The once-lowly doorbell is now the next big thing in home technology. A record number of residential doorbell cameras will be on display at ISC West 2016, the big tradeshow for commercial security, home security and (increasingly) home automation.
These products differ from the residential video intercom systems we’re used to seeing from companies like Channel Vision and Holovision (neither at ISC this year, it appears). The new breeds communicate via Wi-Fi/Ethernet, Bluetooth or Z-Wave and generally don’t play nice with pro-oriented security and automation systems. But they represent a crazy-fast growth category that can get dealers into the doors (so to speak) of new customers.
Vivint, the security giant best known for door-to-door sales, says its new Doorbell Camera, released in 2015, has been the most successful product rollout in the company’s history, with more than 100,000 units sold in the first five months.
In fact, Vivint CTO Jeremy Warren tells CE Pro that the company invested heavily to create its own front-door product because the category is so compelling to consumers.
The unit looks like a thicker version of a traditional vertical doorbell, with a form factor that allows placement on a standard door frame. Other units on the market are square, round or otherwise unsuitable for thin frames. Vivint’s can sit right where the old doorbell once stood, powered by the same two wires that connect to the doorbell chime.
The camera on the product provides a sweeping 180-degree view and includes night vision for 24-hour surveillance. There’s two-way talk via the built-in mic and speaker and integration with Vivint Sky touchpanels.
Will the design and functionality of a doorbell camera really lure customers to Vivint for whole-house security and automation?
“Yes, we think so,” Warren says.
Matt Eyring, chief strategy and information officer for Vivint, tells CE Pro that the doorbell camera grabbed the most attention at the company’s sprawling two-story model home at CES 2016.
“A lot of people at CES were asking, ‘Can I just get that doorbell?’”
(Answer: Not without a complete professionally monitored security and home automation system from Vivint, starting at about $60 per month).
The attention bodes well for security dealers and home-technology integrators.
Vivint (Booth #3123) will be at ISC this year with RS&I, the reseller program that lets independents become Vivint dealers.
You'll also see the first doorbell camera from Nortek Security & Control (#20031) under the GoControl brand. The product (GC-DBC) is powered over the same two wires that power standard doorbells, and communicates over Wi-Fi.
The GBC will integrate with third-party security and home-automation systems, including 2Gig's own GC3 panel, via Alarm.com, the SHaaS (smart home as a service) provider for 2Gig, DSC, Interlogix and Qolsys.
There is also a standalone app for the doorbell cam, so it will be marketed as a DIY product ($199 MSRP), like Nortek's Z-Wave garage door controller and a number of other products sold under the GoControl brand. In this way, the DBC could compete with some of the usual DIY suspects like Ring and SkyBell.
Later this year, Nortek will add ONVIF support for the device, allowing it to communicate natively with so many other systems that support the popular IP camera standard … like Nortek's own network video recorder (NVR) sold under the 2Gig brand.
While you're at the Nortek booth — a cool contemporary model house built from shipping containers — take a look at 2Gig's sister company Elan Home Systems, which offers whole-house control systems for home-technology integrators. Elan which now integrates with higher-end SIP video intercom solutions like Mobotix (#20075), which is exhibiting at ISC. (UPDATE: Elan won't be there.)
For its part, Alarm.com (#2311) is expected to show its own doorbell camera, which was revealed to dealers last year, but has not been publicly announced.
Honeywell (#14025) recently began to integrate with the SkyBell HD Video Doorbell. Users can access SkyBell activity from the doorbell icon on Honeywell Total Connect 2.0 app.
In fact, SkyBell (#2123) seems to be the go-to brand for integration these days through its Connect API program. Pressing the button on the doorbell can trigger events via a security or home-control system. Likewise, external events can trigger the SkyBell to take action, for example capturing and sending a video clip when smoke is detected.
In addition to Honeywell Total Connect, SkyBell works with Nest, Amazon Echo and the cloud-based if/then engine IFTTT.
A SkyBell driver for Comcast's Xfinity Home solution is pending, as is integration with SHaaS provider Icontrol (#4122), which competes with Alarm.com.
UPDATE 3/29: Monitronics (#22031), the giant central station and security dealer program, tells CE Pro they will be introducing SkyBell HD as the first video doorbell available through their dealer network.
