House automation was just taken to next level in New Zealand with the launch of Ring doorbell, an Internet-connected doorbell with some nifty features.
Indoor cameras aren't unheard of and those of you with an inclination for tinkering could probably come up with an Internet-connected doorbell based on one of many low cost electronics kits available in the market today but Ring makes it so much easier to install and interact with one of those things we take for granted in our houses.
The Ring doorbell is very easy to setup. Everything you need is in the box and you can easily install it yourself in as little as five minutes. The Ring doorbell comes with a base plate that can be attached to wood, brick and other types of walls by mean of screws and anchors supplied in the box. You even find a small level that can be attached to the template to make sure it's completely level before you start the work with the screwdriver (also supplied).
You can charge the Ring doorbell via USB or wire it to the mains (if replacing an existing wired doorbell). The guide says we can expect battery life to be between six months an a year, depending on usage. The device communicates via WiFi (2.4 GHz) so enough coverage around the area where it's being used is a must. You attach the Ring doorbell to the face plate and use a special screwdriver to make sure it's locked in place by using small security screws.
On the back of the device you will find an orange button, used to reset and pair it with your mobile account. Once you press the button it will be visible so that you can then use your smartphone to connect to it and configure access point information and account settings.
Once in place, visitors need only push the button to have it fire a notification to your mobile device, while making an unmistakable doorbell noise. Once the notification is presented on your smartphone you can tap on it and instantly see the visitors and even talk to them thanks to its built-in speaker and microphone. I know it works like that because I actually had the chance to talk to two teenagers who approached our door - while I was in Auckland, hundreds of kilometres away. I can say they got a big surprise when the doorbell started "talking" back to them.
If you worry about having your smartphone off or in another room you can easily add a "ringer" device to to your setup. Simply connect to your account and plug it somewhere where you will hear it - in the kitchen for example. Again, you need WiFi coverage for this device to work. The ringer device is an add-on and is powered by the mains in your house.
You can easily add your Ring account to services such as IFTTT and have actions happen when someone pushes the button - in addition to receiving the notification. You can for example have Philips Hue lights turn on or change colours if someone push the button, or send an email notification and so on - pretty much limitless possibilities.
If you pay as small fee all these interactions are stored in the cloud and can be downloaded at any time. If you rather not use this subscription-based service you will still receive notifications but will only have access to the live stream, as it happens.
The Ring can be configured for motion detection as well, and the applications allows you to setup this in a way that will only trigger the notification if movement happens in some specific area or distance from the camera.
The camera records 720p video with a 180 degrees field and works in the dark as well thanks to infrared LEDs. It can be used outdoors as it is completely sealed - although I couldn't find a specific IP rating for the device.
As I said if you are technically inclined and a tinkerer then you could probably do a project and create a connected doorbell but reality is that you can't beat a five minute install and something that just works.