Ding-dong, the cloud calling: The Ring Video Doorbell
A $200 security system that links to your mobe
The motion detectors work off heat, not movement, which is good for battery life. They also allow very useful adjustments – different zones and depth. So you can set the system up for whatever environment your front door has.
Of course there is plenty of trial and error as there always is with motion detection. Get it wrong, and you are informed every time a car or neighbor goes past, which is not only annoying but also kills the battery life. However the controls do appear to work as advertised (although not as precisely as the smartphone app would imply).
This motion detection is one of the things that help set the Ring apart from its competition. You can know when people come and go from your home. You can tell if someone is loitering around your house. There are other products like the Dropcam that offer this facility but the Ring neatly pulls that functionality into a doorbell. And it doesn't require wires.
This security aspect really is useful. And if you sign up for the cloud option, you can get HD files of whoever approaches your door. You would pay many times the cost of the Ring for a traditional video surveillance system.
But the thing that pushes this product from a video intercom into the wave of smart-tech devices for the internet generation is the connection to the smartphone (though the free Ring app; iOS and Android).
If someone press your button (or even hangs around outside the door) you can see and talk to them with your phone, simply and easily. And here's the key aspect: it would be very hard for that person to tell whether you were in the house or not.
Plus of course if you are home and just don't want to open the door to whoever you are looking at, you don't have to. You can have a conversation without having to get up from your chair – wherever that chair is.
There are some issues with the Ring. If you don't currently have a wired doorbell, two things will happen that are less than ideal: one, your internal doorbell won't ring when the Ring's button is pressed (presumably there are so many doorbells on the market that it’s not worth Ring's trouble trying to connect its device to all of them). And two, the battery will run down.
Ring says its battery should last a year under normal use. We have been testing it a lot and so would say it is getting heavy use and expect the battery to last three months. It is rechargeable of course and taking it off and plugging it in overnight will buy you another three months/year.
It is a limitation and we would seriously consider wiring in a doorbell if there wasn't one already there (according to Ring it is about 50-50 on wired to not-wired installations).
The device is also a little on the big side – mostly because of the battery. We would love to see Ring come up with an alternative format that allows for a small flush unit on the front of the door and the rest of it somewhere else – maybe built-into the frame or connected with wires to the other side of the doorframe.
While the Ring works incredibly well as a standalone device, what will be exciting to see is how it connects with other smart-tech devices in future.
It is easy to see how the Ring app could be used to operate a smart-tech doorlock for example - and so you can let people into your house without having to physically be behind it.
It could also be pulled into a house security system – setting off alarms or lights as a deterrent. It could be used as an indicator for when you leave your house – and turn off the thermostat or set the alarm.
All of these possibilities are being actively worked on and will start making devices such as the Ring an incredibly useful addition to people's houses.
But before we get to that point, the most vital aspect is that the Ring itself works and works well. And following several weeks of pretty constant testing, it looks like the product is there.
There are a huge number of smart-tech devices in production and edging into the market. The Ring stands out as one device that is ready for prime time. ®