Ring's Ring: Automating the Doorbell

Premises automation gets a smart Wi-Fi enabled doorbell with proximity detection and video recording

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Of all of the things that you might think of upgrading as you move into home or premises automation your doorbell may not immediately spring to mind. When it comes to entryway monitoring and security, the solution is usually to use a camera and sometimes a wireless doorbell. 

A company called, appropriately, Ring, has come out with a solution called, also appropriately, Ring. The Ring is a wireless device with a built in wide angle 720p HD camera, microphone, speaker, and pushbutton. The device communicates over your WI-Fi network (2.4 gHz 802.11 b/g/n with WPA2, WPA or 64-bit WEP) to Ring’s cloud services which allows you, on your iOS, Android, or Windows 10 device, to see and talk to whoever is outside your door from wherever you are as well as make a video record of activity.  

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The RIng

The RIng is a sleek little box (4.98 x 2.43 x 0.87 inches) that comes in Satin Nickel, Antique Brass, Polished Brass, and Venetian Bronze finishes, it’s a breeze to setup and, in use, it does a very good job.

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No more ding-dong-ditching (we know it's you, TImmy, and we're calling your mother!)

Powered by either a bell transformer (8 VAC to 24 VAC) or by its internal rechargeable battery (this will last about six months but exactly how long depends on how much the device is used; it notifies you when it’s running low on power), the Ring is easy to install  unless you mount it, as I did, on stucco. 

The Ring has a backplate with holes through which you screw it onto the surface you’re mounting it on (wall plugs and screws are included) but, being made of plastic, the backplate will distort if the surface is uneven. Because of the tolerances allowed in the fit of the the lugs on the back of the Ring that engage the backplate, you won’t be able to lock the Ring in place unless the backplate is more-or-less completely flat. After 20 minutes of loosening and retightening screws I got the backplate flat enough to lock the Ring in and could then tighten the security screws that hold it in place (if your Ring is stolen, the company says it will replace the unit). A metal backplate or one made of thicker plastic or lugs with more tolerance would minimize this problem.

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RIng proximity detection setup

When someone approaches the Ring from up to about 30 feet away (you can reduce the range, the detection zones, and the sensitivity), it can raise a notification on your smartphone or tablet (accompanied by an annoying sound that can't be customized). When the button on the Ring is pressed, if enabled, the app will ring (another annoying sound that can't be customized), and or trigger the optional Chime module, and the app offers to connect you to the Ring so you can see and speak with whoever is outside. The Ring also has built in IR illumination for nighttime operation. 

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Ring's version of the Ring's video

The video quality, at least with my installation, is just okay but doesn’t come close to the quality of the videos shown on the Ring site.

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My version of the Ring's video

With a subscription to the recording service ($3 per month, $30 annually, free for the first 30 days) you can store up to the last six months of videos and you can share video clips via whatever services your smartphone or tablet offers.

My problem with Ring’s video recordings is that recording only starts at detection which is always slightly behind the appearance of whatever triggers the Ring, so, for example,  when someone leaves my house, recording starts when they’re about 10 feet from the door. This means that I always see the Fedex guy’s back (see above which is the first frame of the event video) as he puts down the package and leaves (he moves pretty fast) and never his face.

My other issues with the Ring are the lack of an API, the lack of integration with other premises automation products and systems, and the inability to access the Ring via a Web browser on your desktop. Also, if you can have an app for Windows 10, why not other versions of Windows and OS X? 

Those issues aside, the Ring is a terrific product. Priced at $200, Ring’s Ring (ha!) gets a Gearhead rating of 3.5 out of 5 2 out of 5 [see the end of this post]. 

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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