Smart door locks and video doorbells are great conveniences for those who live in single-family homes, but what about the millions of people who live in condos, condos, and condos? They may also want to answer their front door from their phone – whether at home or not – and perhaps buzz their visitor without getting off the couch or running home from the office. Ring, maker of the original video doorbell, thinks he has a solution.
Ring Intercom is a do-it-yourself device that can be retrofitted to the intercom in your home and connects to the Ring app on your smartphone via WiFi. It is specially designed for European apartment buildings where several flats (or apartments) have one entrance and only an audio intercom system installed. With Ring Intercom installed, when someone calls your flat, you can talk to your visitor and buzz them through the app. There is no video component – it is all audio – and there is no recording function. Ring Intercom easily replicates your intercom’s existing function on your phone, so you can talk to your front door from anywhere.
The main benefit of Ring Intercom is the ability to talk to visitors and bring them in remotely, using your phone from anywhere or an Echo device when you’re at home. But when packages or food deliveries enter the building and possibly right up to your front door, instead of sitting on the curb, exposed to the elements and would-be thieves, you also add another level of security and convenience.
The battery-operated Ring Intercom will be launched this week at IFA in Berlin. It will be available first in the UK for £119.99 and in Germany, with pre-orders starting September 28 and shipping scheduled for October 26. A bundle with a Ring battery charging station and a spare battery costs £149.99. Ring, which is owned by Amazon, is also offering the product for an introductory price of £89.99, including the additional battery packs, which have a total value of around £48. Ring Intercom will be available in France, Spain and Spain in early 2023. Italy and is expected to arrive in the US next year
“It’s as obvious a solution as the video doorbell,” Jamie Siminoff, founder and principal inventor of Ring, said in an interview with The edge. “Had I been born or raised in Europe, I might have built this first.”
Globally, three times as many people live in multi-unit buildings as they do in single-family homes, he says, so this solution was one the company had been trying to develop for a long time. Siminoff said that while the doorbell product line “did well in Europe,” there was a large percentage of the population who simply couldn’t use one.
Ring introduced the Peephole Cam a few years ago, which worked for apartment doors (the doorbell camera was in the peephole). But that didn’t solve how to talk to someone who rings at the door of your building (and Ring stopped the peephole last year).
“There are tens of thousands of variations [on intercom systems]’ says Siminoff. “This is designed to work with over 90 percent of them. It took a lot of work to develop it, and there’s a lot of intelligence in it that decides what it’s connected to, similar to how some smart thermostats work.”
The Ring Intercom connects to your internal intercom handset and is powered by a rechargeable, reusable battery. It is compatible with most audio intercom handsets (but not video systems) and there is a compatibility checker on Ring.com. No structural changes to your apartment are required and the installation process is completely do-it-yourself.
When someone presses the button on your apartment at the main entrance, a two-way conversation is initiated via the Ring app. You can only answer calls when someone is buzzing in your apartment, so you can’t use it to eavesdrop on people hanging out in the doorway whenever you want.
There is no recording option, as with Ring Video Doorbells; there’s just live, two-way traffic. “I don’t know if people would want to” [recording]’ says Siminoff. “And there are local laws around recording audio.” The activity log in the Ring app tells you if you missed a visitor. The activity log also shows each time the remote unlock feature is activated by you or a shared user in your household to whom you have granted access.
Ring Intercom also has an optional feature that gives Amazon delivery drivers secure, time-based access to your building to drop off packages, similar to Amazon’s Key program, so you don’t even have to pick up the buzzer. Ring says it will add an auto-authenticated guest feature that will allow you to share revocable virtual keys with the likes of your dog walker or cleaning lady. This is something you can do with most smart door locks.
Ring Intercom can also connect to Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, so you can use any Echo smart speaker or display as a hands-free intercom and talk to your visitor through it. You can also unlock the door by voice, but you must set and use a voice PIN.
While Ring Intercom will operate in the US, Siminoff said Ring chose to focus on Europe for launch, where there is a larger potential untapped market. “I think everyone always thinks that once you get to Amazon, you have wands full of engineers and unlimited resources,” he says. “But we need to focus, so we wanted to focus on Europe, launch it there, get it going, and then we’ll bring it to the US.”
While Ring says you can pair Ring Intercom with other Ring devices like the Ring Indoor Cam, there’s no combined functionality; it’s just that both devices can be accessed from the same app. Intercom is a pure audio device. “There are ways to add video to these types of devices,” Siminoff says. “But it is a lot more difficult to do and there are more parties involved, such as the building owner. Ring Intercom keeps you connected to your front door with a device you can buy and install yourself “with just a few screws and a half hour on Sunday,” Siminoff says.