoon (2) run. This is different than the standard USPS morning package run (3). Then UPS (4) and FedEx (5) drops Amazon packages off. With Amazon starting independent shippers, I sometimes get two independent drivers dropping off (6 and 7). While I’ve never had 7, I have had 4 many times. Oh, I forgot the coupon mailer person.
The independent Amazon shippers scare me. They are hired by Amazon to deliver packages. They have a set amount to bring, and sometimes they stop by real early, and real late (sometimes afer dark). The USPS, UPS, FedEx people are assigned to an area, so you generally know who they are. In the few months of noticing, I have not seen a repeat Amazon delivery person.
To impersonate an Amazon person is trivial to do. Having something like ring that senses motion does give great piece of mind. Plus, having motion sensor will be able to at least record the person stealing your package to help the police.
Ring wants you to purchase their cloud recording. $3/month per device, or $30/year. They give you a month free. When that month is up they delete all old cloud recordings, and “gently” remind you to buy a subscription. I would not pay for it. I don’t need a log of all doorbells and motion. If something suspicious happens, I can easily download it right away.
With Ring Neighborhoods, you can share Rings with your neighbors. I have not tried this feature, but it is a neighborhood watch type program.
Is it simple to use?
Installation was very simple. I installed it at a friend’s house on the spot with no issues. The included screw driver was not the best, but no real complaints. Instructions were via a YouTube video in the app. It walked you through every step of the way.
It did have an update once connected. The app (on Android) was simple to use, with no real usability issues. I won’t knitpick at UI/UX choices, but there weren’t too many surprise menues.
Setting the motion areas was simple. You are presented with the live view from the doorbell and a box. You drag the corners to what you want to capture, and sensativity setting, and you are ready to go.
The main app has 4 tabs - All Activity - Rings - Motions - Live View (If pro model)
It tells you the time, and lets you see a clip of the activity. It will let you download, share, or delete the motion/ring. When a doorbell push is selected, you have the ability to talk back. Most people should have no problems managing this.
The the use becomes too complicated, no one will use it. When was the last time you checked for updates on your smart TV? Just like the blinking 12:00 on your old VCR, products should be helpful, and not overly complicated to set up and use.
Is it secure?
This is a big sticking point in my recommendations. Did the company just slap on some random sticker that says “Military Grade Encryption.” The last thing you want is a device being compromised, and being used to steal your traffic, or other credentials.
To date Ring has had one security issue, and in my opinion, handled it real well. Ring doorbells automatically install updates. You do not have to remove your doorbell, connect it to a computer, and flash firmware. Here is the issue. TL;DR, someone was able to extract the wifi password. Ring handled it very well, disclosed the issue, and issued an update.
Can it be used by other members in the household?
Yes, Ring can be shared with many people. You have a main account, and you delegate access. The main account has more features and settings, while the delegated accounts have the main functionality. It allows you to view motion, and doorbells. The appeal of separate, but shared accounts is always a nice thing (and necessary). My friend has the main credentials, but yet, I have most functionality as a guest. The only gripe is that the others have to register for an account.
I’ve had the doorbell for over a month now. I think the picture is very clear, and wide. I can see the entire front of the house crystal clear, even at night. If you just need your front door (and back door) monitored, this is the device. It is simple enough to set up, the picture is clear, and it works.