A spokesperson says SkyBell integration will be made available through Monitronics' “existing platforms.” Currently, those platforms include longtime partner Alarm.com and, more recently, Icontrol. Icontrol has already announced integration with SkyBell. We believe Alarm.com might make a similar announcement at ISC.
Doorbell cameras from Ring (#4108) are starting to integrate with third-party devices, namely door locks, but the company so far has not embraced the pro-install channel. If you want to integrate Ring with home automation, you'll have to use a DIY hub from Wink for now.
Here's how that works: Instead of ADT having to insert the features and user experiences of Ring into the Pulse environment, Ring worked with the ADT API to insert itself into the ecosystem, and to insert the ADT services into its own app.
Users now will be able to arm and disarm their ADT Pulse system through the Ring app. Pressing the doorbell, for example, might turn the lights on, lock the doors or arm the ADT security system. On the other side, Ring history can be viewed from within the ADT Pulse app, just like any other ADT partner product.
There's a second big development from ADT that includes both Ring and the new Video Doorbell from doorlock maker August (not exhibiting at ISC, but you can probably catch them at the ADT booth). It's the new Canopy service that ties ADT's emergency response services to third-party devices such as connected smoke detectors and door locks.
Consumers need not have a complete security system to benefit from ADT's emergency response, just a Canopy-enabled device and/or app. Both Ring and August employ ADT's “panic” service. Users can monitor their front doors via the companion video doorbell app, and if a threatening situation arises, they simply hit the panic button on their app, and the event is treated like any other ADT panic alarm.
In addition to the panic service, ADT Canopy offers alarm response for intrusion and life-safety (fire). Fees range from $10 to $20 per month.
We'll have to go off script here since August Home Inc. is not exhibiting at ISC, but since they're doing some very interesting things with door locks and doorbell cams, we can't ignore them.
Last year, August announced a new cloud platform called August Access, which allows users to schedule visits from select on-demand service providers like Fetch Pet Care and BloomNation flower delivery. Once the service is ordered, the August back-end does the rest, providing digital keys to the service provider and keeping the homeowner informed with data from the door lock and photos from the front-door camera.
We would hope the service would expand to include monitoring from indoor cameras as well.
Now in beta testing, August Access boasts these initial partners: Sears Home Services and Pro.com (home improvement); Postmates and Doorman (package delivery); Fetch and Wag (pet care and walking); Handy home cleaning; BloomNation flower delivery; Envoy eldercare services; Pillow hospitality and hosting; Rinse laundry service; and Alfred butler service that allows you to “magically come home to groceries in your fridge, dry cleaning in your closet, a tidy space, and your to-dos done. Every week.”
Exhibiting in the Z-Wave Pavilion (#28065) at ISC, Fibaro is launching a doorbell intercom ($560) that some might file in the overkill department. It shoots 4K video from the 180-degree camera and touts audio analytics, so if it hears gunshots, for example, it will start recording.
The PoE-powered product communicates over Wi-Fi, but there is also a GSM option for direct cellular communications, no home network required. Fibaro throws in Bluetooth for good measure, but no Z-Wave.
The bezel rotates so you can enter a passcode like you would on a dumb combination lock. The numbers light up on the glass face of the doorbell. What happens when the bezel locks up in a freeze? It won't! A heater built into the doorbell camera insures the electronics keep on moving.
New to the scene and exhibiting at ISC for the first time is DoorBird (#4137). It's Video Door Srations comes in premium housings such as polycarbonate ($349) and stainless steel ($569), and they're available in both flush-mount and on-wall models. The units communicate via Wi-Fi and includes a 433 MHz radio for RFID. It has a relay for a door strike and is powered over 15VDC or PoE. The company says the products integrate with August locks, LockState locks, Chamberlain MyQ garage door controllers and Control4 home automation systems.
Also new: RemoBell is the latest offering from Remocam (#3111), which makes a 335-degree pan/tilt camera that not only monitors an indoor room … but controls infrared devices like televisions and air conditioners through its onboard IR transmitters. The video doorbell looks almost exactly like Ring, and is now available for preorder ($199).
And in the category of not-really-a-video-doorbell-but-close is the Nucli from Westinghouse Security (#9134). We wrote about this curiosity last year from a business that acquired the Westinghouse Security brand for this particular product line. The Nucli is a door lock. With a built-in camera. And Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave radios. And an LCD color touchscreen. And a fingerprint sensor. And motion sensor. And a very powerful battery that runs this baby.